Who would have thought: Russia's FSB going back to using paper

Who would have thought this about paper in the modern electronic world. To avoid e-document theft, Russia turns to paper and type, even typewriters.

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

1950_s_REMINGTON_QUIET-RITER_TYPEWRITER_w_CASE_MANUALMany of us, lots of us in fact, use paper towels to clean up leaks – but you will hardly have ever heard about the way that paper is being used by the Russian Secret Service to prevent leaks of a much more serious nature.

It was revealed earlier in 2013 that Russia’s Federal Protective Service (FSO) had budgeted 486,000 rubles – just under $15,000 – for new electric typewriters, along with ribbons and other accessories. By using typewriters and paper for sensitive or classified communications, the FSO, which is charged with protecting important government personnel including Russia’s president and prime minister, hopes to prevent the kind of electronic document leaks related to the recent WikiLeaks scandal.

The UK’s Telegraph newspaper quoted Nikolai Kovalev, former director of Russia’s Federal Security Service, speaking to Russian newspaper Izvestiya: “From the point of view of security, any means of electronic communication is vulnerable. You can remove any information from a computer. There are means of defense, of course, but there’s no 100 percent guarantee they will work. So from the point of view of preserving secrets, the most primitive methods are preferable: a person’s hand and a pen, or a typewriter.”

In addition to being safe from electronic theft or distribution, paper documents written by typewriters are easier to trace to their source. Each individual typewriter has its’ own unique “signature,” due to minute differences in type patterns and mechanical operation. Computer printers just do not exhibit this type of identifiable signature even though there have been attempts to create some sort of signature for printers and photocopiers.

Many new media around the world commented on this and The New York Post ran the headline, “Russian government goes back in time; will use typewriters to leak-proof sensitive classified documents,” which unfortunately (and unfairly) implies that paper documentation is somehow a thing of the past.

The truth is, electronic document vulnerability is a very real concern. In addition to government intelligence records, proprietary or sensitive business records (including financial records, vendor lists, or client information) can be targeted for theft, as can personal correspondences via email or text. Identity fraud (through appropriation of personal information, such as a credit card number, that has been stored or transmitted electronically) affects thousands of people every day; in 2010, more than 8 million Americans reported being the victims of identity fraud according to a Congressional Research Service report to Congress.

Paper a typewriters are far from dead and a thing of the past. Fact is that typewriters and paper documentation are still necessary for many specific uses. Many US states have laws requiring that permanent records, such as death certificates, must be filled out by hand or typed. Funeral homes, government agencies, and even prisons still rely on typewriters to create physical copies (that is to say, paper, not virtual) of permanent records.

Typewriters are also becoming increasingly popular among a demographic too young to remember a time before “key-stroking” had supplanted “typing” as a necessary skill and “old-school” typewriters didn’t even need electricity to run. It may be for that reason also that working old manual typewriters are fetching quite large sums on places such as e-bay and other auction sites.

I have only recently found that my old portable (it you feel like carrying around a case of several pounds) Remington Rand Quiet Riter from around 1953 that was bought for about $10 at a second-hand shop a couple of years ago can, in good condition, and mine certainly is, $100 or more. Well worth holding onto then alone for that reason.

Permanent, secure, and an elegant form of artistic expression, typed documents are still a necessary part of our world, even in this “digital age.” And, the way things are going, they might become much more a thing of the present again than we ever might have imagined and thus I am glad that I still have my old Remington Rand Quiet Riter. The only problem that remains is getting the ribbons for it.

© 2013


amazon boycott bumper stickerA group of MPs has on Saturday, November 30, 2013 been backing Ethical Consumer's call for shoppers to boycott Amazon this Christmas because of the internet giant's aggressive tax avoidance policies.

Margaret Hodge, chair of the House of Commons public accounts select committee and one of the eight MPs who are supporting the Amazon boycott said: “It's hugely important that we all take a stand and damage the reputation and business of companies such as Amazon that deliberately avoid paying their fare share of tax to the common purse for the common good.”

“If enough people boycott Amazon then we will damage their business. Amazon's market share and reputation matters.”

Margaret Hodge MP who has been boycotting Amazon since the company's appearance before the public accounts select committee last December accused the internet giant of endangering British jobs: “Boycotting Amazon is not anti-business, it's pro-fairness. Tax avoidance is not only morally wrong but it disadvantages British businesses and British jobs.”

Ethical Consumer's Tim Hunt said: “This Christmas shoppers may benefit from Amazon's cheap shopping but these bargains come at the cost of reduced public services. Amazon's tax revenues could help fund the vital public services that are now being slashed.”

“Amazon is having a devastating impact on high streets across the UK as tax-paying businesses are unable to compete with Amazon.”

“We're calling for a boycott of Amazon in response to the public's anger at the scale of Amazon's tax avoidance. Our aim is to mobilise consumer power to make Amazon pay a fair rate of tax.”

The boycott of Amazon has been run by Ethical Consumer since December 2012.

The MPs who are supporting Ethical Consumer's Amazon boycott are Natascha Engel, Meg Hillier, Margaret Hodge, John McDonnell, Michael Meacher, Austin Mitchell, Graham Morris and Dennis Skinner.

For more information on why Margaret Hodge MP is supporting the Amazon Boycott please visit:

Amazon's company filings showed Amazon.co.uk paid tax of £3.2 million in 2012, on sales of £320 million. The Seattle-based group has told investors its 2012 UK sales were £4.2 billion.

Ethical Consumer has researched online alternatives to Amazon for books, CDs, computer + video games, DVDs, film + TV streaming + MP3s:

Ethical Consumer recommends that shoppers who want to boycott Amazon should always try and shop instead with locally-owned high street stores who have always paid their taxes in full.

There are no clear Best Buys for computer +video games ie companies that appear to be paying their fair share of tax.

Ethical Consumer give two clear options:

  1. Where possible, buy second hand from your local retailer.

  2. Use a lending site such as Games Planet / Metaboli or Games Collection.

For shoppers wanting to shop at tax-paying department stores, Ethical Consumer recommends the following stores who appear to be paying their fair share of tax: Debenhams, John Lewis, Lush and Next.

For more information about the Amazon boycott visit:

Launched in 1989 Ethical Consumer is the UK's leading ethical and environmental magazine. In each issue Ethical Consumer examines the ethical and environmental record of the companies behind everyday products and services from bread to banks.

For more information visit the Ethical Consumer website: www.ethicalconsumer.org

Full Disclosure Statement: The GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW received no compensation for any component of this article.

Amazon vs. the high street

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

no_amazonWhen buying your presents for Christmas this year consider carefully and think ethics before you think price. I know that in an age of austerity this is not always easy but thinking we must that way nevertheless.

While Amazon may be cheaper than high street stores and even other mail order companies it comes at a price for the workers and the environment.

In addition to that Amazon is playing the tax avoidance game big time and pays little to no taxes in the UK or the US because they are, basically, with their head offices, based in what can only be described as “tax havens”. Furthermore they pay the lowest wages that they can possibly get away with and hate trade unions and the way they deal with their workers is exploitation bordering on slavery that is a risk to the health of those workers. They also are wreckers of bricks-and-mortar bookshops, especially of the small, independent ones but even the large chains are far from immune to their influence.

Yep, "all the bad stuff at once" but you can make a change here, every single one of us, and that is by refusing to make use of Amazon.

Personally, for reasons of ethics, I refuse to buy from Amazon and also will not accept, even when free, as it would be in that case, to take an Amazon published e-book for review. And for the same reason I refuse to publish in the Kindle format and only offer PDF.

It is for the same reasons of ethics, because of workers' rights and treatment and of exploitation of labor and environment, that I will not buy at Walmart or its subsidiaries, such as ASDA in the UK. The old ASDA once was a favorite place to shop for me when they were ASDA, as in Associated Dairies, but that is long past.

As shoppers we can make a difference to the way companies and stores do business and how they operate. Voting with our wallets and our feet is the best message that we can send to them.

So, let's send them the proper message, a message that will hurt them in their profits for it is the only one that they will ever understand. Let's buy our books and other things from local stores and local makers and if it comes to e-books let's insist that they are in PDF and not in Kindle or other format designed to work with but one device type often and being tied to one store.

Help bring life back to the high street – or main street as our American cousins call it – by shopping there as much as possible. And while not all goods may be local, the shops are and best choice is to give our custom to the independents wherever possible.

We can all bring about the change that we wish by even small steps and one of those small steps is to support the High Street and its shops wherever and whenever possible, and give our custom especially to the small and independent stores and the co-ops.

© 2013

Research reveals insights into the take-up of Electric Vehicles

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

columbiapaccar_mega_truckTRL and TNS-BMRB were commissioned by the Department for Transport (DfT) to undertake an investigation into the responses of early adopters of electric vehicles (EVs) to both the Plug-in Car Grant (PiCG) and Plugged-in Places (PiP) schemes. The research was published this week as part of the Government’s Ultra Low Emission Vehicle Strategy which can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/driving-the-future-today-a-strategy-for-ultra-low-emission-vehicles-in-the-uk

The work explored the contribution of these two schemes to the uptake of EVs. Views and experiences were sought from both individuals and organizations as to their experience of buying, owning and using EVs. In addition, the barriers to adoption were also investigated, by obtaining the views of those who had recently bought a vehicle other than an EV.

The research was conducted in two strands: firstly, a quantitative survey to provide new data on the characteristics and charging behavior of private and organizational EV users. Secondly, qualitative research aimed at providing an in-depth understanding of the influence of the PiCG and the PiP scheme on the car purchasing decisions of both groups; the barriers to EV purchase, and factors that influence the driving and charging behavior of EV users.

The study identified that the PiCG was important in EV purchase decision; with over 85% of respondents deeming it important. Those who has purchased EVs felt the amount (£5,000 or 25% of the vehicle price, whichever is the lower) to be appropriate, and improved the affordability of EVs. Most non-EV owners were, however, unaware of the PiCG and it was recommended that a marketing strategy be developed to publicize the PiCG more widely.

Around 40% felt that public charging infrastructure was important in their decision to purchase an EV and many expressed a desire for there to be a more useable network of public charge points. They pointed to a lack of compatibility between different charge point providers as being confusing and frustrating for EV purchasers and users.

One of the main barriers to EV take-up was identified as lack of knowledge relating to many aspects of purchasing and using EVs, as well as the current range of the vehicles. Non-EV purchasers were concerned about the range that an EV could achieve, whilst EV owners did acknowledge that concerns over the range the vehicles could achieve had presented them with challenges as users. Finally, amongst non-EV owners, the purchase cost of the EV was also considered to be a barrier. Even with the reduction offered by the PiCG, EVs were often deemed unaffordable.

The full TRL report is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/236748/research-report.pdf

The problems with electric vehicles (EVs) is and remain the same regardless of what research and governments and that is that:

  1. The are expensive to buy and the costs for them will only go up and not down as rare earth, etc. become more expensive and also energy for production.

  2. Batteries have a very limited lifespan as do all and are about two-thirds to three-quarters of the cost of a vehicle for replacement and will need replacing about every three or so years.

  3. The emissions created in manufacture and use may actually be higher even – despite of the fact that none being emitted by the vehicle itself during use – than those of cars and trucks with internal combustion engines.

  4. The mining of the rare earth, rare and other metals, etc. for the building of EVs puts a serious strain on the environment.

And neither of those factors are considered and put into the equation when EVs are being promoted by industry, governments and even green groups as the answer to climate change. Electric vehicles are not going to save us. Only a total change in our use of personal transportation will, combined with other changes.

One can, therefore, but wonder whether the manufacturers of brown envelopes have had a field day once again. EVs are not carbon neutral, not even ultra low emission, if all factors are taken into account. Far from it, actually. So, why the lies. Think about it!

© 2013

The Diggers (A World turned Upside Down)

Here are the lyrics to the song about the English Diggers of 1649 who tried to take back their rights to use the common land from the church and landowners. The lyrics are still very relevant today. However, the God is no longer a theistic one, but a corporate one...diggers1

The Diggers (A World turned Upside Down)

In 1649
To St. George's Hill,
A ragged band they called the Diggers
Came to show the people's will
They defied the landlords
They defied the laws
They were the dispossessed reclaiming what was theirs

We come in peace they said
To dig and sow
We come to work the lands in common
And to make the waste land grow
This earth divided
We will make whole
So it can be
A common treasury for all

The sin of property
We do disdain
No man has any right to buy and sell
The earth for private gain
By theft and murder
They took the land
Now everywhere the walls
Rise up at their command

They make the laws
To chain us well
The clergy dazzle us with heaven
Or they damn us into hell
We will not worship
The God they serve
The God of greed who feeds the rich
While poor folk starve

We work we eat together
We need no swords
We will not bow to masters
Or pay rent to the lords
We are free men
Though we are poor
You Diggers all stand up for glory
Stand up now

From the men of property
The orders came
They sent the hired men and troopers
To wipe out the Diggers' claim
Tear down their cottages
Destroy their corn
They were dispersed
Only the vision lingers on

You poor take courage
You rich take care
The earth was made a common treasury
For everyone to share
All things in common
All people one
We come in peace
The order came to cut them down

Non-GMO Hybrid corn outperforms GMO counterparts

University Corn Trial Results Suggest Non-GMO Hybrid Performance Is Competitive With GMO Counterparts

x-defaultNon-GMO hybrids are a proven alternative for corn farmers, attesting that consumer food prices don't have to rise due to yield differences.

LINDEN, Ind., Nov. 20, 2013 : Corn hybrid trials in Illinois have been harvested, and results are showing Non-GMO corn hybrids performing as well or better than GMO corn hybrids.

Spectrum Premium Non-GMO hybrids, used in the testing, produced 3 to 10 more bushels per acre when compared to nationally known GMO corn hybrids. Trial details: http://bit.ly/1baSkPt

These regional data summaries are evidence that farmers now have the opportunity to lower input costs and effectively increase profitability with the use of Non-GMO corn hybrids.

"In addition to competitive yield performance, our aim is to exceed seed purity demands from grain producers as well as grain users across the country who are trying to reach a fast growing consumer market for food products derived from Non-GMO sources," says company Sales Manager Roger Rudolph.

Spectrum Premium Non-GMO™ is an independent brand of genetically improved corn seed sold in 38 states. The company is based in Linden, Indiana.

See a recent article about the launch and growth of Spectrum Seed, published in County Folks East & West, a Lee Publication based in New York.
Article link http://countryfolks.com/the-divine-road-less-traveled/

To see full feature article or for more information, please visit www.spectrumseed.com


SOURCE Spectrum Seed

Full Disclosure Statement: The GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW received no compensation for any component of this article.

This article is for your information only and the GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW does not (necessarily) approve, endorse or recommend the product, service, company or organization mentioned.

Don't waste your yard leaves

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Many people, including avid gardeners, rake their leaves in the yard and garden and then bag them and leave them out by the kerb for collection by the municipality. This is wasting a great gardening resource.

Wire cage for leafd moldLeaf mold, that is to say leaves that have been broken down by the action of fungi (unlike by bacteria and worms in composting) is a great additive to soil after about two years, turned occasionally, and as top dressing for any and all plants earlier than that, after about a year.

A simple cage made of wire fence or chicken wire can be tucked away in a corner to create leaf mold. Leaf mold breaks down over winter to become a wonderful top dressing for any and all plants. Splash a little water on the leaves if they are dry, and press them down. You will be amazed at how many leaves you can fit in a small space. Never put leaves in a bag on the kerb, it is a waste of a great resource.

Once left for two years or so it is the best soil (additive) for, as said, any and all plants but very especially for vegetable, that is to say food, growing.

However, you can, if you have lots of it, also use leaf mold after already a year, as the base for raised bed gardening, topping it up with compost and leaf mold over two years old, such as in Hügelkultur raised beds, where wooden materials are used as the lower base, followed by wood chip, leaves and young leaf mold and then soil. This is probably one of the best ways of gardening, aside from the fact that it is a no-dig method also.

Hügelkultur gardening in raised beds is akin to what some call Lasagne Gardening where paper, grass, leaves and such are layered, much like a lasagne – hence the name – to form the beds.

In both cases the material rotting away underneath the soil by means of various micro-organisms and their actions feed the soil which, in turn, feeds the plants.

So, don't waste your yard waste and that also includes grass clippings.

© 2013

£30m food waste recycling facility to be built in Dagenham

The London Borough of Barking and Dagenham has given planning consent to ReFood UK for its next major anaerobic digestion plant for food waste. The £30m plant will be the company’s third site in the UK and is part of a major programme of investment in ReFood’s food waste recycling facilities, which also includes a new site in Widnes, Cheshire, due to open in 2014.

Dagenham_smlThe new facility on the London Sustainable Industries Park (LSIP) will take 160,000 tonnes of food waste which would otherwise go to landfill and create low carbon biogas (enough to supply around 10,000 homes), as well as liquid fertiliser.The facility will also create up to 60 new jobs in addition to some relocated jobs.

Philip Simpson, commercial director at ReFood, part of PDM Group, commented: “We are delighted to get the go ahead for this landmark plant which will help to ensure that food waste arising in the London area can be transformed into renewable energy and valuable nutrients to go back onto the land.

“The decision comes in the same week that we launched the Vision 2020: UK roadmap to zero food waste to landfill to achieve zero food waste to landfill by the end of the decade and having the right infrastructure in place to optimise the energy and nutritional value of food waste will have a major part to play in this ambition.

“There is clearly a desire within retail, the hospitality sector and householders to both prevent food waste and also deal with it more responsibly where it does arise. Indeed, we have been delighted by the positive response that the Vision 2020 ambition has already received.”

ReFood UK opened its first anaerobic digestion plant in Doncaster in 2011 and this has proved so successful there are already plans to double its size. A further £20m is being invested in the new gas-to-grid plant in Widnes, which will be able to take 90,000 tonnes of food waste.

LSIP at Dagenham Dock is creating the UK’s largest concentration of environmental industries and technologies bringing new life and opportunities to the borough. Developed on 60 acres of land owned by Greater London Authority, LSIP is at the heart of the London Mayor’s Green Enterprise District. The vision is to deliver a closed loop system, with businesses delivering waste to energy projects, combined heat and power schemes, recycling and reprocessing facilities, and renewable energy technologies. This system enables businesses to develop synergies with their neighbours, maximise resource efficiency and innovation and minimise waste.

Source: Prova PR

Full Disclosure Statement: The GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW received no compensation for any component of this article.

This article is for your information only and the GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW does not (necessarily) approve, endorse or recommend the product, service, company or organization mentioned.


A major report which sets out to stop billions of pounds worth of food being consigned to landfill has been launched in London on November 11, 2013. The report, entitled ‘Vision 2020: UK Roadmap to Zero Food Waste to Landfill’ is the culmination of more than two years’ work and sets the framework to achieve a food waste-free future by 2020.

food heirachy info graphic_AWIts ambition is to:

  • Save the UK economy over £17bn a year by 2020 through the reduction of food wasted by households, businesses and the public sector.

  • Prevent 27m tonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) a year from entering the atmosphere.

  • Return over 1.3m tonnes a year of valuable nutrients to the soil.

  • Generate over 1 terrawatt-hour (Twh) electricity a year, enough to power over 600,000 homes.

The report has been authored by ReFood, the UK’s foremost food waste recycler, in collaboration with BioRegional, an entrepreneurial charity that promotes sustainable businesses through its One Planet Living philosophy.

In order to achieve zero food waste to landfill by 2020, the report’s principal recommendations are:

  • A clear timetable for the phased introduction of a ban on food waste to landfill to come into full force by 2020, allowing industry the time to finance and develop an optimum collection and processing infrastructure.

  • Compulsory separate collections of food waste from homes and businesses, with an outcome that optimises its value to provide energy, nutrients for agriculture and, preferably, heat.

  • Greater collaboration at every stage of the supply chain and between key stakeholders to accelerate the adoption of best practice, improve waste prevention and maximise the value of food waste as a resource.

  • The integration of food waste education into school, college and professional training programmes and increased support for WRAP’s ‘Love Food Hate Waste’ initiative.

The report highlights where and why food waste is happening at each stage of the UK supply chain; what actions are being taken to tackle food waste in each sector and what more can be done in the future to drive the positive environmental, economic and social outcomes, for the greater good.

Philip Simpson, commercial director at ReFood, explained: “Our message is clear; food waste is a valuable resource that should never end up in landfill sites. Everyone from the food producer, through to the retailer, the restaurant and the householder can play their part in ensuring that we take full advantage of its considerable potential by ensuring we re-use, recycle and recover every nutrient and kilowatt of energy it has to offer.

“As the biggest contaminant in the waste stream, food waste consigns millions of tonnes and billions of pounds of valuable resources to landfill or incineration each year. Failure to take a cohesive approach to food waste could result in solutions that will consign valuable resources to incineration or landfill, potentially cause significant environmental damage and represent a lost opportunity to develop a more integrated infrastructure in the UK to reprocess and recycle all waste.

“We would like to see the government and industry take a more consistent and holistic approach to waste in the UK - one that maximises its potential as a resource.”

Sue Riddlestone, OBE, chief executive and co-founder of BioRegional added: “Achieving zero food waste to landfill within the next seven years is a big challenge and we will need the support and actions of individuals, businesses and the government if this vision is to be realised.

“However, the case for change is compelling. We will save billions of pounds. We will prevent millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases from entering our atmosphere. And crucially, we will ensure that food is treated as a precious resource.”

The Vision 2020 campaign was initiated in February 2011, when ReFood launched its report ‘Vision 2020: The future of the food waste recycling sector’, which first set out the ambition to eradicate food waste from landfill by the end of the decade.

Inspired by the debate that the first report generated, ReFood brought together key industry stakeholders including the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), The Chartered Institution of Wastes Management, The Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee, the Institute of Hospitality, the Food Chain and Biomass Renewables Association, Unilever and the London Thames Gateway Development Partnership as the Vision 2020 Visionary Panel, chaired by former Secretary of State for the Environment Lord Deben, to help shape a viable roadmap to turn the vision into reality. The roadmap launched today is the culmination of that work.

To date, more than 100 organisations have already signed up to the Vision 2020 campaign. To find out more and to access the report visit www.vision2020.info

ReFood is the UK’s leading food waste recycler, and is part of PDM Group, which has a long tradition of providing quality services to each sector of the food supply chain. To find out more about ReFood’s food waste recycling and collection service visit www.refood.co.uk

BioRegional is an entrepreneurial charity which establishes sustainable businesses and works with partners around the world to demonstrate that a sustainable future can be easy, attractive and affordable, through an approach it calls One Planet Living. For more information about BioRegional visit www.bioregional.co.uk

Source: Prova PR

Full Disclosure Statement: The GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW received no compensation for any component of this article.

This article is for your information only and the GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW does not (necessarily) approve, endorse or recommend the product, service, company or organization mentioned.

Black Friday promotions are starting even earlier this year

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Black Friday promotions are starting even earlier this year, earlier even than they did last year and the years before. Thus, in timely fashion, I have decided to issue my “thought for the day” also early.

No_to_Black_FridayBlack Friday is the Friday following Thanksgiving Day in the United States, often regarded as the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. In recent years, most major retailers have opened extremely early and offered promotional sales to kick off the holiday shopping season. This year this day falls on November 29, with November 28 being Thanksgiving.

So, therefore, before you line up, however, on Thursday night, as so many do in order to be first in line when the stores open, for those great sales - I am being sarcastic, yes - ask yourself this:

"How is buying things that are made in China at discounted prices going to help the economy of the country that I am concerned about, or should be concerned about?"

It does not and cannot. It only fills the pockets of the corporations that are having their stuff made in China, in Vietnam, in India, in Thailand, in the Philippines, and other low wage countries, with many instances in China prison (slave) labor being used even to make the goods that we all are forced to buy, as far too many things are no longer available as "Made in US" or "Made in England".

Instead go and buy local, on Saturday. Boycott Black Friday by not buying anything on that day and encourage others to do so too. Buy from local makers, craftspeople, and others and chose “Made in USA” or “Made in England” (or chose your country) over anything from the Far East. I know it is not easy but we can try and if we do then we can create a positive change in our country, especially by how we spend our money.

Another question you should ask yourself also is: “Do I need those things that are on sale anyway?” and more often than not the answer will be a firm “No!” if you are but honest with yourself.

Often, I am sure, if you will really think about it in the right way you will find that those goods are not a need and not even, maybe, a want and if you really look at things there are many of them that, with a little thought and skill you could even make yourself – from waste – rather than buying. It is better for your finances and good for the Planet.

As consumers our money is our weapon for change and if we put it into the hands of local makers and craftspeople and producers we can keep them in business and can send a message to the rest of the country and indeed the world that we will not put up with this system anymore and that we demand a change.

Every Dollar, Pound or Euro that does not flow into the pockets of the corporations but goes to a local business it a plus for the (local) economy and even more so if the goods are produced locally.

Let's put local back into economy and demand local products and produce.

© 2013

Romans Thirteen

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

romans_13_4[1] Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. [2] Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. [3] For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. [4] For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. [5] Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
[6] This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. [7] Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor."

Romans 13:1-6 NIV

Time and again so-called Christians quote this passage as proof that G-d means for people to be under a government and that the people have to obey the government in all things.

This is, however, not something that came from Jesus, the so-called Christ, but was something that a Saul of Tarsus, later the so-called St. Paul, concocted in his letter to the Romans. It is the view of a man – if he ever wrote it – who believed that people have to bow down to the “authority appointed by G-d over them” and much of that, more than likely, something that he carried over from having been a Roman official in his “previous life”. It is from this passage also that the kings and emperors have claimed their “by the grace of God” part, or as “ordained by God”.

It is not sufficiently clear as to whether Paul ever wrote this first and foremost and secondly this passage has been deliberately used by Church and state alike to enslave the people and that for centuries. Jesus would have told those people and governments to go to a certain hot place which may or may not exist. It may have even been concocted by the Roman state in order to subjugate the Christians when Christianity was made into the official state religion of the Roman Empire shortly before its collapse.

This passage also totally and utterly contradicts the belief and the teachings that a Christian has but one king and one authority to follow, namely that of G-d and that his or her allegiance is to G-d and G-d alone and not to some earthly master.

In the same way Paul write to the Colossians in Chapter 3 verse 22: “Slaves, obey your masters in all things. Do not obey just when they are watching you, to gain their favor, but serve them honestly, because you respect the Lord”. Thus he is condoning slavery and making it appointed by G-d.

It was the latter passage (and others) that the Church and state used to justify slavery and also all attempts at keeping the poor oppressed as, so they claimed, it was their G-d appointed state to be laborers and such and they had no right to aspire too something greater in life and the state schools taught this in England as much as in continental Europe.

If you were born into poverty, to a farm laborer, a factory worker, or such then that was the position that G-d had appointed for you in life, they reckoned, and you did not have the right to aspire to becoming something better. And this attitude in public schools continued in England and on the European mainland until the early part of the 20th century.

This is New Testament Bible. Please reflect on whether or not any of the scripture passages quoted are compatible with private property rights, self-ownership, and the non-aggression principle. I do not think so. And those are not the only parts that are not.

© 2013

Namaste – I greet the god within you

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

NamastéNamaste is both a spoken Indian expression and a symbolic gesture that people use when greeting each other or in parting. Pronounced “na-ma-stay,” the term derives from Sanskrit and literally means “I bow to you.” It’s more commonly translated as “the divine light in me honors the divine light in you” or “the God within me greets the God within you.” Namaste is the recognition that we are all equal and share a common divinity.

Despite this greeting, however, there is still the caste division in Indian society and it would appear that one internal god is higher than another. Or how can we otherwise understand the castes and especially the untouchability of some groups in Indian society?

If Namaste is really to be the recognition that we are all equal and share a common divinity then untouchability cannot be tolerated and, in the way that the Mahatma advocated, it must be deposited to the garbage heap of history.


© 2013

Acknowledge Almighty God or go to jail

Atheists can be jailed in Kentucky for not acknowledging God

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

In the US State of Kentucky you can be jailed, under a State Homeland Security law, for 12 months for refusing to acknowledge “Almighty God”.

Kentucky1The Kentucky law states: "The safety and security of the Commonwealth cannot be achieved apart from reliance upon Almighty God as set forth in the public speeches and proclamations of American Presidents".

The law was sponsored by Tom Riner, a Baptist minister and Democratic representative, and according to The New York Times Riner is reported to say: “The church-state divide is not a line I see. What I do see is an attempt to separate America from its history of perceiving itself as a nation under God”.

Since the law first came onto the Kentucky statute in 2006 it has been challenged by American Atheists, overturned, and then reinstalled upon appeal. Now the American Atheists are once again hoping to overturn the law by submitting a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court in a bid to overturn this Kentucky homeland security law.

They have issued a press release that reads: "Acknowledge Almighty God” or Go Directly to Jail. Everyday in Kentucky, due to a 2008 homeland security law, atheists and agnostics are potentially forced to assert that the public safety of their state is dependent on 'Almighty God' or face criminal charges, including up to 12 months in jail."

Speaking of Riner, State Senator Kathy W. Stein said: “Tom is as pious as he is persistent. He's also prone to legislative stunts that are embarrassing and expensive for this state”.

The state has ran up huge amounts in legal fees after losing several cases to the American Civil Liberties Union. Maybe for the state it is time to tell this Baptist minister on which station to get off and not get onto the train again.

Riner also does not understand the Constitution, it would appear, which makes for a separation of state and church and the “under God” was inserted into the Pledge not until well after World War Two.

The United States has religious freedom, guaranteed by its Constitution and as a representative Riner would do well to understand that otherwise he has no right to be a representative, and everyone, theoretically, according to the Constitution of the United States, has the right to believe or not to believe, and the US was not founded as a “nation under God”. Far from it.

But then again the so-called Christians like Mr Riner do not understand that and also not what Jesus was all about and do not follow His teaching in the slightest way.

Riner's like will be very quick to condemn Muslim theocracies but are trying themselves to turn the United States into just that. Hypocrites the lot of them and a plague unto their houses.

© 2013

Remembrance Sunday 2013

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

white-poppyOnce again we have been commemorating Remembrance Sunday, and tomorrow, November 11, Armistice Day, as per usual, a two minute silence at 1100 hrs in memory of the thousands who died on all sides in the War to End all Wars.

Problem is that the War to End all Wars did not end all war and that ever since we seem to have more wars and "conflicts" than at any time in history though, aside from World War Two, none have come close to home.

Still many on all sides lost their lives. War is, as Harry Patch, the last Tommy who dies not so long ago, said "organized murder" and most of the time it is fought not for freedom but so that the capitalists can lay their hands on some resource or other.

It is now 95 years ago that the guns fell - well on November 11 at 11 a.m. to be exact - that the guns fell silent in World War One but nothing, bar the way war is conducted, seems to have changed. The poor are still used as cannon fodder so that the rich can get richer.

This is something that must remembered also when we remember... but it is being kept quiet as we keep having one lovely war after the other.

Wars and conflicts will continue until the people refuse to participate in them and no longer buy into the lies that they are fought to preserve our freedoms. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The truth is that they are, in 99 our of a 100 cases, fought so that corporations and governments can enrich themselves at the costs of the lives of, predominately, the poor, the working class, who is pressed into the service of the country.

We have attacked Iraq under the guise of “war on terror” and non-existent weapons of mass destruction and the powers-that-be knew very well that there were no WMDs and then we went into Afghanistan again to combat terrorism while bringing some nice terrorism to the people there.

Both Iraq and Afghanistan are now worse off than they were before and it had nothing to do with fighting terrorism or WMDs but everything with oil and minerals.

Young men and women have given their lives supposedly defending freedom and democracy and for bringing democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan but it was a lie on all counts.

Our politicians stand at the Cenotaph in Whitehall (and other monuments) shedding crocodile tears for the fallen while, at the same time, veterans returning from the conflict zones are left without care and homes.

Now the USA and the UK are eying a possible intervention – and let no one believe that they don't if they don't get their way – in Syria and why? It is quite simple; once again black gold, aka oil and the pipeline that is being planned from Kirkuk to the Mediterranean and through Syria is simply the shortest and therefore cheapest route.

If they really would be concerned about the human rights of people they would have, long ago, hit Mugabe in Zimbabwe over the head but there is no oil to speak off there that can be stolen. Thus no intervention.

Politicians and corporations are the only ones who benefit from those wars and the multi-national corporations especially. We must not forget that Krupp guns and other German hardware were in use on both sides of the war in the East during World War Two. It is the warmongers, the arms industry, and others, who make the profits on the backs of the young (and not so young) men and women they sacrifice happily (it's not their sons and daughters) and they happily supply both sides.

The people, if they are not whipped up into nationalistic frenzy, would happily shake hands with those on the other side as they do not have any quarrels with them. German socialists and communists and even social-democrats fought side by side with Soviet soldiers against a common enemy, and that was a true enemy, Hitlerite fascism. And this was also seen when ordinary Tommies and Germans celebrated Christmas together in no man's land.

Wars are, predominately, created by greed for land or resources and have very little to do with freedom and the protection of liberties. War is nothing but organized murder perpetrated by the ruling class forcing the lower classes to do the dirty work.

If someone is not infringing on my liberties then he is not my enemy. Anyone, however, who is trying to oppress me, and my brothers, is my enemy.

Let's resist wars and the call to arms, unless it is really for our freedoms, and create a world at peace. We owe it to ourselves and the Planet.

© 2013

When the infrastructure fails

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

When not if the infrastructure – the one that we have so much gotten used to and which runs (almost) everything and upon which we depend for almost everything nowadays – breaks down (irreparably) in the event of a crisis or collapse of society we will all be up the proverbial creek without a paddle unless we prepare and learn how to do without it.

electricity grid_smlBecause of our reliance, or should I better say over-reliance, on computer control of every section and sector of our vital infrastructure, from energy supply to water and everything else (almost) disruption and total breakdown of it it is not a question of if but when. Sooner or later it is going to happen and it does not just need a hostile cyber attack or an EMP blast from some sort of device. A solar flare or a solar storm of the right magnitude or the atmospheric explosion of an asteroid or such body could be enough to do it.

Depending on the extent of the EMP (electromagnetic pulse) generated and strength such an outage could be “just” restricted to a small area or it could affect an entire country, several countries, or an even much greater area.

It would, however, appear that not a single country is taking, or has been taken, adequate steps to “harden” its vulnerable critical and vital infrastructure and, to some extent, it would also appear that that is, in fact, not really possible or, at least, not an easy task at all.

Not only will our energy and water supply be affected if the outage is caused by EMP but also the telephone system including and especially cell phones, our (modern) cars and trucks, the Internet and even our PCs and other devices. Not just will the service fail; any such blast will “fry” the circuitry in our computerized cars and trucks and in our devices, whether they are on or not.

Some of those circuits literally may and will end up “fried”, including in the computers running our vital infrastructure. Distribution of food and fuel to supermarkets and forecourts also depends on computerized systems as both are ordered on an “as need” basis.

Stores, especially food stores, in general, do not have more than two days of supply and then the power goes out through an EMP strike they, even then, simply will remain closed. The doors and everything else depends on power.

It is time, high time in fact, that we rethought our use of technology and our over-reliance and over-dependence on it.

No, I am no Luddite, but leaving the control of everything almost that is necessary for our daily lives in the hands – proverbially speaking – of machines, is a recipe for disaster. Most of the infrastructure cannot even be controlled manually by human hands anymore today, unlike decades ago when there were manual overrides and people could take control of everything again (just in case). Manual controls need to be brought back into use again and we must learn to depend less on computer control and revert back to human control of things.

We have become, in all things, far too reliant and dependent on technology for everything and even the slightest failure can and will have devastating consequences. There is nothing wrong with technology per se. it is our over-reliance and over-dependence on it that is the problem. Therefore it is imperative that we got away from our reliance and dependence on it and went back to better, more reliable, ways.

© 2013

Farm subsidies

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

end_farm_subsidiesBoth the European Union and the United States pay subsidies to farmers for simply doing what they set out to do, farming; producing food for the people.

While we will all agree that farmers have an important role, that of feeding the people, being given handouts, in the form of EU or other subsidies, just cannot be justified.

No other business – or industry – in the EU or the USA is being afforded the same consideration as is farming and while, as said, feeding the people, that is to say, producing food for the nation, is important, this is not the way the proverbial cookie crumbles.

The subsidies in both Britain and the USA – for Britain did pay farmers a “bonus” already before the European Union Common Agricultural Policy ever came about namely already in the last war, World War Two, as did the US, to make it possible for farmers to provide “cheap” food for the nation and the troops, under difficult circumstances. But today almost every farmer seems to have become dependent on them.

Farms have gotten bigger, often run by corporations, with the little mixed farms having almost gone to the wall, and the machinery to run those farming operations has become so expensive – to buy and run – that most farms, apparently, can just about break even, with subsidies.

On the other hand farms in the USA that have returned to the old way of family farms and using horses and refusing government handouts (and not only the Amish and Plain People), are turning a profit. They are also – predominately – organic and thus their produce can attract a premium from the buyers.

While, however, “conventional” farmers get huge subsidies, especially in the USA, for planting and growing “conventional” and genetically engineered crops, organic farmers have to pay to have their produce certified organic before they can market it as such. The system is purposely skewed in favor of Big Agriculture to the detriment of the small mixed family farms.

What is required is a level playing field with subsidies removed and GMOs requiring labeling and organic being the norm.

© 2013

Garden tool care

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

tool-careLike the hunter who uses his so-called season time, when game may not be pursued, to maintain his weapons and kit so the gardener must use his quiet season – mostly winter time – to maintain his equipment.

Regular cleaning and sharpening of any cutting tools, and that includes hoes and spades, should be routine anyway and tools should be cleaned – if possible – at the end of the “working day”. There is, however, some maintenance that will take longer and winter is the time for the gardener to do these jobs.

In order for your tools to be in top condition and to last for a very long time a little tender loving care, aka TLC, - or a bit more than just a little – will go an awful long way.

Power tools, whether lawnmower, brush cutter, grass trimmer or hedge cutter, should go to their annual service at this time, unless you are well capable of doing it yourself. And if you use a human-powered reel mower then that should also be serviced but most handy gardeners should be able to do (most of) that themselves. However, the cylinder may, depending on use, need a regrind and that can only be properly done on the right kind of work bench. The blades of a rotary mower, on the other hand, can easily be resharpened by anyone with the right knowledge and skills with only a good mill bastard file.

Hand pruning shears, aka secateurs, and loppers should be throughly cleaned and hand reground (Do not use a bench grinder or any other power grinder). With the right kind of tools this can even be done without the need of taking them apart, as long as no serious regrinding is required.

In the case of the latter it will mean taking the secateurs or loppers apart and regrinding the blade while clamping the blade down onto a workbench. The same as above goes for grass and hedge shears.

When sharpening complete and, if need, tools are reassembles – hopefully correctly – then all moving parts and springs need to be given a thorough coating with oil or even thin grease. Blades too should be coated in oil or thin grease and then the tools can be put away, ideally wrapped in greased Kraft paper (Oh dear, am I old-fashioned).

Digging and border spades and forks should be thoroughly cleaned and all rust – as far as possible – removed with a wire brush, wire wool and emery cloth. Spades should then be reground (by hand) using a file, the metal parts oiled and the wooden handles coated with vegetable oil. They should then be hung up in the shed. The same goes for your hoes, your edging iron/edging knife, etc.

Your most valuable hand tool, as you will already have discovered, for the garden is the humble garden trowel and for that very reason alone it should receive lots of TLC. Where would any gardener be without at least one good one?

Basically you treat your trowel (or trowels) (and other hand-held metal tools) in the same way as you do your spade, etc. in that you give it/them a thorough clean and them oil them in the same way. Also check the handles, if of wood, for any splinters and such and remove using glass paper. Afterwards apply vegetable oil and the wrap in Kraft paper and store indoors.

Wooden garden tools: There are few wooden tools in the garden – sadly – today. Almost everything has – nowadays – been replaced by and with plastic though we are beginning to see somewhat of resurgence in wooden tools for the garden and in the garden, such a dibbers, dibblets, trugs, baskets and a few others.

Not so long ago even wheelbarrows were made of wood, almost entirely even and they served us well. Yes, they were a great deal heavier than today's ones made of steel, aluminum and even plastic with their pneumatic tires but they had less of an impact on the environment in the making and were sturdier.

When it comes to the care of wooden tools first and foremost they should be cleaned well at the end of the working day and every now and then be treated with vegetable oil (or even a beeswax mix) to remain in good condition.

During the end of gardening year maintenance they should be thoroughly cleaned and rubbed down gently with fine wire wool after which they should be place in a “bath” of vegetable oil to refurbish them properly. They should then, after some hours, wiped down (without removing all oil) and placed, wrapped in oil cloth, in a dry place until they are required again.

If you look after your garden tools – and that goes for almost everything else – your garden tools will look after you in the garden and will last for a very long time (as long as they are well made).

© 2013

The problem with the British Labour Party

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Oldlabour2The problem with the British Labour Party is that is has been infected with a Blairite ideology for the best part of 20 years, and that when the pack is reshuffled, and Blairite ministers are kicked to the kerb, they are just as likely to be replaced by other Blairites and left-wing Tories, to give them the correct name.

The party, in fact, has lost its way and has become nothing more than a slightly left-wing Tory party and has left the working class in the lurch and, in fact, betrayed the working class and the Trade Unions that created the Labour Party.

Personally I do not believe that the Labour Party, the formerly British party of the working class, can be reformed; neither from the inside nor from the outside, and the working class of Britain needs to look for another way. I say “another way” not another party to further its interest and finally bring about the changes that are necessary to put the means of production into the hands of whose who do the work. However, nationalization of industry and businesses and a planned economy is not the answer. This only creates, as Albert Einstein put it in his essay “On Socialism” that a planned economy as such may be accompanied by the complete enslavement of the individual. Nothing could be added to that.

Any such organization of the working class must be and has to be answerable to its members and the working class as a whole and not be “staffed” with career politicians and those looking for an easy job.

The British Labour Party no longer is representing the working class as far too many of those that are in position of leadership have never have done a real day's work in their entire lives. Many come from upper middle class to even better backgrounds and have been to the schools of the elite, such as Eaton and nothing ever that comes out of Eaton will benefit the working class.

Tony Blair, the man who basically destroyed the Labour Party as it was, and that almost single-handed, may have been, as it has been suggested, an establishment plant, tasked with destroying the party of the British working class.

The Labour Party of today is bleeding members left, right and center (and no, this has nothing to do with political leanings) and the leadership seems incapable to understand why this is so. Rather to work to retain the real working class grassroots within the party they are more interested in getting the center left and center right to become Labour members.

Ever since the later 1970s the Labour Party has stopped representing the British working class and, maybe, already before that time, though it then still had some true Socialists within its ranks and those of the leadership.

John Smith was a true Socialists though inspired by his Faith and the teachings of Christ while others were more inspired by the teachings of Marx, Engels and Lenin. While John Smith died a far too early death others were expunged and purged by the Blairites and others hellbent on purging the party of all that believed in true Socialism.

We need a new organization of the working class in Britain and not a new Labour Party or a reformed Labour Party as political parties will always make compromises in order to get elected. The working class needs an organization to lead them and then must take its own steps to change the country into a worker and peasant state, finally breaking the rule of the junkers and the aristocracy. Chance would be a fine thing though.

© 2013

Go Green, Go Paperless, Go Jobless

Print and paper have a great environmental story to tell

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Time and again we see the messages that ask – nay, demand even – that we go paperless and it is then referred to as going green. Many people, especially government agencies put on the bottom of an email a text such as “consider the environment before printing this email” or similar.

woodHowever, what are the broader implication of the choice to go paperless. First of all it has nothing to do, from the side of the companies and agencies, with saving the environment; it has all to do with money.

On the face of it opting for paperless, seems pretty innocuous to most people, generating the feel-good, albeit unsupported, vibe that corporate marketers intend. But there is a hidden consequence in using unsubstantiated environmental claims to promote paperless communication: potential job loss for millions of people.

Millions of people could lose there jobs? It sounds like a stretch until you consider how many families depend on the paper, print and mailing industries for their livelihoods. The U.S. mailing industry alone supports 8.7 million jobs.

These are people who are directly employed in forest products, paper, printing, direct mail design, mail management and mail delivery jobs, 91.7 percent of them in the private sector.

Include here supply chain jobs, many in small companies that would go belly-up if print and paper go away, and the reach of a collective online click extends even further.

There are also some 10 million family forest owners in America who depend on income from the wood they supply for pulp and paper making.

These folks are the backbone of the print and paper industry, filling the demand for the sustainably grown wood fiber used in printed phone bills, bank statements and other customer communications.

In fact, 60% of the wood used to manufacture paper in the United States comes from these small family owned tree farms.

According to the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), family forest owners account for 92 percent of all private forest owners and 62 percent of the private forestland (35 percent of all forestland) in the United States with the average family farm holding at around 25 acres.

Without the demand for sustainably grown wood to make paper and the income it provides, many families would be tempted to sell their land for development, the leading cause of U.S. forest loss, rather than continue to manage it responsibly. This is especially true in today's tough economic times.

The USFS says U.S. family forest owners have held their land an average of 26 years. Should these people on the front lines of sustainable forest management be forced to make the difficult financial choice to

sell long-held family land when a drop in paper demand results from green marketing claims that don't hold water?

If companies and government agencies want to encourage a switch from paper to electronic communication because it's speedier or more cost-effective, we cannot argue with that. But don't tout that electronic bill or monthly statement as the greener alternative because it's just not true.

The green movement also needs to gets its fact right about paper as the claim that going paperless saves the trees of the tropical rainforests is not only a fallacy but it is an outright lie. Hardwood trees are not suitable for the making of paper pulp and about 99.9% of the trees of the (tropical) rainforests are hardwood.

The only broadleaved trees that are suitable for the making of paper are poplars, and one or two other species, as their wood is light enough, but hardwoods per se just not for paper pulp make.

Paper is made, predominately, from coniferous woods, that is to say from the likes of spruce, pine and fir, grown more often than not on marginal land that cannot grow hardwoods or have much use for agriculture.

Trees are not saved if and when people reduce their use of paper. The contrary would be the case for the paper companies that own those forests and others who supply the timber for the making of paper would, if the market should dry up, fell the trees and turn the land over for other purposes, more than likely for urban development. Not the result we should be aiming for.

Let's stop greenwashing and tell the real story, and the green movement should be waking up the truth as well.

© 2013

The murder of the Taliban leader by US drone strike in Pakistan

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Hakimullah MehsudNovember 2013: The murder of the Taliban leader by US drone strike in Pakistan, on Friday, November 1, 2013, on the eve of peace talks between the government of Pakistan and the Taliban can have had only one aim; to scuttle the talks.

The United States has no wish to bring the Taliban to any negotiating table to create peace, neither in Pakistan nor in Afghanistan, as it would not benefit them and their war on terror.

The war on terror has be maintained in order to claim that this or that country has to be attacked in order to get their hands on the resources of that country and also, and especially, to maintain and increase the attack on the freedoms of the individual under the guise of “fighting terrorism”.

Both the attack and consequent occupation of Iraq and the occupation of Afghanistan have nothing to do with fighting terrorism but everything with getting access to “vital” resources, ideally without paying for them, bar in the blood of young men and women of the military, and also with creating, for everyone knows that that will be the result, more terrorism, and the means to creating ever more draconian laws to destroy the freedoms, such as they are, of the individual in our so-called free and democratic countries.

© 2013