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What Happens When Recession Hits?

What Happens When Recession Hits?
4782ee2d-1bbf-48c6-a64e-814be44e3385 By Briton Ryle
Written Wednesday, May 18, 2016 Wealth Daily
It’s going to happen. There’s no way to avoid it. At some point, the U.S. economy will hit a recession. GDP will shrink, earnings will decline, and people will get fired.

That’s how economies work — they expand as businesses invest and people take on debt and buy stuff. And then they seemingly hit a wall, people pull back on spending, and businesses follow suit, and everything tanks for a few quarters.

The only real uncertainty is when. When does the U.S. economy hit that proverbial wall?

It’s been eight years since the stock market bottomed on March 10, 2009. And it’s been eight years of virtually uninterrupted bull market. Sure, there have been some pretty good sell-offs. There was the EU debt crisis, the Greek bailouts, and the Chinese economic slowdown…

The Fed has kicked off a couple stock market sell-offs: first when Bernanke tapered the QE3 bond-buying program, and again when Yellen hiked interest rates.

Through all of these potential bombshells, the U.S. economy has chugged along, putting up consistently weak ~2% growth numbers. Even a record string of employment gains hasn’t been able to shift the growth needle higher…

So it’s no wonder that people are getting more and more concerned that a U.S. recession is imminent. If you can’t get growth to accelerate, well, there must be underlying problems that are preventing the economy from operating efficiently. It’s like we’ve been running on borrowed time, and that time is running out…

Financial Engineering Isn’t Growth

Of course, there are underlying problems with the U.S. economy that are preventing it from firing on all cylinders. We have been relying on financial engineering to fuel growth. The Fed made money cheap by squashing interest rates under the misguided hope that companies would borrow money and invest it for growth.

The Fed got the first part right: companies have borrowed money. The corporate bond market has gone ballistic over the last few years. But companies haven’t invested the money in growth. Instead, they’ve bought back their own stock and raised dividends.

It looks like growth, I guess. Earnings per share grow and valuation metrics like price-to-earnings (P/E) ratios have stayed somewhat reasonable.

But it’s not “real” growth. Corporate revenues aren’t really growing. Earnings per share grow because there are fewer shares out there after companies buy them back. But overall revenue? Not growing. In fact, revenue hasn’t really grown in years. It peaked in late 2011:

spy real sales growth small

When you look at a chart like this that clearly shows revenue for the S&P 500 has been in decline for years, well, it makes you wonder how the U.S. economy hasn’t already dipped into recession…

Close to the Brink

The truth is the U.S. economy has come very close to a recession several times in the last few years (a recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth). Most recently, growth went negative for the third quarter of 2015, and the first quarter of this year narrowly escaped being a negative number.

You’re not wrong if you think it won’t take much to tip the balance firmly into negative territory.

But here’s one thing that people sometimes miss about recessions: the U.S. economy doesn’t tend to drift into recession. It pretty much always takes some kind of economic shock to send the U.S. economy into a serious recession.

Oil embargos (1970s), financial crises (2008–9), terrorist attacks (2001), and sky-high interest rates (1980s) are the type of shocks that have caused the last few recessions. It also helps to have an economy that’s vulnerable to shocks. Like when 9/11 happened, the U.S. economy was already reeling from the popped Internet bubble. It just needed a small push to fully melt down.

In 2008–9, the economy was incredibly leveraged to a housing bubble. A small tick lower in home prices set off a wave of defaults that once again crushed the economy.

So what’s it going to be this time? What kind of fundamental shock will we see push the U.S. economy into recession?

The Economic Crystal Ball

Frankly, it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to come up with some catalysts that could send the U.S. economy reeling. Swing a dead cat, and you’ll probably hit several…

There’s China. If that economy seriously implodes, well, that would probably do it…

There’s terrorism. Given the success that the ISIS wing nuts have had getting into Europe, we can’t rule out their potential of infiltrating the U.S. I don’t worry so much about illegal Mexicans coming over the southern U.S. border. I worry way more about terrorists coming in that way…

There’s debt. I don’t mean government debt. I worry more about corporate and household debt. Seems to me we are pretty much at full employment, and the economy can’t grow. What happens when layoffs tick up and employment growth wanes? We could see spending dry up quick, and that S&P 500 revenue chart I shared with you earlier takes a nosedive…

So those are a couple things that could go really wrong. And there are a lot more. To make matters worse, I am having a harder and harder time coming up with positive catalysts for the U.S. economy. We’ve been in an eight-year sweet spot to get some good growth going, and it hasn’t really happened.

Make a note: Goldman Sachs downgraded U.S. stocks to “neutral” this morning. That’s not a sell signal, exactly. And it’s fine if you want to question Goldman Sachs’ motivation for such a sweeping action (could they be short?). But don’t ignore the potential for an increase in headwinds for the economy… and the stock market.

Until next time,

brit''s sig

Briton Ryle

Source: Will County News

Wages in the U.S.

Editors Note: Work for government and get the best Pensions, most days off, best health care, yearly increase in wages, Higher wages, and rarely get laid off.

By Briton Ryle
Written Monday, May 23, 2016
I wish I knew what Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s problem is. I wish I had a clue why he keeps siding with big business to screw the average American over.

Paul Ryan is the most powerful man in the House of Representatives. He is the young face of the Republican Party, and he will presumably make a run for the White House at some point. And I guess if getting the backing of big business is all you need to further your career ambitions, then he’s on the right track. Because he’s certainly not doing anything to help the average American get ahead. In fact, he’s trying to make it so businesses can keep taking advantage of you…

First it was the fiduciary rule. If you don’t know, the fiduciary rule means an investment advisor is required to put your interest above his or her own. Investopedia defines a fiduciary like this:

The fiduciary is expected to manage the assets for the benefit of the other person rather than for his or her own profit, and cannot benefit personally from their management of assets.

Without a fiduciary rule, it is perfectly legal for an investment advisor to tell you to buy an asset because he will make a big commission on it. Paul Ryan thinks this is perfectly fine. He’s actively trying to kill the fiduciary rule so Wall Street can continue to take advantage of you. And I’m sure Wall Street has made the appropriate campaign donations to make sure their interests come before yours.

Yeah, it stinks. I’ve written about it before. But no one seems to care. Still, it ticks me off when politicians lie right to your face, tell you they support the American people, and then screw you over…

Who knows, maybe Speaker Ryan’s latest assault on your standard of living will get you fired up.

Do You Deserve a Raise?

Have you seen the charts about how wages for the American worker haven’t risen in like 10 years? It’s true, and it’s one of the biggest reasons Americans are struggling…


It’s also no coincidence that Corporate America has more cash in the bank than ever. Quite simply, they are making money by paying workers less.

Now, when he was elected Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan gave a nice little rah-rah speech about how he was the friend of the American people. He said:

Here’s the problem. They’re working hard. They’re paying a lot. They are trying to do right by their families. And they are going nowhere fast. They never get a raise. They never get a break… They are working harder than ever to get ahead. Yet they are falling further behind.

If you didn’t know, the Department of Labor just issued a new rule about overtime pay to try and make sure workers get paid their due. Here’s a brief explanation of the new rule:

The threshold that currently stands at $23,660 — meaning anyone earning less than that it is owed time and a half for working more than 40 hours a week — hasn’t been updated since 1975, the number of salaried workers who were guaranteed extra pay for extra work has dropped from 12 million to 3.5 million.

The new rule, when it goes into effect in December, will increase that threshold to $47,476. The administration has estimated that 4.2 million workers will become newly eligible for extra pay, leading to a $12 billion increase in wages over the next decade.

As it now stands, if you make more than $23,660, you don’t have to be paid overtime for working more than 40 hours a week! Now, more people will get paid overtime when they work overtime. If you look back to that Paul Ryan quote, you’d think this would be exactly the kind of rule he would support.

You’d also be wrong.

Here’s an excerpt from the statement Ryan released:

This regulation hurts the very people it alleges to help. Who is hurt most? Students, non-profit employees, and people starting a new career… By mandating overtime pay at a much higher salary threshold, many small businesses and non-profits will simply be unable to afford skilled workers and be forced to eliminate salaried positions, complete with benefits, altogether. We are committed to fighting this rule and the many others that would be an absolute disaster for our economy.

Wait, what? Didn’t Ryan say earlier that Americans are working harder but never get a raise, never get a break? Well, which is it? Do you deserve to get paid for your work or not?

Why Making More Money is Bad for You 

I’d love to hear exactly why you making more money is bad. Ryan says companies won’t hire new workers and will eliminate current jobs. That doesn’t make any sense.

The reality is, if your company is asking you to work more, it means there’s plenty of business to be done. No company is going to eliminate jobs when there is plenty of work on the books…

And in fact, both Goldman Sachs and the National Retail Federation have studied the issue, and they say new overtime rules will add between 100,000 and 120,000 jobs. Why? Because instead of paying the overtime, companies will simply add workers.

Bottom line: It is a lie to say that companies can’t pay people more.

Remember when Wal-Mart raised its hourly wage by $1? People freaked out that it would hurt the company. And sure enough, the first quarter after the wage hikes went in place, Wal-Mart profits were down $1 billion. The stock got creamed, as it was obvious that higher wages were hurting…

But did you see Wal-Mart’s earnings report last week? They crushed it, and the stock jumped +10% the very next day.

Again: It is a lie to say that companies can’t afford to pay people more. They can. If you want to see American economic growth pick up, and if you want to see your standard of living rise, then don’t listen to Paul Ryan. He’s part of the problem.

Until next time,

brit''s sig

Source: Will County News

No free will? Nonsense!

No free will? Nonsense!


bathroom symbols“What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, ‘See, this is new’? It has been already in the ages before us.” Ecclesiastes 1:9-10 (ESV)


Without anyone taking notice, change agents distort key words in our language. This blurs, diminishes and distorts our thinking process to the great advantage of unseen authority. This process is so gradual as to be imperceptible.

Out of it evolves very sophisticated control, the purpose of which is plunder.

When our words are manipulated, our thoughts are manipulated into false realities and illusions. Consequently, our competitiveness and survival instincts are reduced in favor of dependence on government authority. We have seen in one generation the masculine neutered and the feminine reduced and the rise and mainstream promotion of the concept of “gender nonconforming.” Gender nonconforming was neither a mainstream phrase nor concept a generation ago.

Most people were not aware, because it was done gradually, that erasing traditional sexual norms began a number of years ago.  The subtle, almost imperceptible move includes the substitution of the word “gender” – a grammatical term – for the word sex – a biological term – as a distinguishing descriptor for male or female.

The effect is to program the mind. When one suffers from anorexia, she (odds are it’s a female) looks in the mirror and sees herself as fat. It doesn’t matter what reality is; whether she is normal weight or rail thin. That person creates an alternate reality in her mind. Anorexia is a mental disorder. One seeking to help that person shrug off this false sense of self would not reinforce that unreality by telling her she is fat. Rather, one would help her seek treatment for it so she could begin to recognize she is not fat and is destroying her health.

Likewise, one who looks in the mirror and sees himself or herself as opposite of his or her biological sex is creating an alternate reality. It is a mental disorder and should not be coddled or reinforced. Nor should anyone else be forced into accepting that person’s alternate reality as reality.

Lo and behold, in its June 2016 issue, the magazine The Atlantic reprises an old “study” and tells us that a concept once only considered in scientific circles is coming mainstream.

That concept is that there is no free will. The human brain is merely a chemical machine only subject to impulses or “neuron-firing” over which man has no control any more than he can control his heartbeat.

The 2002 study involved separating people into two groups and having one group read a passage telling them their actions will have no consequences and the other read a passage that is neutral on the topic of morality. After watching the first group behave immorally and unethically in a series of actions – for instance, taking more money from an envelope than they were instructed to take – researchers determined they had made some great discovery: When there are no consequences for their actions some people will do most anything.

This plays right into the hands of the moral relativists and secular humanists driving society today. If one cannot control his impulses – if there is no free will – then he cannot be held responsible for his actions and face their consequences. Ergo there are no consequences so man can do anything that pleases him.

This humanist philosophy – the notion that man is his own god and arbiter of what is right – is form of universalism. Universalism is socialism, communism and democracy in the political sphere.

Universalism trumpets perfect freedom… while resulting in total slavery. Universalism leads to superstitious and even barbaric beliefs and practices.

Once this philosophy takes hold, sodomite marriage, bigamy, polyamory, pedophilia and bestiality all become acceptable and the new “normal.” What was sin and perversion yesterday is now not only state-sanctioned but state-promoted.

The natural progression then is that they become codified into law.

These perversions are currently practiced in cultures in which normal, healthful God-sanctioned relations between men and women are obliterated by pagan religions (e.g., Islam, Satanism, secular humanism). They are anathema to the Christian family as established by God: one man and one woman married for life, with children.

Of course, the God-centered man recognizes the idea that there is no free will as nonsense. A compassionate God would not create a man who could not control his actions and then judge him for those actions.

The God-centered man recognizes a supreme authority who will judge all actions and that as a result of that judgment that there are consequences to those actions. So free will is God-given.

By erasing the notion of free will, the power elite seek to erase the notion of God. It’s part and parcel of their ongoing effort to force out and suppress – through intimidation and oppression – Christian beliefs in favor of the new secular system.

That’s because the Christian is an individualist and cannot consider himself part of the state collective. The Christian sees himself as a servant of God, not the state.

Politically correct = No free will

Those who propagate this system are the ones who would monopolize all power and wealth. They are always very careful to establish their governments as popular fronts. Sometimes they call them democracy, sometimes communism. People who pay no attention to words and semantics see them all as the same.

The word political means the total aggrandizement of the state. This means that if one is “politically correct” – the goal of notions like “gender nonconforming,” “non-binary” and “no free will” – then his every breath and utterance is toward the aggrandizement of the state or the government. We practice political correctness, and become its perfect agents.

Even most organized churches, when incorporated, are political corporations created for a political purpose, and that is the aggrandizement of the state and the political order. Under these churches we become “politically correct” but spiritually wrong.

The push to relieve you of any responsibility so that you will surrender whatever is asked of you — even your life — to the state is the foundation of the new secular system. It is supreme and total deception. It is completion of the tower of Babel. It is the conclusion and finished man without the spirit of Christ.

The politically correct man wants the external authority of government instead of the spirit and mind of Christ. However the Christian’s total allegiance is to the Living God. He will not sacrifice himself for the body politic.

Thus, he cannot be manipulated by the secularists because he knows that human liberty is of God, not a privilege of the state.

Source: Will County News

Illinois Republican Chairman Chairman Schneider kept the Illinois Convention Honest

Republican Convention Delegate from Will County David E. Smith then took it upon himself to attempt the monumental task of getting a petition signed by the heads of 50 delegations before 9:30 a.m. the next morning to reinsert the prior 2012 language.

2016 Gop Convention

Yesterday was the concluding meeting of Delegates at the Republican Convention held in the late Spring every 4 years in Illinois. One day earlier, the Platform Committee announced to a packed audience the detailed and nuanced draft platform that was 98% agreed. However, the committee had taken out the wording from the 2012 Platform that ”While not universally achievable, the ideal environment for children is within a two-parent family based on the principle of marriage between one man and one woman” and substituted the following sentence, “ We acknowledge and welcome the diversity of opinions within our party regarding families, including the views that marriage is defined as the union of one man and one woman, that non-traditional families are worthy of the same respect and legal protections as traditional families and that marriage ought to be the purview of religious institutions and not of the government.”

Late in the afternoon Crete Township Republican Chairman, Executive Director of the Illinois Family Institute and Republican Convention Delegate from Will County David E. Smith then took it upon himself to attempt the monumental task of getting a petition signed by the heads of 50 delegations before 9:30 a.m. the next morning to reinsert the prior 2012 language. No one in the history of Illinois Republican Conventions has been able to meet this high hurdle before. Four years ago in Tinley Park a group came close after working TWO days to get the signatures.

David E. Smith’s volunteers did work through the night and ended up with 71 signatures in order to be challenge proof. In the final hour of the Convention, Chairman Schneider came to the point of dealing with David E. Smith’s resolution. Chairman Schneider outlined to all in attendance the rules where each side could have three persons make short speeches on their side of the argument and that a standing vote would follow where there would be an actual count of each person standing. In high drama, eloquent arguments were made. With almost a thousand delegates voting, 79% voted to reinstate the language that included ”While not universally achievable, the ideal environment for children is within a two-parent family based on the principle of marriage between one man and one woman”.

Kudos to David E. Smith, his numerous volunteers and supporters for successfully making a historic motion from the floor and having it pass with a vast majority of delegates unifying around the prior language. Kudos to GOP lawyers John Fogarty Jr. and Laura Jacksack for their fair and accurate advice to the committees and leadership. David E. Smith stopped Chairman Schneider afterwards and thanked him for the clean, fair and straightforward way he allowed it to come to a vote. As Delegate Sharee Langenstein artfully noted “We now have a new, and obviously better and more fair, chairman.”

feb2016 a

Written by Ed Ronkowski 5/23/2016

Source: Will County News

Another Terrifying Picture of a Hillary Presidency

Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions said the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms would become nearly extinct if Hillary Clinton wins the presidency. Sessions told “Fox News Sunday” that “Hillary Clinton is the most anti-Second Amendment president perhaps we’ve ever had” and cautioned voters to consider the damage to gun rights her presidency would cause. The senator said Clinton would pick a liberal Supreme Court Justice to fill the court’s vacancy, with potentially disastrous ramifications. “And what that means is, it’s no longer a personal right to have a gun, but every city, county, and state can completely ban firearms in America,” Sessions told Fox News. “This would be the greatest reduction of Second Amendment rights since the founding of the republic.”

Source: Will County News

Concert features march written by Homer Junior High 8th grader Kenny Kriha

News Release

Homer CCSD 33C

Goodings Grove   Luther J. Schilling   William E. Young   William J. Butler

Hadley Middle   Homer Jr. High

Homer Junior High School eighth-grader Kenny Kriha shares his process for writing “Variations on the Variant of a March.”

Contact: Charla Brautigam, Communications/Public Relations Manager

cbrautigam@homerschools.org | 708-226-7628


Kenny Kriha performing the piece he composed.


For Immediate Release:

May 20, 2016


Concert features march written by Homer Junior High 8th grader

The Homer Junior High School Symphonic Band performing Kenny Kriha’s “Variations on the Variant of a March.”

For years, 14-year-old Kenny Kriha has practiced and performed music written by others.


That all changed May 18 when the Homer Junior High School eighth grader debuted a piece he wrote for the school’s Symphonic Band.


“Ever since I can remember, I have loved music,” said Kenny, who wrote the two-minute march after being challenged to do so by music teacher Jason Thompson, co-director of bands at Homer Junior High.


The challenge was issued in December when students were preparing for the school’s holiday concert.


“Kenny had always been making comments about the pieces the band was playing,” said Thompson. “He would give his ideas about how to make the piece better both musically and aesthetically (horn flashes, etc.).


“So, one day, rather off the cuff, I told him I was giving him an `assignment,’” Thompson continued. “I told him to write his own piece for the band to play so he could include any ideas that he wants.”


To Thompson’s surprise, Kenny came back with a three movement opus.


“I was certainly not expecting that,” he said. “After some discussion, Kenny decided to just work on the first movement to have something ready for the band to play at the final concert. After he made all of the necessary changes the band began working on it in rehearsal to prepare it for its `World Premiere.’”


The final product was revealed at the school’s final concert of the year on May 18. It was met with thunderous applause and a standing ovation.


A few audience members even asked for the composer’s autograph.


“That was interesting,” said Kenny.


The talented musician began writing the march by forming the melody first and then “elaborating” upon it by grouping sections — saxophone, tuba, bass clarinet and bassoon in one section; flute and oboe in another; and French horn and alto sax in a third.


He learned to write from the bottom up, concentrating on the low notes (or bass) first and working up to the high notes so that the chords agreed.


It was the first time Kenny had ever written music for a full band. He had once written a duet for saxophones, but never something for every instrument.


“I am pretty amazed at the final result,” said Thompson. “Writing for a band with all the different instruments in different keys and clefs is not an easy thing.”


The music prodigy picked up his first instrument at age 5 when his parents gave him a drum set for enduring a painful tonsillectomy.


Pretty soon, he was searching percussion websites for sand blocks, castanets and guiros (a Latin American percussion instrument) and asking his parents for a mandolin and accordion for Christmas.


“He really started getting into music with his fourth-grade music teacher, Mrs. (Rebecca) Worley,” recalled Kenny’s mother, Laura Kriha. “She introduced him to the recorder, and from there, he never looked back.”


As a fifth-grader, Kenny began playing the alto sax. He has since added three more instruments to his repertoire — the tenor sax for marching band, the bassoon for concert band and the tenor drums for fun.


He continues to play the alto sax for jazz band.


It was the jazzy sound of the saxophone that first drew Kenny to the instrument.


“Jazz is very expressive,” he said, “and I like to express myself through music.”


The teenager knows music will always be a part of his life. He plans to become a band director one day — just like Thompson and co-director Jason Skube.


Directors have “complete power” over the music, said Kenny, and help others grow musically.


His teachers say they expect great things from Kenny.

Kenny Kriha with co-directors Jason Thompson and Jason Skube at the premiere of his piece “Variations on the Variant of a March.”

“(His) determination is beyond admirable,” said Skube, who has always been impressed with the youngster’s eagerness to learn and joy for music.


“Throughout my tenure teaching, I have observed that those who become completely enthralled with all facets of music are scarce,” he said. “(Kenny is) one of those scarcities.”


“I know Kenny has many interesting compositions in his future,” added Thompson. “I can’t wait to hear them.”



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Source: Will County News

Vanadium could become a crucial part of the renewables revolution & inexpensive

The ‘Beautiful Metal’ That Stores Energy

By Helen Abigail Baxter & Helena Gomes

An unheralded metal could become a crucial part of the renewables revolution. Vanadium is used in new batteries which can store large amounts of energy almost indefinitely, perfect for remote wind or solar farms. And what’s more there is loads of the stuff simply lying around in industrial dumps.

Don’t let the dumpster diving put you off – never mind gold or silver, vanadium may just be the most beautiful metal of all. It’s the 22nd most abundant element in the Earth’s crust, though it’s rarely found naturally in its metallic form. Instead, vanadium can be found in more than 100 different minerals.

Colours of vanadium. Steffen Kristensen

Once extracted and dissolved in water, various forms of vanadium turn into bright, bold colours. It’s even named after “Vanadis”, the old Norse name for the Scandinavian goddess of beauty, Freyja.

Vanadium is not only beautiful, but also strong. Adding small percentages of it creates exceptionally light, tough and more resilient steel alloys. Henry Ford was the first to use it on an industrial scale, in the 1908 Model T car chassis, and today the vast majority of vanadium is used in structural steel, mainly to build bridges and buildings.

Vanadium flow batteries

The unique properties of vanadium make it ideal for a new type of batteries that may revolutionise energy systems in the near future – redox flow batteries.

Batteries store energy and generate electricity by a reaction between two different materials – typically solid zinc and manganese. In flow batteries, these materials are liquid and have different electric charges. Both are pumped into a “cell” where the electric current is generated. A tiny membrane separates the two liquids, so they are able to react but don’t come into direct contact.

Vanadium is used in these batteries as it can convert back and forth from its various different states, which can carry different positive charges. As only one material is used, the risk of cross contamination is eliminated. The liquids have an indefinite life, so the replacement costs are low and there are no waste disposal problems. Also, the battery is extended to a potentially infinite lifetime.

In flow batteries, the energy production and capacity are independent. Energy is stored in tanks, whereas the capacity depends only on the amount of liquid stored. This provides a great design flexibility that other batteries do not allow. They are also safer, as the two liquids don’t mix causing a sudden release of energy. Even President Obama is impressed.

The new energy reservoir

Vanadium flow batteries are too big and heavy to replace the lithium batteries found in your phone, however. These batteries are instead used for large stationary long-term energy storage, or to supply remote areas, or provide backup power. They’re the basis for a more efficient, reliable, and cleaner electrical energy market.

Energy storage is one of the main factors limiting the spread of renewables. When solar and wind power is produced at the wrong time of day we need to store it to use it during the evening demand peaks. Studies have shown that vanadium batteries can be a sustainable solution.

When we can create huge stores of energy to access as required, we will be liberated from the need to maintain rapidly-accessible energy generation such as coal or gas. Vanadium batteries can be a reservoir of energy much in the same way as we use actual reservoirs to store rainwater for later use.

Strengthened with vanadium. The Henry Ford / Life magazine

The ability to store electricity would reduce reliance on gas and coal. In turn this would increase fuel security and cut CO2 emissions, helping to meet agreed emissions targets. No wonder then that the EU considers vanadium a critical metal for strategic energy technologies.

The hunt for vanadium

The metal is mined, and supplies are currently dominated by China, South Africa, Russia and the US. Vanadium has a medium risk of supply shortage and a high political risk.

However, as vanadium can be a byproduct of other sorts of mining, about 70% of the vanadium above ground is unused, left in industrial wastes such as mine tailings, debris or steel slags. In fact, a study I published with colleagues last year estimated that 43% of the annual global production of vanadium could be recovered from alkaline wastes, such as steel slag, red mud, fly ashes from coal energy production, and construction and demolition waste.

But there isn’t yet a firmly established technology to recover this vanadium. Certain bacteria and fungi can extract more vanadium from industrial wastes, and various solutions for turning this into useful metal are under development. But we still need to come up with a better way to reach potential sources of this beautiful metal.

The Conversation

Helena I. Gomes, Postdoctoral researcher in Environmental Sciences, University of Hull andHelen Abigail Baxter, Post Doc Research Assistant, Department of Geography Environment and Earth Sciences, University of Hull

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Source: Will County News

Will County Board approved $426,000 in funding for its Health Department

Larry Walsh

Despite accusations of dirty politics and unethical conduct, the Will County Board unanimously approved $426,000 in funding for its Health Department, averting a significant number of layoffs and program cuts, but stressed that this is only a temporary measure to solve a crisis created by the lack of a state budget.

The action came during Thursday’s board meeting after a raucous 90-minute discussion during which Republican caucus leader Chuck Maher, R-Naperville, called for an investigation of the Health Department to make sure that its staff is professionally qualified, licensed and held to proper ethical standards.

Facing a $2.1 million shortfall from the state, the county’s health board decided to lay off 58 staff members and suspend nine programs by May 27, the halfway mark in its fiscal year, which ends Nov. 30

According to AFSCME Local 1028 President Dave Delrose, 28 staff members will still be laid off, as the department will not be reinstating its Family Case Management program.

“It’s sad they could not do more,” he said.

The Health Department will be able to maintain its Adult Mental Health services, the Crisis Response Program and the Juvenile Justice program through the end of the fiscal year, at which time more cuts may have to be made, officials said.

Instead of giving the department an additional $426,000, the county board instead will allow it one more year to repay the $3 million it borrowed from the county in March. That loan was to be repaid when tax revenues arrived in June.

“This will not be a revolving charge card. You still have to make tough decisions to cut programs and workforce,” said County Board Speaker Jim Moustis, R-Frankfort Township.

Health Department Executive Director Susan Olenek said it will not be “business as usual” in the future.

“This $426,000 buys us time to transition our clients to other providers and not slam the door in their faces,” she said.

Historically, the Health Department has been fiscally responsible, cutting personnel four times in four years, she added.

Some board members questioned the 2.5 percent wage increase union employees will receive June 1, but Olenek said the department is “contractually obligated” to pay that.

During the discussion, Republican leaders slammed the process, claiming the Health Department gave them an “artificial drop-dead date,” the union politicized the crisis and department doctors threatened at least one board member.

Moustis accused the health board of imposing an “artificial” May 27 deadline to pressure the County Board into making a decision before it had all the information it needed.

Then, the union and county Democratic officials “furthered the crisis” by holding a May 9 press conference, which took the issue “out of the solution bucket and put it in the political bucket,” he said.

“It was all about trying to make the Republican majority look bad,” Moustis said.

Maher, who initially passed on voting, read a lengthy statement before changing his vote to support the loan, during which he attacked County Executive Larry Walsh, D-Elwood, who is seeking re-election in November.

He also accused doctors of making “threatening” phone calls to him on Health Department phones during work hours, and having their patients call him.

Walsh should have come to the leaders to facilitate a solution, instead of going to a press conference, Maher said, and should have attended committee meetings where Health Department funding was discussed.

“Instead you played it out in the media and called for special meetings,” Maher said. “We need leadership that is willing to work together, not when it looks good but all the time.”

He accused Walsh of trying to “win back favor from the union” after a 2013 strike.

Walsh called for a special meeting following Thursday’s regular meeting after the board’s executive committee rescinded a vote after many had left its May 19 meeting to bring the loan request to the full board for discussion

The day after Walsh set the special meeting, Moustis added Health Department funding to Thursday’s agenda.

But when Walsh convened the special meeting which had been posted — even though action was no longer needed — Republican leaders Moustis, Maher and Mike Fricilone, R-Homer Glen, left the room.

Board member Suzanne Hart, R-Naperville, left the regular meeting earlier, before the vote was taken.

“That was a show of disrespect to me,” Walsh said, adding that he thought Maher’s comments were in “bad taste.”

The executive committee “created the situation,” he said, by voting not to allow the funding issue to go to the full board “after everyone left the room.”

Both Walsh and union leader Delrose said they were unaware that Health Department staff and clients had made calls to Maher.

“Clients have a right to be heard, but there is an appropriate way to do that,” Delrose said.

He said this was “never a political issue” from the union’s point of view.

The union called the press conference to “bring awareness to the issue” and invited elected officials who were “stakeholders” and could comment on the impact the loss of services would have on the community.

In addition to Walsh, others who attended were Sheriff Mike Kelley and State’s Attorney James Glasgow, both Democrats.

“The people who are making those accusation (of politics) are making it political,” Delrose said.

Clients and health care providers did address the board prior to the vote, saying many other providers have cut mental health services, resulting in a six-month waiting list for patients who need daily medication.


Source: Will County News

Venezuela Doesn’t Have Enough Money to Pay for Its Money


Andrew Rosati
April 27, 2016 — 3:00 AM CST

Venezuela’s epic shortages are nothing new at this point. No diapers or car parts or aspirin — it’s all been well documented. But now the country is at risk of running out of money itself.
In a tale that highlights the chaos of unbridled inflation, Venezuela is scrambling to print new bills fast enough to keep up with the torrid pace of price increases. Most of the cash, like nearly everything else in the oil-exporting country, is imported. And with hard currency reserves sinking to critically low levels, the central bank is doling out payments so slowly to foreign providers that they are foregoing further business.
Venezuela, in other words, is now so broke that it may not have enough money to pay for its money.
This article is based on interviews with a dozen industry executives, diplomats and former officials as well as internal company and central bank documents. All of the companies declined official comment; the central bank did not respond to numerous requests for interviews and comment.
Thronging Banks
The story began last year when the government of President Nicolas Maduro tried to tamp down a growing currency shortfall. Multi-million-dollar orders were placed with a slew of currency makers ahead of December elections and holidays, when Venezuelans throng banks to cash their bonuses.
At one point, instead of a public bidding process, the central bank called an emergency meeting and asked companies to produce as many bills as possible. The companies complied, only to find payments not fully forthcoming.

Last month, De La Rue, the world’s largest currency maker, sent a letter to the central bank complaining that it was owed $71 million and would inform its shareholders if the money were not forthcoming. The letter was leaked to a Venezuelan news website and confirmed by Bloomberg News.
“It’s an unprecedented case in history that a country with such high inflation cannot get new bills,” said Jose Guerra, an opposition law maker and former director of economic research at the central bank. Late last year, the central bank ordered more than 10 billion bank notes, surpassing the 7.6 billion the U.S. Federal Reserve requested this year for an economy many times the size of Venezuela’s.
World’s Highest Inflation
The currency crisis sheds light on the magnitude of the country’s financial woes and its limited ability to remedy them as oil — the mainstay of its economy — continues to flatline. Venezuela’s inflation, the world’s highest, is expected to rise this year to close to 500 percent, according to the International Monetary Fund.
The first signs of the currency shortage date back to 2014 when the government began increasing shipments of bank notes as wallet-busting wads of cash were already needed for simple transactions. Venezuelans spend hours waiting in line for consumer staples, lining up first at banks and cash machines, often carrying the loot in backpacks and gym bags to pay for dinner out.
Ahead of the 2015 congressional elections, the central bank tapped the U.K.’s De La Rue, France’s Oberthur Fiduciaire and Germany’s Giesecke & Devrient to bring in some 2.6 billion notes, according to bank documents and people familiar with the deals. Before the delivery was completed, the bank approached the companies directly for more.
De La Rue took the lion’s share of the 3-billion-note order and enlisted the Ottawa-based Canadian Bank Note Company to ensure it could meet a tight end-of-year deadline.
Sniper Cover
The cash arrived in dozens of 747 jets and chartered planes. Under cover of security forces and snipers, it was transferred to armored caravans where it was spirited to the central bank in dead of night.
While the cash was still arriving — at times, multiple planeloads a day — authorities set their sights on the year ahead. In late 2015, the central bank more than tripled its original order, offering tenders for some 10.2 billion bank notes, according to industry sources.
But currency companies were worried. According to company documents, De La Rue began experiencing delays in payment as early as June. Similarly, the bank was slow to pay Giesecke & Devrient and Oberthur Fiduciaire. So when the tender was offered, the government only received about 3.3 billion in bids, bank documents show.
“Initially, your eyes grow as big as dish plates,” said one person familiar with matter. “An order big enough to fill your factory for a year, but do you want to completely expose yourself to a country as risky as Venezuela?”
Further complicating matters is the sheer amount of bills needed for basic transactions. Venezuela’s largest bill, the 100-bolivar note, today barely pays for a loose cigarette at a street kiosk.
Uncharted Territory
As early as 2013, the central bank commissioned studies for 200 and 500 bolivar notes, former monetary officials say. Despite repeated assurances, no new denominations have been ordered, pushing Venezuela into uncharted territory by its refusal to produce larger bills while not fully paying providers.
Companies are backing away. With its traditional partners now unenthusiastic about taking on new business, the central bank is in negotiations with others, including Russia’s Goznack, and has a contract with Boston-based Crane Currency, according to documents and industry sources.
Steve Hanke, a professor of applied economics at Johns Hopkins University, who has studied hyperinflation for decades, says that to maintain faith in the currency when prices spiral, governments often add zeros to bank notes rather than flood the market.
“It’s a very bad sign to see people running around with wheelbarrows full of money to buy a hot dog,” he said. “Even the cash economy starts breaking down.”

Source: Will County News

Local government even park Districts buying surplus military gear

Lavish local spending on surplus military gear
Adam Andrzejewski

Adam Andrzejewski
By Adam Andrzejewski
Guest columnist
Despite public outcry, new federal data shows that 2014 and 2015 were peak years for shipments of surplus military gear to local police departments across America. In Illinois, local police continued to procure a largesse of military gear.


Last week, our organization released the study “OpenTheBooks Snapshot Report — The Militarization of Local Police Departments” that quantified the transfer of 1.5 million weapons-related items from the Department of Defense to federal, state and local police departments since 2006.
We found a federally sponsored “gun show” that never ends. Across Illinois, small-town police are now armed with M16 and M14 rifles, night-vision and armored trucks. In 2014, DuPage County Sheriff John Zaruba procured a mine resistant vehicle (MRV). Even local park districts and forest preserves stocked up on weapons and military-style equipment.

In total, our new data reveals $2.2 billion worth of military gear including helicopters and airplanes, armored trucks and cars, tens of thousands of M16 and M14 rifles, thousands of bayonets, mine detectors, and many other types of weaponry.

Here’s a cross-section of the $70 million in surplus military-weaponry and equipment distributed to law enforcement within Illinois:

• 399 military trucks ($17.9 million); 16 mine-resistant vehicles ($11.1 million); 13 helicopters ($4.3 million); and seven armored trucks and cars ($1 million);

• 4,352 M16 and M14 rifles (5.56mm and 7.62mm) ($1.8 million); 681 pistols (. 38 and .45 caliber) ($77,845); and 69 riot 12-gauge shotguns ($7,265);

• 399 night-vision sights, sniper scopes, binoculars, goggles, infrared and image magnifiers ($3.6 million);

• 45 bayonets and even one sword with scabbard.

A few examples of the local and regional law enforcement weaponry largesse:

In DuPage County, in addition to the MRV, the sheriff’s office also procured 43 M16 and M14 rifles, and four explosive ordinance disposal robots. In response to a separate FOIA from the Edgar County Watchdogs, the sheriff admitted to a gun inventory of over 450 weapons.

The College of DuPage received 14 M16 rifles and the DuPage County Forest Preserve netted five .45 caliber pistols and four M16 and seven M14 rifles. The police department in Wheaton picked up 65 M16 rifles.

In Chicago, the embattled police department procured 159 “ground troop helmets,” 372 M16 and M14 rifles, and an MRV.

Even the small, north-shore enclave of Glencoe accepted 10 M16 and M14 rifles, eight .45 caliber pistols and a military-utility truck. Evanston is a community known to promote gun-control ordinances, but its police department procured 20 M16 rifles.

Every single sheriff around Cook County received military-armored vehicles. Kendall County procured five military-utility trucks, an MRV, and 18 M16/M14 rifles. Lake County procured three armored trucks and 25 M14 rifles. McHenry County procured an MRV, a military-truck/tractor, three utility trucks, 19 riot 12-gage shotguns, and 31 M16 and M14 rifles. Will County procured two utility trucks and 90 M16 rifles.

But, the Kane County Sheriff procured an MRV, two combat/tactical/assault wheeled vehicles, five military trucks, an explosive ordinance disposal robot, 50 electric pulse pistols, 30 flash suppressors, 22 infrared or night vision googles, and 70 M16 and M14 rifles.

Many small towns received military weapons. In rural Will County, Beecher (pop. 4,451) received 11 M16 and M14 rifles, Crete (pop. 8,230) received 24 M16 rifles, and Peotone (pop. 4,133) received six M16 and M14 rifles.

Many of the DOD weapons transfers have a questionable law enforcement purpose. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources received 174 M16 and M14 rifles. Why? To enforce hunting laws?

It’s no secret the American people are distrustful of our political class and rightly so. But transparency can help restore trust by giving people the information they need to hold elected officials accountable.

Adam Andrzejewski is the CEO of OpenTheBooks.com, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization devoted to monitoring government spending.

Source: Will County News