Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Devita Davison explains how urban agriculture is transforming Detroit — Student Sustainability Video Festival 81

I know that I wrote "Tuesday I expect to be updating On The Issues shows most of the Democratic candidates have moved left during the campaign, too," but I have a stack of final exams to grade, so I will give my readers a rain check on that topic.  Maybe tomorrow.  Instead, I'm posting the latest episode of Student Sustainability Video Festival, my go-to blogging theme for when I'm correcting final exams or traveling.

Today's video combines two staples of the early years of the blog, urban agriculture and TED talks, How urban agriculture is transforming Detroit | Devita Davison.

There's something amazing growing in the city of Detroit: healthy, accessible, delicious, fresh food. In a spirited talk, fearless farmer Devita Davison explains how features of Detroit's decay actually make it an ideal spot for urban agriculture. Join Davison for a walk through neighborhoods in transformation as she shares stories of opportunity and hope. "These aren't plots of land where we're just growing tomatoes and carrots," Davison says. "We're building social cohesion as well as providing healthy, fresh food.
When I read the topic, I was expecting Davison to mention Brightmoor, one of the neighborhoods featured in HOUR Detroit displays its green thumb; she did not disappoint me.

With luck, I'll return to regular blogging tomorrow.  If not, I have plenty of videos from my students' presentations to choose from.  Either way, off to correct final exams!

Monday, August 19, 2019

July 2019 hottest month on record

I promised "the latest on the climate" today as I wrote that "July 2019 [was] the the hottest month on record."  CBS News helps me deliver on that promise, as it reported July was Earth's hottest month on record last Thursday.

July 2019 is now officially the hottest month on record. The average global temperature last month was 1.71 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th-century average, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Thursday. CBSN contributing meteorologist Jeff Berardelli explains.
One of the contributing factors Jeff Berardelli cited for the record was the record heat wave in Europe.  He also mentioned record heat in Greenland and Alaska.  I haven't written about either until now, but the resulting record melting of the ice sheet is an event I need to cover here.  Also, my wife and I have a friend in Alaska who has been telling us about how hot the state has been this summer.  It's been warmer there than in here in Detroit, which fits Berardelli's observation that the U.S. Midwest has been either average or cooler than average this summer.  It's one of the ironies that one of the countries most responsible for greenhouse gases is feeling less of their effects and therefore not being prompted to act.

I have two things to say before I return to correcting papers.  First, welcome to the 400 ppm world.  Second, are you scared enough by climate change?  My readers should be.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

'The Facebook Dilemma' earns two Emmy nominations

I made a prediction about "The Facebook Dilemma" on "Frontline" in 'Frontline' updates 'Facebook knows your political affiliation and much more,' the top post of the eighth year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News.
I have the same reaction to this documentary that I had to "Putin's Revenge" on "Frontline," that it will earn at least one News and Documentary Emmy Award nomination.  I was right about that prediction, as "Putin's Revenge" earned two nominations and I am confident enough that the same will happen to "The Facebook Dilemma" that I am holding off embedding Part Two until the News and Documentary Emmy nominations are announced.  As for the specific awards, I expect it will definitely earn a nomination for either Outstanding Business and Economic Documentary or Outstanding Current Affairs Documentary, and possibly for Best Documentary, Outstanding Writing, or Outstanding Research.  As I wrote before, "I am not going to hold my breath.  It's a long time until the end of July, when the nominees are announced, and the competition will be stiff."
As I mentioned in a comment on He Did What… ! ? ! at Kunstler's blog, that prediction came true:  "'The Facebook Dilemma' on 'Frontline'...has been nominated for two News and Documentary Emmy Awards," Outstanding Current Affairs Documentary and Outstanding Research, both categories I called back in March.  *Buffs nails*

Of course, a nomination is not a win, so follow over the jump for its competition in these two categories.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

The third Saturday of August is World Honey Bee Day

Happy World Honey Bee Day!*  Here's the updated holiday description from National Day Calendar.
World Honey Bee Day on the third Saturday in August brings a buzzing celebration for beekeepers, honey lovers, and all blooming things.

The day recognizes both the honey bee and the beekeepers who tend the hives. It also encourages everyone to enjoy and buy locally grown honey.

Another important part of the day includes learning about honey bees and providing them with a supportive environment. When we plant wildflowers, orchards, and other flowering plants, we support pollinators such as honey bees. They depend on the nectar of a variety of plants for their survival. Conversely, we depend on honeybees for our survival! Without their pollinating abilities, many nutritious plans wouldn’t reproduce.

Besides, their delicious honey is an added bonus. We enjoy it in our baking, teas, and confections.

Honey bees do sting, but only if they perceive a threat – damage to their hive or being swatted at. Since they seek sweet nectar, sugary drinks and sweets will attract honey bees when flowers are not blooming yet.  Keep beverages covered. If a honey bee comes close, either hold still or move slowly away. The honey bee will fly along to the next sweet thing as long as it doesn’t feel threatened.
Since I enjoy including clips from local news shows about national and world days, I'm sharing two videos from Good Morning Sacramento that were uploaded for last year's celebration.

Here's part one, World Honey Bee Day.

Sara Foust from The Bee Box is teaching us about the Bees, on World Honey Bee Day!
In case that wasn't enough, here's World Honey Bee Day Pt. 2!

Sara Foust from The Bee Box is teaching us recipes using local honey!
I thought both clips made for a fun combination of learning from the guest and goofiness from the hosts.

CNN joined in celebrating the day by offering Seven simple things you can do to save the bees on National Honeybee Day.
Bee lovers are abuzz on National Honeybee Day, the time of year when we honor nature's hardest-working pollinator.

People owe a lot to bees -- namely, many of the foods we enjoy, like strawberries, avocados and broccoli. The US Department of Agriculture estimates that every 1 in 3 bites of food exists because of animal pollinators, and bees lead the charge.

Luckily, honeybees aren't in danger of extinction like other bee species, but their health is critical to the survival of all bees. When honeybees are infected with pathogens or parasites, they infect native bees that are more vulnerable to extinction, said Alixandra Prybyla, science director of the Honeybee Conservancy.

"Saving the bees" seems like a lofty goal, but you don't have to be a beekeeper to make an impact. Here are some small changes you can make to keep bees healthy.
  • Plant a garden of any size
  • Keep the mowing to a minimum
  • Get to know your local beekeeper
  • Make a bee bath
  • Join a citizen science project
  • Avoid products grown with pesticides
  • Don't call pest control if you see a swarm
All good advice.

Don't forget that today is also National Nonprofit Day.  To celebrate, I'm asking my readers to please match my $5.00 donation to Coffee Party USA.  Thank you.

*There is also a World Bee Day.  Since bees have been a continuing topic of this blog, they can have two days to celebrate them on this blog.

Donate to Coffee Party USA for National Nonprofit Day 2019

Happy National Nonprofit Day!  As I did last year, I am celebrating by asking my readers to donate to my favorite nonprofit, Coffee Party USA.  I am a director and officer of the organization and I just donated $5.00 in addition to my regular $10.00 monthly dues.*  I am asking my readers to please match my $5.00 donation.

I described where your money and mine will go in An early happy 9th birthday to Coffee Party USA and Happy Irish Coffee Day!
Your donation will allow "you to be a part of the important work of Coffee Party USA as we empower and connect communities to reclaim our government for the people."  It will go to improving our website, the new version of which Coffee Party USA debuted in October and registering people to vote with our partners TurboVote and National Voter Registration Day.  There are municipal and some state elections coming up this year and people need to be registered and reminded to vote in them.
Thank you in advance for your matching donation.

Once again, Happy National Nonprofit Day and Coffee Party on!

Stay tuned for an entry about World Honey Bee Day.

*I also donated $40.00 last month to match the $40.00 I paid to vote in the 2019 Saturn Awards.  I decided this year that I would make a matching donation to Coffee Party USA for any donation I made to any other nonprofit this year.  That means that I will match the renewal of my membership to the Detroit Zoo later this month.  That would be $88.00 for a dual membership.  I'm not asking my readers to match those donations, but if any of you did, the Coffee Party and I would appreciate you and your donation!

Friday, August 16, 2019

Company Man explains the rise and demise of Shopko, a tale of the Retail Apocalypse

Earlier this week, Company Man asked The Decline of Shopko...What Happened?  It's a good opportunity to revisit Shopko liquidating, a tale of the Retail Apocalypse from another perspective.

In June of 2019, after more than 50 years of business, Shopko closed the last of its stores. This video talks about how they grew so big and theorizes what went wrong in the end.
I think Company Man did well with the sources he had — he's a good researcher — but he obviously didn't have personal experience with the chain the way Brick Immortar did, who cited "updating their identity with ever changing slogans, branding, store closures/remodels/acquisitions and also leadership."  However, he was able to get me to learn something of personal interest.  While I had never shopped at a Shopko, I had shopped at Pamida, who operated two locations near my old Irish Hills home, Brooklyn and Tecumseh.  I moved just before the sale and a year before the conversion of Pamida to Shopko Hometown, so I missed seeing the changeover.  Thanks to Company Man, the news finally caught up with me.

While the Retail Apocalypse rolls on, I plan on taking a break from it for a few days, as tomorrow is World Honey Bee Day and National Nonprofit Day, Sunday will be time for an entertainment feature about this year's Emmy nominees, I will examine July 2019 being the the hottest month on record while Greta Thunberg sails for New York, and Tuesday I expect to be updating On The Issues shows most of the Democratic candidates have moved left during the campaign, too.  The leftward drift continues.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Hickenlooper leaves the presidential contest, considers run for Senate

At 6:00 A.M. EDT yesterday, FiveThirtyEight published Our First 2020 Drop-Out Draft.  The very first candidate chosen was John Hickenlooper.
geoffrey.skelley (Geoffrey Skelley, elections analyst): OK, so my first pick is former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. He had just 13,000 donors at the end of June and is very unlikely to make the September debate, considering he also has just one qualifying poll (he still needs three more). Plus, he has an exit ramp available to him: running for Senate in Colorado.

And it seems like Hickenlooper might be open to the idea of mounting a challenge to GOP Sen. Cory Gardner. There’s also some evidence that this might be a good move for Hickenlooper, too. A poll released Tuesday found him ahead of Gardner, 51 percent to 38 percent, and another survey this week showed Hickenlooper leading the crowded primary field by about 50 percentage points.

nrakich (Nathaniel Rakich, elections analyst): Good pick.

Yeah, Hickenlooper has resisted calls for him to run for Senate for a loooong time.

He even said back in February that “I’m not cut out to be a senator.” It seemed pretty definitive.

But then last week, he appeared to subtly change his tune when his communications director said “he hasn’t closed the door to anything.”

To me, that’s a sign that he may be preparing to jump ship.
sarahf: OK, Geoff … so does Hickenlooper drop out before October? Or … before Iowa?

geoffrey.skelley: I think he drops out before October after failing to qualify for the September debate.

sarahf: Alright, you heard it here first folks!
We did indeed.  It took only a day for Geoffrey Skelley to be proven right, as MSNBC's Velshi & Ruhle reported just a few hours ago Hickenlooper Drops Out Of 2020 Race, Giving Senate Run 'Serious Thought'.

John Hickenlooper, former Colorado governor, drops out of crowded 2020 Democratic presidential race. He says he intends to give "some serious thought" to the possibility of a US Senate run in Colorado.
About the only thing Skelley got wrong was Hickenlooper staying in until he found out he didn't qualify for the September debate.  Otherwise, he called Hickenlooper being the first candidate to drop out after the draft.  Congratulations.

I also thought he'd drop out soon, as I wrote in On The Issues shows most of the Democratic candidates have moved left during the campaign, too.
Despite the shift in scores, he is now the most moderate candidate remaining.  That might change, as Politico reported Hickenlooper campaign in shambles earlier this month.  That makes him my pick to drop out next, probably when he fails to qualify for the third debate or runs out of money, whichever happens first.
Mike Gravel dropping out screwed up my prediction that he'd be next, but I was only one candidate off.  Besides, I think my readers might forgive me for forgetting about Gravel.

Hickenlooper was one of the candidates Full Frontal with Samantha Bee mentioned in A Message to Democratic Presidential Candidates: Run For Senate, Goddammit!

Of the teeming herd of Democrats running for president, more than a few could direct their ambitions elsewhere...like maybe to the Senate where they could actually make a difference? Or one of those crazy mud races, if they insist on making a mess of things.
If Hickenlooper runs for Senate, I'm sure Bee will be pleased, along with many other Democrats, including me.

Follow over the jump for the drink and infographics I'm retiring now that Hickenlooper is out of the presidential contest.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The bond markets give another recession signal as the 2-year and 10-year yield curve inverts

I told my readers to "stay tuned" at the end of The part of the yield curve the Federal Reserve watches just inverted, sending another recession signal back in March.
The economic storm clouds are not just visible on the horizon, but building.  All that I'm waiting for to say that the weather is advancing on us is an inversion of the 2-year and 10-year Treasuries.  When that happens, I'll report it.
It just happened.  CNBC has the story in Bond markets sends (sic) recession warning signal as yield curve inverts.

CNBC's Steve Liesman breaks down why investors are still concerned about falling yields and what it may mean for the economy.
Joe Kernan expressed a lot of wishful thinking about the economy, which Steve Liesman called him out on.  I've complained about Kernan's opinions before along with CNBC's perma-bull editorial stance and this is another instance of both.

Bloomberg Markets and Finance displayed more anxiety than CNBC this morning in Fed Must Act on Inverted Yield Curve, Credit Suisse's Golub Says.

Jonathan Golub, chief U.S. equity strategist at Credit Suisse, discusses the Treasury yield curve, Federal Reserve policy and the U.S. economy. He speaks on "Bloomberg Surveillance."
Both CNBC and Bloomberg think that the Federal Reserve will lower the Fed Funds rate and Golub thinks they should do it ASAP.

Even before the 2-year and 10-year yields inverted, CNBC uploaded The yield curve is a good indicator of a recession, rate strategist says yesterday.

The rally in treasury bonds, which pushes yields lower, continues to fuel investor's angst. Priya Misra, global head of rate strategy at TD Securities, Jack Caffrey, equity portfolio manager at J.P. Morgan Private Bank, and Matt Miskin, co-chief investment strategist at John Hancock Investment Management, join "Squawk Box" to discuss.
Going back even farther, NPR noted in June that the 3-month and 10-year remained inverted for three months in What Just Happened Also Occurred Before The Last 7 U.S. Recessions. Reason To Worry?
But on Sunday, an inauspicious milestone was achieved: The yield curve remained inverted for three months, or an entire quarter, which has for half a century been a clear signal that the economy is heading for recession in the next nine to 18 months, according to Campbell Harvey, a Duke University finance professor who spoke to NPR on Sunday. His research in the mid-1980s first linked yield curve inversions to recessions.

"That has been associated with predicting a recession for the last seven recessions," Harvey said. "From the 1960s, this indicator has been reliable in terms of foretelling a recession, and also importantly, it has not given any false signals yet."
That was after I wrote Experts call for high risk of recession by end of 2020 because of trade policy at the beginning of June.  I'm going to be a good environmentalist and recycle what I wrote then.
I'm going to repeat two points.  One, "when I wrote 'trade, which I haven't written enough about, is likely to be straw that breaks the camel's back of the economic expansion and that a recession is inevitable,' first in I wrote about the yield curve inverting and sending another recession signal and again in MSNBC's 'Morning Joe' and CNBC's 'Fast Money' expound on the U.S.-China trade war and its fallout, that's the kind of effect I was expecting."  Two, "I've been bearish and on recession watch since December 2017 and still stand behind the prediction I made in Ten years ago, we were partying like it was 1929. Are we about to do it again?...'I'm moving my recession call to between July and December 2019.'"  If that happens, it will be closer to December than July, which is only a month away, but I will not revise my forecast until October at the earliest.  I'm even more confident that a recession is coming, even if it takes a bit longer than I expect.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Trump administration weakening enforcement of Endangered Species Act

One would think that the United Nations report warning that one million species could go extinct in the next century, which I last mentioned in Verge Science and Depeche Mode on the Insect Apocalypse, would elicit more concern among people and their governments about saving endangered species.  That doesn't seem to be the case in the United States, or at least with the Trump administration, which is thinking of weakening the implementation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  WUSA uploaded an editorial on the proposal this morning, Changes coming to The Endangered Species Act.

According to a recent United Nations report, more than 1 million animal and plant species are at a major risk of facing extinction. The Trump administration has announced that it will be making major changes to The Endangered Species Act. Some of these changes include economic costs being considered when determining if a species should be protected and another weakens already existing protections of threatened groups.
The good news is that Trump and the rest of the executive branch can't change the law itself; it can only change how it interprets the act, including the regulations it uses to enforce it.  The bad news is that the executive branch can do a lot with regulations.  NPR has more on that last point in Trump Administration Makes Major Changes To Protections For Endangered Species.
In a move that critics say will hurt plants, animals and other species as they face mounting threats, the Trump administration is making major changes to how the Endangered Species Act is implemented. The U.S. Department of Interior on Monday announced a suite of long-anticipated revisions to the nation's premier wildlife conservation law, which is credited with bringing back the bald eagle and grizzly bears, among other species.
One of the changes will allow economic costs to be taken into account while determining whether a species warrants protection. Another will weaken the initial protections given to species deemed to be threatened, one step shy of being endangered.

The changes will apply only to future listing decisions.
Many of the changes the Trump administration is rolling out address shared administrative concerns about the act, says Jake Li, the director for biodiversity at the Environmental Policy Innovation Center. Others, he says, are problematic and weaken the bedrock law's effectiveness.

Among them is limiting which habitat — and how much of it — gets considered in determining whether a species is endangered. Land a species currently occupies would be the priority. But wildlife advocates say that could make it harder to account for threats from the warming climate, which has shrunk habitat for some species and will force others to migrate to new areas.
I'm with Jake Li; calculating economic costs, weakening initial protections, and limiting considerations of habitat are all factors that will reduce the ability of the ESA to protect threatened and endangered species, exactly the opposite of what the experts and I think is needed.  Fortunately, these changes are being challenged in court.
Numerous environmental groups and state attorneys general vow to sue the administration over the changes, alleging they are illegal because they're not grounded in scientific evidence.

"We don't take these challenges lightly," said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra during a conference call. "We don't look to pick a fight every time this administration decides to take an action. But we challenge these actions by this administration because it is necessary."
I wish them both skill and luck. They and the organisms the ESA protects will need it.

Monday, August 12, 2019

GNC to close 900 stores, a tale of the Retail Apocalypse

I began the month warning my readers that Bed Bath & Beyond is facing extinction.  That got people's attention, but CNBC's characterization was a bit extreme, as the chain only failed to make a profit for the first time since 1992 and is planning on closing only 40 stores.  At the same time, another chain announced it was closing far more stores.  WPXI-TV News Pittsburgh reported last month GNC to close up to 900 stores, up to half of mall locations.

The Pittsburgh headquartered vitamin and supplement store GNC has announced it will close up to 900 stores in mall locations.
I think the video description needs some clarification, which I'm getting from USA Today.
“I think it could be likely that we'll reduce our mall count by a nearly half,” said Tricia Tolivar, GNC chief financial officer. “So we've got a little over 800 malls today and over the long-term, we could bring that closer to 400 to 500.”
It's not only half of the mall locations closing, but also half of the announced closings are in malls.  WPXI's description could have meant two different things, but it actually meant both.

In addition, GNC has already lost locations from an earlier wave of closings.
In the first six months of 2019, company records show 192 company-owned and franchise locations have already closed.
It turns out this wave of closings has been in the works for a while.
GNC officials had announced in November 2018 that they would close up to 900 stores over the next three years in the U.S. and Canada as leases expire. Now, looking at the current foot-traffic trends in malls,  "it's likely that we will end up closer to the top end of our original optimization estimate," GNC Chairman and CEO Ken Martindale said.
So it seems that the loss of foot traffic in dead malls, which is hurting Ruby Tuesday and other restaurant chains in malls, is hitting GNC, also a staple of dead malls.  It was only a matter of time.

It strikes me that GNC issued this latest announcement one day before I posted 12,000 stores are likely to close this year, including at least 313 Fred's, a tale of the Retail Apocalypse.  The USA Today article has something to say about that, too.
Overall across the retail sector, more than 7,400 store closings are already in the works or completed so far in 2019, which is 27% more than all of 2018, according to Coresight Research's latest store closings report.
7,400 down, 4,600 to go, and there are five months left.  The Retail Apocalypse rolls on.