John Lawrence

Thumbnail image for The Fishiness of Mayor Kevin’s Tax Giveaway to Illumina Corporation

The Fishiness of Mayor Kevin’s Tax Giveaway to Illumina Corporation

by John Lawrence 09.02.2014 Business

By John Lawrence

San Diego’s Mayor Kevin Faulconer recently signed a deal with Illumina Corporation that was supposedly designed to keep the corporation from jumping ship and landing in another state or jurisdiction.

The City of San Diego agreed to rebate $1.5 million in sales and use taxes. In return Illumina promised to keep a number of jobs in San Diego for the term of the agreement. But the deal the City has entered into with Illumina is fishy on several levels.

With revenue of just over $1 billion last year, Illumina sells machines that sequence the human genome. The company leases 6 buildings in San Diego totaling over 560,000 sq. ft. and currently has 1500 employees.

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Thumbnail image for Ocean Acidification Could Cause Many Species To Go Extinct

Ocean Acidification Could Cause Many Species To Go Extinct

by John Lawrence 08.26.2014 Editor's Picks

By John Lawrence

As the amount of carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere continues to increase, a certain portion of that gets absorbed by the oceans. This year alone some two and a half billion tons of CO2 will be absorbed by the oceans. That represents seven pounds pumped into the seas by every American.

Oceans cover seventy percent of the earth’s surface, and everywhere the oceans and the atmosphere come into contact there is an exchange of gases. When this exchange is in balance, there is no problem. But when the atmosphere’s gaseous composition has been changed, which it has since the industrial revolution, the exchange becomes lopsided. More COgoes into the ocean than comes out.

Since the start of the industrial revolution, humans have burned through enough fossil fuels to add 365 billion metric tons of carbon to the atmosphere. Deforestation has added another 180 billion tons. Each year we add another nine billion tons or so, and that amount has been increasing 6 percent annually. Today the concentration of carbon dioxide in the air is 400 parts per million (PPM). This is higher than it has been at any time in the last 800,000 years.

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Thumbnail image for How San Diego’s P100 Program Screwed Diego and Anna

How San Diego’s P100 Program Screwed Diego and Anna

by John Lawrence 08.19.2014 Editor's Picks

By John Lawrence

San Diego’s P100 program involves intrusive, invasive home searches by law enforcement officials from the DA’s office for everyone that applies for welfare benefits.

These searches are unannounced and the potential welfare beneficiary must be at home whenever the investigator chooses to come or else they will be denied benefits. This makes it difficult for someone who has even a part time job.

When the investigator comes, as we reported last time, he will look for any evidence that the applicant has lied on her application. That could be a pair of work boots in a single mother’s closet or a pair of sexy panties in her underwear drawer, evidence of a boyfriend who could help her pay bills.

Some of these situations approach the Kafkaesque as stifling bureaucracy is combined with clueless non sequiturs on the part of the DA’s office to produce epidemic frustration and humiliation for poor people applying for a modest amount of help. Such was the case for a Latino couple, Diego and Anna Alvarez, who jumped through seemingly impossible hoops while trying to get a little help. The following is freely adapted from Matt Taibbi’s book, The Divide.

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Thumbnail image for Is the Obama and EU Face-Off With Putin a New Cold War? What Forces Are Driving the Confrontation?

Is the Obama and EU Face-Off With Putin a New Cold War? What Forces Are Driving the Confrontation?

by John Lawrence 08.14.2014 Politics

By Frank Thomas and John Lawrence

Part 1

Some History (J. Lawrence)

Obama and Putin are locked in a dance reminiscent of the Cold War. But their maneuverings don’t represent a Cold War not even a cool one. In fact it’s more about placing themselves in the most noticeable positions on the world stage, something that each of their constituencies find familiar and even sentimental. Every world leader likes to lead the news, and Obama and Putin are no exceptions.

But first some history. Catherine the Great, one of the supposedly “enlightened despots” of Europe who hobnobbed with the French philosophes, nevertheless expanded the Russian Empire in a quest to attain a warm water port in the Crimea. Her armies fought a war with the Ottoman Empire (modern day Turkey) for control of the Black Sea. Peter the Great had opened Russia up to the Baltic Sea, founding St. Petersburg on the Baltic Coast, but Catherine was determined to expand her southeastern frontier and develop a permanent Russian presence on the Black Sea.

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Thumbnail image for Extreme Weather Watch: July 2014 –  Record Flames, Record Drought

Extreme Weather Watch: July 2014 – Record Flames, Record Drought

by John Lawrence 08.04.2014 Editor's Picks

By John Lawrence

On the last day of July in California, Exceptional Drought – the highest category of drought – which covered 36% of the state the previous week, covered 58% of the state as August began.

With water reserves being at all time lows, a water main broke in LA spewing 20 million gallons of water into the UCLA campus, submerging 400 cars in an underground parking structure and flooding Pauley Pavillion so bad that a new floor has to be put in.

How ironic such a massive waste of water happened right in the middle of a colossal drought. But it goes to show how America’s infrastructure problems are related to climate change. If the hundred year old pipes had been replaced on a timely basis, this waste of water would not have happened much less the financial losses due to the flooding of cars and campus.

Negligence of infrastructure repair combined with exceptional lack of water led to a scenario where precious water resources were not only wasted, but did millions of dollars of damages in the process of being wasted. But do you suppose any lesson has been learned from this? Are they going to start replacing hundred year old water mains? I doubt it.

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San Diego’s P100 Program Targets the Poor and Vulnerable While Letting the Rich and Powerful Off the Hook

by John Lawrence 07.29.2014 Culture

By John Lawrence

black-mom-3-kids-250x250[1]Since 1997, San Diego County has required all families applying for California’s version of welfare called CalWORKs to submit to warrantless, suspicionless, unannounced home searches and interrogations by District Attorney investigators.

As of June 2013 about 150,000 families, or about 9,300 families each year, have been subject to these searches. This policy, called Project 100% or P100, diverts money away from the poor and has not been shown to be effective at detecting or preventing fraud.

San Diego is the only place in the whole nation which has such an intrusive, untargeted policy making it America’s finest city – NOT – for the poor and vulnerable. These searches are a violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution which forbids “unreasonable searches” of peoples’ homes.

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Thumbnail image for San Diego For-Profit Universities Making Tons of Money Handing Out Worthless Degrees

San Diego For-Profit Universities Making Tons of Money Handing Out Worthless Degrees

by John Lawrence 07.21.2014 Business

Ashford University and University of Phoenix Worst Offenders Targeting Returning Vets

By John Lawrence

Everyone wants to better themselves, right, by getting a college education. Most of all the Iraq and Afghanistan vets transitioning into civilian life. To that end our politicians in Washington have crafted a GI Bill that allows them to do just that at taxpayer expense.

Problem is most of that money is being gobbled up by for-profit universities like the University of Phoenix and Ashford University which don’t even qualify for state financial aid. These universities attract and recruit students by advertising heavily and “selling” them on the value of one of their degrees.

When many of the students graduate, they can’t get a job based on a degree which potential employers say is worthless. And despite the GI bill, many of them take on additional student loan debt.

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Does the Federal Reserve Print Money?

by John Lawrence 07.15.2014 Economy

The Federal Reserve is America’s Central Bank

By John Lawrence

The Fed doesn’t actually “print” money in the sense of ink on paper hundred dollar bills. But what it can do is create money with a few keystrokes on a computer.

Money so created is called “fiat money” since it’s not backed by gold or anything else. The Fed currently prints the money to purchase $40 billion in mortgage backed securities and $45 billion in government bonds each month. The rationale for doing this is that it keeps interest rates low which is thought to be necessary to keep the economy humming.

Before the financial crisis of 2008-09, the Fed managed to keep interest rates low by adjusting the interest rate at which banks borrow overnight. But after the financial crisis, the Fed needed a more robust policy which is called Quantitative Easing or QE. This policy is mainly a giveaway to the big Wall Street banks to augment their reserves. The lack of sufficient reserves is thought to have been the problem that caused the financial crisis.

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Thumbnail image for Are African American Males an Endangered Species?

Are African American Males an Endangered Species?

by John Lawrence 07.08.2014 Culture

By John Lawrence

As a white guy, this question is still very germane for me since my grandson is an African American male. Or rather he is half African American and half European American – actually a little less than half African American with a little Native American thrown in. And he has already been placed in a tenuous position at the age of six because next year he will be repeating kindergarten.

His parents were not able to afford the level of pre-school instruction that the other members of his kindergarten class evidently received. It’s amazing that now they expect kindergarten children to do first or second grade work with spelling tests and homework every day. When I went to kindergarten, the only thing expected of us was that you would learn to tie your shoes.

His case is not so much a case of racism as it is a case of being raised in relative though not extreme poverty. The only reason it wasn’t extreme was that there were extended family resources available to them.

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Thumbnail image for Extreme Weather Watch: June 2014 – Torrential Rains, Baseball Sized Hail, Massive Midwest Flooding

Extreme Weather Watch: June 2014 – Torrential Rains, Baseball Sized Hail, Massive Midwest Flooding

by John Lawrence 06.30.2014 Editor's Picks

Another Month, Another Couple of Towns Wiped Out by Tornadoes

By John Lawrence

June 2014 was one of the worst months on record for extreme weather. Tuesday June 3 saw baseball size hail, 100 mph wind gusts and 11 tornadoes in South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri. In Omaha and Des Moines there were hundreds of reports of hail. Trees toppled on autos. Wind damage was mostly from derecchio winds. Derecchio winds are straight line winds which can be as damaging as tornadoes.

In Blair, Nebraska, officials said nearly every home, as well as any car that was parked outdoors, was damaged. The courthouse alone sustained more than $1.2 million in damage because, after hail shattered windows and skylights, rain penetrated inside. The insurance price tag in Nebraska and western Iowa will soar into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Although a handful of tornadoes were reported, baseball-sized hail and flooding rains left the biggest mark.

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Thumbnail image for San Diego City Council: Pass the Plastic Bag Ban Now

San Diego City Council: Pass the Plastic Bag Ban Now

by John Lawrence 06.24.2014 Environment

By John Lawrence

The San Diego Climate Action Plan calls for an action item to be passed by the City Council in 2014: the plastic bag ban. More than 110 other California Cities and Counties have already passed one.

Los Angeles City and County both have bans on plastic bags. San Francisco became the first city in the nation to adopt a ban on plastic shopping bags in April 2007. In February of 2012, the Board of Supervisors voted to expand the ordinance to more stores. Since San Jose’s ban took effect in 2012, plastic-bag litter in storm drains, which can contribute to flooding, has fallen by 89 percent.

You know the way, San Jose. Since you raised the minimum wage, unemployment has actually diminished. Take that, job creators. In San Diego County Solana Beach is the only city to enact the ban.

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Thumbnail image for The US Military is a Major Contributor to Global Warming

The US Military is a Major Contributor to Global Warming

by John Lawrence 06.17.2014 Environment

The US Military: Protecting Our Freedom While Destroying Our Planet

By John Lawrence

The impact of the US military on climate change is enormous due to its excessive consumption of fuel oil. The US must spread its influence across the oil producing parts of the world in order to protect its supply of oil.

The US military consumes huge amounts of oil so that it may preserve strategic access to oil in order to get the oil it needs to preserve strategic access to oil and so on in a never ending loop. Insatiable militarism is the single greatest institutional contributor to the growing natural disasters intensified by global climate change.

The US military is the largest single consumer of energy in the world. If it were a country, the Department of Defense (DoD) would rank 34th in the world in average daily oil use, coming in just behind Iraq and just ahead of Sweden.

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Thumbnail image for What Should the City of San Diego Do With the Old Library?

What Should the City of San Diego Do With the Old Library?

by John Lawrence 06.10.2014 Books & Poetry

By John Lawrence

San Diego has a flashy new Central Library and it’s all paid for without taxpayer funds thanks to local philanthropists. I wrote in another article about the Grand Opening. But that brings up the question: what are we going to do with the old library, a historical landmark, that sits vacant on E Street downtown across from the Post Office.

There have been some suggestions. Interim Mayor Todd Gloria stated: “As soon as we open up that new facility, I want to make sure we have a plan in place for the old facility, and make sure that we put it back into a useful life for the citizens, the taxpayers, and of course the residents of downtown.”

Well, the new library opened September 28, 2013, eight long months ago, and there are no plans at this time for doing anything with the old building which is increasingly turning into an eyesore. We are coming up on the one year anniversary, June 9, of the closure of the old library and still there are no plans for it.

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Thumbnail image for Extreme Weather Watch: May 2014 – Fires Explode in San Diego, Floods Inundate Balkans

Extreme Weather Watch: May 2014 – Fires Explode in San Diego, Floods Inundate Balkans

by John Lawrence 06.03.2014 Columns

By John Lawrence

More than eight major fires and several smaller brush fires were burning from May 14 to May 17 in San Diego County during an unseasonal heat wave fueled by high Santa Ana winds.

Temperature records were set -  highs of 97 in San Diego and 104 in both Escondido and El Cajon on May 15. More than a dozen southern California cities broke or tied high temperatures Wednesday, May 14.

The high temperature reached 99 in downtown Los Angeles, breaking the old record of 96 set 124 years ago. Airports in Long Beach and Camarillo topped 100 degrees - the warmest since 1981. Wind gusts in hilly areas of San Diego County reached over 100 miles per hour.

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Thumbnail image for Some Thoughts on the Isla Vista Killer

Some Thoughts on the Isla Vista Killer

by John Lawrence 05.29.2014 Culture

By John Lawrence

Elliot Rodger left a 140 page document which is a truly revealing window into his soul. After reading this “manifesto,” which is really more of a life history, his twisted life which led up in painful stages to his “Day of Retribution” becomes, if not excusable, at least more understandable. And understanding why people feel impelled to do these horrific acts is important if we are to come to any conclusions which just might prevent more of these situations in the future.

Understanding is more important than condemning. It’s not about Rodger, at this point, or his victims. Nothing can be done to bring them back. But lessons can be learned about what went wrong in this young man’s life and what could have been done to deflect him from his ultimate course. After all, right up until the end he expressed some tiny bit of hope that his life would take a more positive turn, and he wouldn’t be driven to commit the crimes that he did.

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Thumbnail image for Stanford University Divests From Fossil Fuel Stocks

Stanford University Divests From Fossil Fuel Stocks

by John Lawrence 05.26.2014 Activism

By John Lawrence

Stanford University has decided to divest its $18.7 billion endowment from coal stocks in response to a student led movement – Fossil Free Stanford. This is part of a larger movement among students to get their colleges and universities to get rid of fossil fuel stocks. Fossil Free Stanford petitioned the university last year to divest from 200 fossil-fuel extraction companies as part of a national divestment campaign.

In their wisdom the Stanford Trustees limited their divestment activities to 100 fossil fuel corporations. Evidently, divesting of stocks in 200 companies was considered to be a little bit too extreme.

Surprisingly, Stanford, home to the right wing Hoover Institute, acceded to most of the students’ demands. The Hoover Institute is a think tank closely associated with Republican politicians and Presidents who have derived many of their policies from Hoover fellows including Condoleeza Rice who gave some intellectual credibility to George W Bush’s lies which enabled him to invade Iraq.

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Thumbnail image for Who Knew? Organic Foods Contain a Dose of GMOs

Who Knew? Organic Foods Contain a Dose of GMOs

by John Lawrence 05.20.2014 Business

By John Lawrence

To be labeled as “USDA organic,” 95% of the ingredients must be organically grown and the remaining 5% may be non-organic agricultural ingredients or synthetic substances that have been approved for use in organics by the USDA.

The 5% of non-organic products are usually derived from GMO corn which is highly sprayed with Monsanto’s Roundup.

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Capitalism: A Comparison of Marx and Piketty

by John Lawrence 05.13.2014 Activism

By John Lawrence

Thomas Piketty’s new book Capital in the Twenty-First Century begs comparison with Karl Marx’ Das Kapital written in 1867. The two books are alike in the sense that they both point out the incredible centralization and concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands. They are unlike in the sense that Marx’ book is more exhortatory while Piketty’s is more of a massive collection of historical data presented in the form of numerous graphs and charts.

While Marx was more of a “workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains” kind of guy, Piketty is a Dragnet’s Sergeant Joe Friday’s “The facts, ma’am, just the facts” kind of guy. While Marx’s solution to the dilemma of inegalitarianism was revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat, Piketty’s is a global tax on wealth, something that even he concedes is unlikely to happen.

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Thumbnail image for Public Banking Advocate, Ellen Brown, Is Running For California State Treasurer

Public Banking Advocate, Ellen Brown, Is Running For California State Treasurer

by John Lawrence 05.08.2014 Economy

By John Lawrence

Ellen Brown, author of the Public Bank Solution, is running for California State Treasurer. The primary election takes place June 3. There are three candidates. Two will advance to the general election. She is running on a platform to establish a public bank for the state of California similar to the one in North Dakota.

She has the endorsement of the Green Party – along with Luis Rodriguez for governor and David Curtis for secretary of state. Green Party candidates take no corporate money. Candidates who take corporate money – and that means nearly all conventional candidates – are beholden to large corporate interests and cannot properly represent the interests of the disenfranchised 99%.

A public bank will bring many benefits to California including the fact that interest on outstanding loans will accrue to the taxpayers of the state instead of to private Wall Street banks. State and local finances could be restored by making sure that profits now going to Wall Street will remain at home. Taxes could be lowered, public services expanded. The cost of a college education could be reduced. The cost of borrowing for in state businesses could be lowered thus attracting more businesses to California.

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Thumbnail image for Extreme Weather Watch: April 2014 – Tornadoes, Flash Floods Pound US

Extreme Weather Watch: April 2014 – Tornadoes, Flash Floods Pound US

by John Lawrence 05.06.2014 Editor's Picks

159 Tornadoes, 35 Deaths as Torrential Rain and Flash Floods Pound East, South and Midwest

By John Lawrence

The last week in April saw extreme weather over as much as half the nation. Over 20 states were affected. In some places a month’s worth of rain fell in a day. In New York City there was close to 5 inches of rain in one day. In Pensacola, FL there was over 20 inches of rain in 24 hours, 6 inches in one hour alone, more rain than Los Angeles saw all last year. More rain fell in Pensacola than during Hurricane Ivan. There were nearly 6000 lightning strikes in fifteen minutes. First responders rescued people in boats. Roads and bridges collapsed.

Two trillion gallons of water fell on the south and the east coast in just one day. Flooding was worse than after some hurricanes. Heavy rain led to the collapse of a retaining wall in a Baltimore neighborhood sending cars tumbling 75 feet down an embankment onto railroad tracks. These cars were not covered by insurance as the collapsing embankment was considered an “act of God.”  The Schuylkill River in Philadelphia crested higher than after Hurricane Irene and Super Storm Sandy. Philadelphia received more rain in a day than it usually gets in a month. Golf ball sized hail pummeled the country.

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Thumbnail image for Republicans in the Senate Vote Not to Raise Minimum Wage

Republicans in the Senate Vote Not to Raise Minimum Wage

by John Lawrence 05.01.2014 Business

By John Lawrence

A report by Demos revealed that, in 2012, the compensation of fast food CEOs was more than 1,200 times the earnings of the average fast food worker. Proxy disclosures recently released by fast food companies reveal that the ratio remained above 1,000-to-1 in 2013. Raising the minimum wage would do more to reduce inequality in the US than just about any other measure that could be taken.

But Republicans in the Senate voted down a Federal increase in the minimum wage. What else did we expect? As long as they have the veto, nothing will pass the Senate that benefits the middle class or the poor.

Thomas Piketty’s book Capitalism in the 21st Century is the top seller on Amazon.com. He is drawing attention to the fact that the very rich have incomes hundreds of times greater than average workers.

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Thumbnail image for Wealth Creation for Dummies

Wealth Creation for Dummies

by John Lawrence 04.29.2014 Business

By John Lawrence

Now that Thomas Piketty has clued us in with his book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, that the upper one percent is making all the money and that the middle class is getting screwed, as if we didn’t already know that, the question remains what should we do about it?

Paul Krugman seems to think that government should redistribute money from the wealthy to the poor, and this would be a good solution, one that is achieving good results in Europe, but, since the US government is owned by the wealthy, one that is unlikely to be manifested here any time soon.

Piketty points out that income is derived from two sources: labor and return on capital or wealth. Capital and wealth are essentially synonymous by the way.

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Thumbnail image for Are The Skeptics Right That Global Warming Is An Alarmist Charade?

Are The Skeptics Right That Global Warming Is An Alarmist Charade?

by John Lawrence 04.22.2014 Editor's Picks

By Frank Thomas / Edited by John Lawrence

The slower rate of rise in global surface mean temperature since 1998 has been the last straw for Britain’s respected, eccentric, environmental scientist, James Lovelock. He now has made a complete reversal from being a ‘radical alarmist’ on climate change to being a ‘radical non-alarmist’.

In 2008, Lovelock said climate warming had already become irreversible, “Catastrophe is unstoppable and everything we are trying to do about it is wrong.We won’t invent the necessary technologies in time and ‘80%’ of the world’s population would be wiped out by 2100. People have been foretelling Armageddon since time began, but this is the real thing. Enjoy life while you can because if you are lucky it’s going to be 20 years before it hits the fan.” 

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Thumbnail image for Cheap Corn Permeates Every Facet of the American Diet

Cheap Corn Permeates Every Facet of the American Diet

by John Lawrence 04.09.2014 Culture

By John Lawrence

Corn is the staple of the US agricultural system and food supply. It’s in everything we eat unbeknownst to many Americans.

Corn feeds steers that become steak and fast food hamburgers. Corn feeds chickens and pigs - even catfish, salmon and tilapia. Milk, cheese and yogurt that once came from cows that grazed on grass now come from Holsteins that spend their time tethered to milking machines while munching on corn.

Processed foods contain even more corn than so-called “natural” foods. Take chicken nuggets, for example. Not only the chicken itself but the corn starch that holds it together, the corn flour in the batter, the corn oil in which its fried, the leavenings and lecithin, the mono-, di- and triglycerides, the golden coloring, the citric acid that keeps it fresh – all these ingredients come from corn.

Any soft drink in the supermarket including Coke and Pepsi contains High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) so you can wash down your corn with some more corn. A quarter of the 45,000 items in the average supermarket contain corn.

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Extreme Weather Watch: March 2014

by John Lawrence 04.03.2014 Business

Winter Weather Made a $55 Billion Hit to US Economy

By John Lawrence

The winter of 2014 broke records and budgets. NBC News reported that the economy took a $55 billion hit because of the extreme winter weather. There was $5.5 billion in damage to homes, businesses, agriculture and infrastructure. Cities had additional costs for salt for roads and asphalt for potholes. There were more than 30,000 potholes in Toledo, OH alone. The companies that supply salt and asphalt are making a fortune. This winter also saw 79.3 inches of snow falling in Chicago where there were 23 days below zero.

In California drought covers 99.8% of the state. The Sierra Nevada snowpack, which typically holds at least half of all the water that will flow to the state’s farms and cities each year, is at just one-fourth of its normal level.

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