History

History of Chapman, Spira & Carson, LLC.

The history of Chapman Spira & Carson and that of Robert Spira, one of the founders of the company, are somewhat intertwined. For about 35 years, Mr. Spira worked in the brokerage industry where he started out as a Register Representative in his home town of Chicago. He then spent the next 16 years as an officer of Walston & Company, Inc., which was the second or third largest brokerage firm in the country at the time. As the decade of the sixties came to an end, it was readily apparent that major changes were about to occur in the Securities Industry and it would never be the same again. Chapman, Spira & Carson, LLC was founded in 1989, the first non-broker-dealer the Spira had been associated with in his working career. 

From the time Spira became registered, it took almost 10 years before the first million share day occurred on the New York Stock Exchange. When you compare that to the billion share volumes that have become de rigor, you can see the magnitude of change that has occurred. The daily volume today would have encompassed three years of trading in the early 1960’s. Meanwhile, there were other changes taking place. Institutions were playing an ever-increasing role in the total volume of the Exchange. From a basically “old boy” retail business, the institution investors (mutual funds, bank trust department, insurance companies, and hedge funds) soon became the driving force pushing the market volume and soon they accounted for over 80 percent of the volume. 

As changes started occurring in earnest, Spira determined that the future of the industry was shifting dramatically; if one wanted to be successful in the future, New York was the place to be. The observation turned out to be correct, and even more dramatic changes started occurring. Negotiated commission rates were first ordained in 1975 and something that was once considered a non-event now played havoc with the established players. Smaller firms were able to compete with their less flexible and larger competitors, and the volume of business shifted dramatically. Issues such as having institutional investors pay up for research also surfaced, and the questions that accompanied this change still have never been totally resolved. Moreover, the passage of ERISA give certain protection to all investors from a legal point of view, the creation of SIPC gave investors some peace of mind that even if a brokerage firm failed, they would not lose all of the money. 

Mr. Spira and many of his associates became players and Street historians (see Bull Street) concurrently. As economic and regulatory innovations arrived ever more quickly, excess SIPC insurance soon became a big enticement due to the fact that investors could be covered for literally any amount of assets that were held in their brokerage accounts. Depository Trust Company (DTC), a financial clearing organization for securities, made it possible to rid the industry of stock certificates and created a database of certificate numbers, doing away with paper. Thus, all of DTC’s members could deposit their electronic certificates into a database and withdraw, lend, sell or destroy them with the click of a button. No one had to run down to the brokerage firm to delivery physical stock in four days. Because the system worked so well, the delivery time was moved up to one day. 

Principal types of businesses also started to sprout all over the landscape. Underwritings, investment banking and derivatives became attractive. The Chicago Board of Options Exchange (CBOE) created a public traded option for the first time and soon almost every other major exchange in the country soon followed suit. The commodity exchanges such as the Board of Trade and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange began to compete with the stock exchanges for business. They created innovative products such as currency trading and government bond futures. Those institutions carried a tremendous advantage into the financial arena due to the fact that they were regulated by the Commodities Future Trading Company (CFTC), and in light of the fact that they were trading commodities instead of securities, the margins or leverage could be substantially more. People that wanted to gamble and institutions that wanted to hedge their positions gravitated to these markets. 

As the U.S. Government mandated ever-increasing transparency, several of the stock exchanges could no longer compete. The venerable Salt Lake City Exchange and the Mining Exchange in Idaho closed their doors. Under the pressure of increased regulation and major technological advancements, the need for separation of banking, securities and insurance was no longer seen as necessary. However, Congress, in repealing the Glass Steal Act (created to literally punish banks for something they probably had nothing to do with in causing the crash of 1929), caused certain dislocations to occur. Due to the fact that Securities were nationally controlled by the SEC, locally controlled by State Regulators, almost every Bank had to become a part of the National Banks in order to survive, and Insurance Companies were state regulated, digestion became a probably. Not only did everyone try to buy everyone else and big became good, but a more harrowing event was occurring. The new acquisitions couldn’t communicate with each other. 

Wang, which had dominated bank software, went out of business and legacy software became a way of life in banking. Thus, one department couldn’t correspond with the other, and a bank taking over another bank literally created a synergistic nightmare. The securities industry was no better. The volume continued to increase geometrically, but the rates collapsed. As an example, the two dollar broker on the floor of the exchange who probably averaged that amount per hundred shares executed today might get 10 cents. At first blush, you might think that the volume had increased so dramatically that he was still ahead of the game. That would not be correct; the NYSE and literally every other exchange started implementing electronic executions which, for the most part, were free. Soon a vast majority of trading utilized that vehicle. The recent proposed merger of the New York Stock Exchange and a modest electronic trading firm with excellent technology shows where the world is headed. 

However, things were not necessarily getting any better. Bankers Trust Company not only insulted but lost substantial money for major clients such as Procter and Gamble who has a history of being a non-litigant and was getting sued. Recordings showed that Bankers’ heart was not to operate in the best interests of their clients. A few years later, Morgan Guarantee seemed to have lost track of their controls and also became embalmed over their own mistakes. Today, Morgan lives on, but they are controlled by a serie of merged partnerships that include Chemical Bank, Manufacturers Hanover Bank and Chase Manhattan Bank who all needed to grow or die. Bankers Trust was taken over by Deutschland and has only become a Harvard Business School study of how not to run a business. Rumors on the street held that Morgan couldn’t figure out how to unravel some of their more complex derivative transactions. 

The banking industry consolidated the brokerage and insurance industry and came across a bete noire looking to make a name for himself as Attorney General of the State of New York. His name was Elliot Spitzer. Spitzer amazingly discovered that, contrary to what he had learned in school as ethical behavior, Wall Street firms were exchanging stock in hot initial public offerings with senior management of large public companies for their corporate finance business, a tasty morsel indeed. Even the scion of Ford Motor, a man born with a silver spoon in his mouth became caught up in the lure of Wall Street payola. But Spitzer wasn’t nearly finished with his detective work, he soon uncovered the fact that the fund industry was allowing their friends to steal millions from their shareholders by front-running; a nifty trick that takes money out of your pocket and puts it in theirs without you ever knowing it was gone. 

Attorney General Spitzer also discovered, to his horror, that brokers in the insurance industry business were submitting phony bids. Meanwhile their cousins, who were writing insurance, were becoming balance sheet fiction writers while many of their compatriots were defrauding the shareholders with phony reinsurance transactions. Spitzer, who made a name for himself by playing Robin Hood, will probably be doing more of the same as Governor of New York. Not necessarily a pleasant prospect for big business. But can you imagine Spitzer’s dismay when he became obligated to do in one of his old friends, kindly tricky Dick Grasso (who at the time was the Chairman of the New York Stock Exchange)? Grasso was victim of infinite greed and was in the process of lining his pockets with the help of fellow Board Members of the Exchange. Wall Street had not been subjected to this sort of monetary insatiability since the 1930’s when the head of the Exchange went to jail for fraud. 

During this same period, China emerged as a world class player and has certainly put the fear of God into the entire Pacific Rim. I would certainly not want to be Japanese right now, with the dragon breathing fire all over the region. China’s hard currency reserves, when combined with those of Hong Kong, are now the highest in the world and are starting to show interest in buying American public companies. Simultaneously, India is shrugging off decades of bureaucratic malfeasance and has emerged as a software expert and a leader in call centers. They are beginning to recognize the rights of Intellectual Property holders and are rejoining the world community after fifty years of trying to become the world’s most infamous neutral. 

In order to control inflation, the Federal Reserve is raising interest rates on a regular basis. The war on terrorism only seems to be annoying the Muslims. The price of oil is out of control, and if it wasn’t for the fact that we are importing so much from China, inflation would be already out of control. The real-estate market is also overheated and will begin its collapse as rates increase. Interestingly enough, we could see a situation where long term and short term rates are almost at parity. This would be a disaster for the banking industry, which borrows long and loans short. 

The above facts, along with additional nuances too numerous to conceive of, create anomalies in what is said to be an orderly market. The more anomalies that are created, the more opportunities exist. An interesting example of such an anomaly would be the Hunt Brothers, thinking they could corner the silver market and not conceptualize the fact that people would be willing to melt down their own silverware at certain prices. Those that were able to take advantage of this lack of analysis were able to sell silver to Hunts (such folks as Armand Hammer and Merrill Lynch) until the cows came home. Bache and Company, a prestigious Wall Street broker, almost tanked and was taken over by Prudential. Interestingly enough, over each decade from 1950 on, 80% of the brokers had a different name by the end of the decade than they did at the beginning, if they were still in business. 

CSC as a company and individually is very entrepreneurial as we have become circumspect relative to our clients. Sometimes they are their own worst enemies and a bad client is just as bad as bad investment banker. We seldom represent paranoid companies or individuals, because they take all of the enjoyment out of what we do. Because of their unreasonable fears in closing a transaction, whatever they have to offer, no matter how ingenious, usually dies an ignominious death. Their product is their baby and they don’t want to let it loose. The other anathema to our firm is the perpetual shopper that has covered the waterfront looking for money at the cheapest possible price. While this may be the thing to do in most industries, in ours, there are any number of firms that are only interested in collecting an upfront fee and then routinely suffer a sudden loss of memory where the client is concerned. We enjoy the role of being Wall Street observers as well as players in the financial game. Down here, one is either good or dead. We prefer to continue breathing the rarified air of the Street rather than the alternative. 

Other than the above abnormalities, we all thoroughly enjoy what we do. Most of us would pay to come to work every day to see the world’s newest technologies and how they evolve. We are in the most exciting arena in the universe and enjoy sharing marketing, financial and ethical victories with our customers. We invite your inquiry and our 16 year old firm looks forward to meeting your company. We do it the old way, we earn it.

Among other things that Chapman concentrates on are industry reports. We have enclosed one on recent worldwide water disasters. The following is a sample:

 

Water

Water is something that you take for granted until you don’t have it. Although recently, draught has not been a problem in the United States, those of us that have seen pictures of the damage wracked by the so called “dust bowl” effect in our middle west decades ago, can certain remember the fact that numerous farms were wiped out while the landscape became a scene from hell.   

While everyone seems to agree that weather conditions seem to be changing at a faster clip these days, but it may be that we were just not paying attention in the old days. Everything that man does on the planet, in some ways has an effect on the environment so as the many ill-thought out projects sponsored by the World Bank that created arid lands, decreases in rainfall and difficult farming conditions. The desert has reclaimed more and more of the land and the erosion process has if anything, substantially speeded.

Hydrocarbons are ripping apart our ozone layer, El Nino is causing us fits, mercury and arsenic seepage are destroying our water resources and non-degradable products are cluttering the oceans, rivers, lakes and streams. Before we realized the almost irreversible damage that was being done to the environment, large steel producing plants along the great lakes spilled chemicals and fillings into the water as though it was a large garbage dump. The Hudson River, once home to a large fish population contains nothing edible and the corps of army engineers is estimating the cost of reclamation is in the billions of dollars and its once rich fishing industry has become mercurized.  

But, cleaning up the environment is a rich man’s game, survival is the occupation of the poor. Many of the countries that are the massive polluters of the environment are really harbor those that can’t afford to look back. Each day is a fight for food and water and cleaning up the environment is not the first order of business. Remediation, a word that probably wasn’t even in the dictionary not so long ago has become a big business and the economic penalty for continued contamination has become high enough to  deter dumping by large companies.  

As the world globalizes, people generally view movement to the big city as a potential step up. As this has occurred at geometrically increasing pace, the city’s infrastructure in almost all respects starts backing up. Roads become congested, pollution increases, housing quality declines, transportation breaks down under the added weight and in many places there becomes a major problems with the infrastructure as the pureness of drinking water declines, sanitary movements start to back and disease starts to spread. Instead of starting over in El Dorado, many of these nomads fast far bleaker conditions that ever existed on their farm back home.  Places like Casa Blanca in Morocco and Mexico City have had exploding populations where government officials could not keep up with the inflow no matter what they attempted.  

To prevent large scale economic meltdown, the World Bank and other international lending institutions will have to incorporate programs that support the concept of sustainable development. In the past, loans have been designed to promote economic development, to build infrastructure and modernize industry to encourage third world countries to enter into the global economy. The belief was that, through trade and a “western” approach towards economic growth and “civilization”, poorer nations would be able to achieve the standards of living enjoyed in more developed nations.

”The development business was changing, too: fresh sources of advice and technical assistance had emerged and there were calls for more emphasis on the environment, good government, education and social cohesion. At the same time, technology was creating new ways to share knowledge within and between organizations, exposing the inflexibility of the bank’s vast hierarchical bureaucracy.

“The bank’s inability to respond to these trends had painfully clear results: more than one third of its projects had unsatisfactory outcomes; demand for its loans was flat; its financial tools had become inappropriate; its income was on a declining trend; it lacked expertise in key sectors; it failed to learn from its experiences; it suffered slow and unresponsive service; and, it aroused hostility among many of the other organizations involved in development worldwide”.  ([1])

Past funding from these institutions has not answered the needs of many local populations. World Bank financed projects have become some of the most environmentally damaging undertakings ever created in man’s history.   Having learned little from its past misjudgments, the World Bank continues down the same road, all the while waving the banner of environmental purity.  ([2]) 

As the global community changed, so did the areas in which expertise and funding were needed. Better governance, environmental assistance and health concerns become much of the new hue and cry, with little or no response from world organizations, with special emphasis on the World Bank. 

A study prepared for Commonwealth finance ministers, which was a type of retrospective on the banks accomplishments to date says, “Management is being given the benefit of the doubt.  It is too early to tell if the reforms, even if fully implemented, will be sufficient to restore the bank to full health. The bank has been in the process of reorganization for the past decade with a view to becoming cost effective, efficient and finding a meaningful role, but these earlier efforts do not appear to have borne fruit.  To give some idea of the Bank’s lending record, Kevin Watkins a high level adviser at the British relief advocacy group, Oxfam International said it all, “If you go by World Bank projections, sub-Saharan Africa will be back to the levels  of per-capita income that it had in the 1970’s by the year 2005. This is after tens of billions dollars have been spent on that continent for projects that seemed more intent of glorifying the “Bank” and lining dictators pockets.  

The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have substantially magnified the problems that their funds were supposed to solve by throwing money at inadequately researched projects. Erosion, deforestation, desertification, the loss of “ecosystems, species, and genetic material” ([3]) are the results of incomplete data analysis and immature economic theory. Critics have opined that, “since the focus of international lending institutions has been on the development of large scale projects, they have not taken into account the needs of the indigenous peoples or landscapes that are affected.”  

In a study undertaken by The University of Western Ontario in 2004 claimed that natural disasters alone affect 211 million per year of which 90 per cent are water related. Floods alone accounted for 50 percent of the damage. Asia and Africa were home to the great majority of the 2000 water-related disasters over the last decade.  

The majority of past projects funded by international lending institutions are in four ecologically sensitive areas: agriculture, rural development, and construction of power plants and roads. Expansive projects like hydroelectric dams in Latin American rainforests, government-sponsored migration into previously undeveloped areas, and single cash-crop agricultural and industrial expansion are some of the past projects that have not only destroyed the environment, but have also threatened the existence of many indigenous tribes. These projects have been designed to promote migration and development in remote areas. Unfortunately, many have failed and left the countries they were supposed to help with large foreign debts and environmental problems ([4]).

Brazil

For example, in the 1970’s and 80’s, Brazil used money borrowed from international lenders to promote migration into the interior of the rainforest. The government built large dams and roads that created easy access into the central regions of Brazil. The Brazilian government also offered subsidies to people that were willing to migrate into the rainforest. Many ranchers saw this as an opportunity to increase cattle grazing grounds while receiving tax credits for clearing thousands of acres of virgin forest. All of this development has caused increased foreign debt, runaway inflation, and deforestation of Brazil’s rainforest and the loss of many indigenous tribes.

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Today, after years of development, Brazil has one of the largest foreign debts of any third world country, as well as chronic problems of disease and overpopulation that are linked to environmental degradation. Farmers who could not support themselves in the rainforest have migrated to large cities looking for work, shelter and food just in time for Brazil’s worst drought of the century.

 UNICEF reported one of the strangest statistics on record when Halim Girade, its health director announced that the Brazilian drought and the corresponding food shortage in the northeastern cities have led to a jump in child prostitution. The effects of El Nino have been particularly harsh in this area and he reported that ; “The situation is getting worse, the rivers and ponds have dried up, and cattle are dying, children are being hired to collect water, which is now 60 kilometers away, and girls are turning to prostitution.” It is obvious that Brazil would have been better served by letting its farmers stay at home and dig wells than burning up the Amazon in a futile effort to beat back the jungle. 

The World Bank’s lending policies have not only been injurious by themselves.  As a powerful policy maker, its decisions influence various other lending institutions. The projects it funds and its role in shaping development policy through funding research, training, technology transfer, planning and other forms of support for borrowing nations has established policy for leading institutions for the past 40 years. Unfortunately, this type of development strategy has only hurt third world countries. The World Bank has come to realize that after spending billions of dollars on well intentioned programs, there overall record is a disaster to say the least. They are now going through a catharsis in trying to figure out what went wrong and how to avoid making the same mistakes over again.

So you think that you have it rough, “..over 100 million people in over 20 countries suffer from drought; 16 million assisted by World Food program; most seriously affected are Kenya, Ethiopia; Eritrea; Afghanistan; Tajikistan and Pakistan; Armenia and Georgia; Honduras, Nicaragua, Cuba and Haiti; Iran, Jordan and Syria; several other countries including DPR Korea, China, Mongolia, Uzbekistan, Tanzania and Burundi also reporting drought; WFP drought related projects double in 2000 and are 20 percent of all emergency requirements; in Ethiopia, Kenya and Afghanistan WFP is assisting 12 million people.” [5]

India

Setting up for business in India is not a “walk in the park” under the best of conditions as energy is iffy even in modern buildings and unless backup generators are procured prior to moving in, data can be lost when the daily outage occurs. Water cannot be counted on either unless our enterprising company places its own water tank on top of its facility anticipating the regular intervals when the water supply becomes contaminated or ceases to function altogether. It may take years before telephone lines can be installed and air conditioning even if is available will usually blow out the overloaded power lines. Even if you have your own generator, that is only the beginning because as a rule, facilities don’t come with light fixtures. When you rent space in India, you get one thing, space, hopefully with four walls and often it is less.

UNICEF has estimated that: “Low rainfall during the last two years has caused severe drought conditions in 11 Indian States. An estimated 130 million people – 15 percent of the population – in more than 70,000 villages and 230 urban centers are at risk. Apart from economic loss due to low agricultural production, loss of animal wealth, inadequate nutrition and primary health care, the impact of the drought is likely to retard the development process. The most severely affected States are Gujarat, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh.

UNICEF is seeking US $3.575 million in funding in support of relief efforts to help an estimated population of 60 million people in the five worst affected states. Of these, approximately 9 million are children and 1.2 million are pregnant women.

The immediate short term measures include the trucking of water, the rehabilitation of wells and hand pumps, the purification of water sources, surface water storage, mobility support, water purification tablets, vitamin A, oral rehydration salts and hygiene education flyers.

The long-term strategy addresses household water security through the promotion of rooftop rainwater harvesting; the sustainability of community water sources through ground water recharge structures with user participation; and the environmental protection of these sources. Sanitation and hygiene education are also underway.” 

Pakistan

Pakistan is  a country comprising 130 million people nearly two-thirds of which are under 30 years old is in the process of celebrating its fiftieth birthday. Its population is 64 percent illiterate, which puts it at the nadir in South Asia.  It ranks at the bottom of the global barrel in just about every measurement that is available. According to the recent report on Human Development in South Asia, 43 percent of the population lacks basic health facilities, 48 percent live without clean drinking water and nearly 64 percent do not have basic sanitation.  

Let’s talk about the really serious problems though: “Bangladesh is grappling with the largest mass poisoning of a population in history because groundwater used for drinking has been contaminated with naturally occurring inorganic arsenic. It is estimated that of the 125 million inhabitants of Bangladesh between 35 million and 77 million are at risk of drinking contaminated water. The scale of this environmental disaster is greater than any seen before; it is beyond the accidents at Bhopal, India in 1984, and Chernobyl, Ukraine, in 1986…Arsenic exposure may be mitigated in a relatively straightforward manner. However, in Bangladesh the situation is complicated by the weak economy and the need to rely largely on external aid to resolve public health problems. There are also significant difficulties in communication and transportation within the country that create obstacles for community education and intervention programs. Nevertheless, in contrast to diseases like malaria, cholera and tuberculosis, which require a more complex public health response, the response to arsenic contamination is clear-cut; provide arsenic-free water. Although the precise extent of the problem is not known, this does not invalidate the need for an emergency response. The extent of the problem is not known, this does not invalidate the need for an emergency response. The extent of the problem may be more accurately determined during the course of the response. The health of the population is at risk and relief cannot wait for further surveys.”[6]

Bangladesh

The Bangladesh water problem appears to have originally started in West Bengal India in 1983. The population that is effected in India is 38 million people and of this number , 220,000 people have what is described as advanced arsenic poisoning and are undergoing treatment. Any number of people have already died but the number has not been released but the Indian Government. The problem as evaluated by Indian scientists continues to get worse every year.  

As Jeremy Seabrook reported in the Guardian on November 21, 2007, “The devastation of the cyclone in Bangladesh is inseparable from a long, painful political calamity. This has been a year of misfortune for Bangladesh. Vast tracts of the country have twice disappeared under water as a result of unusually heavy monsoons, with a loss of crops and rise in the cost of basic foodstuffs. The cyclone Sidr, which has killed several thousand people and left millions homeless, is one of the worst recorded – the wind tears through the country, carrying off shelters, turning sheets of corrugated tin into lethal weapons while chetai walls are shredded like paper and the mangroves are reduced to driftwood.

This mutable coastline creates a landscape where people live as though in some perpetual primal myth. The exposure of their poor habitations is inseparable from that other, avoidable, disaster of Bangladesh – a political catastrophe of three and a half decades of independence, which has brought more grief than gain to those clinging to the shores of the turbulent Bay of Bengal.” 

A proposal by India to re-route waterways, including the Ganges, has alarmed its neighbor downstream, writes John Vidal from Dhaka.clip_image005

Indian plans to divert vast quantities of water from major rivers, including the Ganges and Brahmaputra, threaten the livelihoods of more than 100 million people downstream in Bangladesh, the Bangladeshi Government fears.

Ministers are so concerned that they are considering appealing to the United Nations to redraft international law on water sharing.

The ambitious Indian plans to link rivers flowing from the Himalayas and divert them south to drought-prone areas are still on the drawing board, but Bangladeshi Government scientists estimated that even a 10 to 20 per cent reduction in the water flow to the country could dry out great areas for much of the year. More than 80 per cent of Bangladesh’s 20 million small farmers grow rice and depend on water that has flowed through India.

Nepal

As if a plague to the area, Nepal has recently announced that “all water is susceptible to contamination. Although Nepal is a country rich in freshwater resources, these resources are unevenly distributed and the water infrastructure remains undeveloped. Out of the total population of Nepal, only 34% have access to safe drinking water. In the rural areas, things are much worse, and even the basic sanitation sources are unavailable. A total of only 3% of the population has access to sanitary facilities, and the problems of clean drinking water and lack of sanitation are closely related. Pathogen-laden human and animal wastes, food, and garbage pile up near homes, or drains into waterways to infect drinking water supplies. The implications for the people of Nepal are severe, with a high rate of infectious diseases. Because of a lack of health care infrastructure in rural Nepal, illness often results in death. [7] 

Eritrea

Eritrea is located in Africa and borders the Red Sea along with Ethiopia. Originally, Eritrea was part of Ethiopia but it broke off in 1991 and became independent in 1993 after a period of 19 years. While the country has some offshore oil, it has little else and between its debilitating war with Ethiopia and a succession of droughts, the country is now in disastrous shape. Almost 400,000 people are threatened by drought and food shortages in this country, some of the problem having occurred because of massive dislocations caused by the war. Food prices have escalated substantially because for the most part it must be imported. The United Nations reports that the situation is critical and many international aid agencies have pulled out the workers because of the dangerous conditions.

Ethiopia

Ethiopia has many of the same problems as their neighbor Eritrea but the number of people in serious condition because of extensive drought and a lack of food is substantially greater. World organizations have estimated that over 8 million people are in immediate danger of starvation. Drought conditions have continued over a period of years and as in Eritrea, some international aid agencies have pulled their workers out because of the danger. Ethiopia did come up with a scheme to alleviate their tenuous situation; they began construction of a series of dams on the Nile that includes 175 projects for irrigation. Egypt, Ethiopia’s large neighbor, took umbrage to the diversion of so much water and indicated that it was more likely than not that they would unilaterally halt these projects if a substantial compromise was not worked out.  If Ethiopia doesn’t back off, they could find themselves in a two front war, but what do you do when 8-million of your people are in very serious condition.

In Brazil because of the massive amount of gold mining currently going on where mercury is used as part of the process, increasingly high amounts of the substance are now finding their way into drinking water all over the country. “Levels of mercury found among people in gold mining areas are high enough to produce clinical symptoms of mercury poisoning. In its most advanced form mercury poisoning can result in birth defects, brain damage and worse. Less severe poisoning may result in tunnel vision, instability and neurological disorders.”[8]

Djibouti

Djibouti is a rather small country located in the Horn of Africa where the drought is most fierce. The particular problem that exists in this country is the fact that although 10s of thousands of people are near starvation because of the lack of water. The water table in the region has hit all-time lows and if it was not for international assistance, most of the people here would probably starve to death. The United Nations has entered into a rush improvement job on the Port of Djibouti in order to get the facility at least to the level where relief supplies can come in. The United Nations believes that when the facility is totally operational, it will benefit the entire “Horn” because, food just can’t logistically get to the people that desperately need it.

Kenya

Kenya’s problem is somewhat more severe in that it supports a somewhat larger population. Almost three-million people in this country could be facing starvation if something is not done. Reuters issued the following on 7/19/00: Food shortages are dire in drought-hit farming regions of Kenya, where rising grain and falling livestock prices are ravaging farmers’ incomes, the U.N. world food body’s Eat Africa specialist said on Tuesday. “The food supply situation in Kenya is very bleak,” Shukri Ahmed, the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization’s economist told Reuters in a telephone interview. As well as northern farming areas. The “bread basket” Rift Valley province and the Central province which is normally close to self-sufficient in food, had received little or no rainfall, leading to widespread crop failures. He estimated that 3.3 million people in Kenya needed emergency food assistance. Prospects for the “long rains,” harvest from August to October were discouraging due to the continuing dry weather, he added. Kenya has had four successive seasons of drought” He said that starvation-related deaths had been reported among Kenyans, particularly children, but declined to give figures. The CIA has their own list of problems to add to the above, water pollution from urban and industrial wastes; degradation of water quality from increased use of pesticides and fertilizers; deforestation; soil erosion and poaching.

Uganda

Uganda has been decimated because of drought and crop failure in their north-east. It has been reported from the region that many families are surviving on one meal a day, and depending on cactus fruits, wild berries and leaves for food. The UN estimated that 30% of households in Moroto and kotido (in the northeast) had exhausted their food supplies. As if that wasn’t enough, the HIV virus in the country has gone beyond epidemic proportions while Uganda has had the worst outbreak of Ebola in known history. Add to that the fact that the country is at war in the north and in the southwest, that major population displacements have occurred and that the Tse Tse fly has just brought about a major outbreak in sleeping sickness. Cholera was just another fact of life to be found here in abundance until only recently.  

The people supply the desperately need food in Uganda gave us an idea about what things were like: “We’re doing everything possible to ensure that food aid continues to reach these people whose lives have been devastated by senseless violence,” said Burk Oberle, World Food Program Executive, “Attacks, ambushes and constant threats against aid workers in this region, make this a difficult operation requiring us to coordinate all our movements ahead of time and deliver food under military escort. But it’s critical that these people continue to receive our help. “  

Georgia

Georgia, recently part of the Soviet Union is having its worst drought in 30 years. Harvest loses in the eastern parts of the country are running up to 95 percent. There is a total lack of water due to drought and most of the seeds that would be used next planting season have been destroyed. “The drastic decline in agricultural production,” says the FAO-WFP report, “of cereals, fruit, vegetables and livestock this year will seriously affect household food security, because of reduced availability not only of foodstuffs but also of earning from the sale of livestock products and other produce. The drought is forcing more and more people to rely mainly on bread consumption.”  

Armenia

Armenia, the driest weather that has been seen in these parts in over 100 years. The entire country is effect by drought, no less than sixty percent of the crop has been destroyed and the government has desperately appealed to international relief organizations for assistance. In addition, soil pollution from toxic chemicals such as DDT; an energy blockade , the result of conflict with Azerbaijan, has led to deforestation when citizens scavenged for firewood; along with the pollution of Hrazdan and Aras Rives. The draining of Sevana Lich, a result of its use as a source for hydropower, threatens drinking water supplies” [9].   

North Korea

North Korea has had absolutely no rain the entire growing season. The country is vexed with major water shortages, no cereal crops are available for harvest and their desperate situation may in some way explain their interest in opening up dialogs with neighboring countries. Many people in the countryside already have to resort to picking wild foods. In addition we find localized air pollution attributable to inadequate industrial controls; water pollution along with an inadequate supply of potable water.  

Syria

Syria is in the midst of the second year of their worst drought in forty-years. Domestic animals in most cases have already died. The Word Food Program of the United Nations reported the following:”…many might fact destitution, poverty and hunger; malnutrition visible among children; additional food and donations are urgently needed” As if this wasn’t enough, the country is undergoing substantial deforestation; overgrazing and soil erosion. Additionally, water suppliers are being polluted by the dumping of raw sewage and wastes from petroleum refining directly into the streams. For a country with little enough to start with, they are destroying what is left at an amazing rate.  

Jordan

Jordan had their poorest harvest in the country’s history in 1999 and this year looks even worse. The lack of rain has caused a disastrous situation. With the Palestinian Territory also parched, there are increased concerns of continuing unrest. As the Jordan River continues to dry up and the countries of the region continue to argue more violently about who can take what out of the river, eventually, there are many who believe the next war in the Mideast could well be over fresh water.  

Honduras

Honduras has been affected by a major drought in the southern section of the country. Crop loses of maize and beans are estimated to be between 80 and 90 percent and these are the most import agricultural products cultivated in this area.  The urban population is expanding and there has been substantial deforestation from logging and the clearing of land for agricultural purposes, further land degradation and soil erosion is hastened by uncontrolled development and improper land use practices such as farming of marginal lands; mining activities are polluting Lago de Yojoa (the country’s largest source of fresh water) as well as the pollution of several rivers and streams with heavy metals. All in all, we most say that for a country with all of the right resources, Honduras seems to be screwing things up in royal fashion.   

Yugoslavia

Yugoslavia will be facing increasing food shortages, as drought and economic problems continue to make inroads into agricultural yields. Crop yields are down substantially while price of farm products have risen dramatically. Food makes up an important part of each family’s total budget and is becoming less and less affordable.  

Kazakhstan 

“The drying-up of the Sea, and the salt and dust laden air, have had a damaging effect on the health of the people, and the animal and plant life as well. The introduction of pesticides into the rice and cotton fields, and the seepage of the residues back into the rivers, has heavily contaminated the water for thus communities living along the banks of the rivers flowing into the Sea. This has further aggravated people’s health. Diseases like anemia, cancer and tuberculosis, and allergies are frequent. Many children are born with defects. Also in the years since the first project was implemented, there has been a continued increase in Typhoid fever, viral hepatitis, TB, and throat cancer in many areas as high as three times the national average. All of these complaints can be attributed either to the reduction in quality and quantity of water resulting from the drying up of the Aral Sea of the spread of toxic dusts and deterioration of the regional climate resulting from the Aral Sea disaster. While sustainable development for the well being of people and the environment they live in is needed in the Aral Sea Area, the immediate humanitarian needs of the population must also be addressed. Unless further action is taken to improve the health, water and hygiene needs of the people living in the Aral Sea Area, the benefits of today’s sustainable development ideas will reach fewer and fewer people in the next millennium. The Aral Sea Area is not just an environmental disaster, but a health and human tragedy as well. The Aral Sea Area has one of the highest levels of (TB) in

clip_image006Britainall of Europe and the former Soviet Union and one of the highest levels of anemia in the world. The salt concentration of the available water for consumption is one of the highest in the world. For people to lead a productive life in “harmony with nature,” they must first be healthy. To date millions of dollars worth of assessments and visits have been made to the Aral Sea region, resulting in very little direct humanitarian action in the area. The situation in the Aral Sea Area requires the direct provision of immediate public health assistance that is targeted to meet the greatest need and conducted through existing channels. The environmental degradation and economic decline and resulting social and health affects around the dying Aral Sea will result in further premature deaths and even environmental refugees or ecological migrants if action is not taken now to alleviate the affects. A CIS conference on refugees and migrants held in Geneva in 1996, estimated that nearly 700 000 people have already been forced to flee their homes in the former Soviet Union, as a result of ecological disasters like the nuclear explosion in Chernobyl and the Aral Sea Area Disaster. The number of displaced people in the Aral Sea Area was estimated at above 100,000. In Kazakhstan alone, 42,000 people have moved either further inside Kazakhstan or to other CIS countries.  The indirect links between the environmental disaster and human health outcomes abound. The direct relationship between the environmental disaster and human health is not widely known, in the least agreed upon, given the magnitude and relative uniqueness of the situation. Further objective research that aims to directly impact positively on human health is required. However, in the meantime, certain health facts are known and must be acted upon.” (Aral Sea)

The Guardian reported in 2006 that Algae choking drought-hit ponds and streams. Carpets of toxic blue-green algae, some of which can kill dogs within half an hour, are now blanketing many ponds, canals and other shallow water courses as the drought expands across Britain.

According to the Environment Agency, the effects of the drought can now be seen right across the UK, with more than 100 instances of algal blooms and fish suffocation reported in the past few weeks. Warm, shallow water holds less oxygen, leaving fish vulnerable to stress, suffocation and disease. “These are the most suitable conditions for the formation of algal blooms since 1989 and it will get worse if the next few weeks are hot and dry,” said Jonathan Newman, head of aquatic plant management at the Centre for Hydrology and Ecology. “Blue-green algae can be very serious. They produce toxins that are especially nasty for dogs. If dogs lick it they can die in 30 minutes. The toxicity of Microcystis aeruginosa is somewhere between cobra venom and pufferfish.”

United States

This country is far from exempt from water disasters. Without massive funding the Everglades and its natural habitat could well be toast with a decade or so. The Great Salt Lake is not so great anymore, and it could well turn into a pond at the rate it is now receding. Water from the Colorado River which supplies most of the West is being fought over by Los Angeles and fast growing Las Vegas. Other rivers in the United States have consumed so much run-off fertilizer that algae from local farming in many places is strangling creatures that depend on the water for their survival. The Great Lakes are still trying to recover from the dumping by the giant iron ore mining and steel plants lining its shores.

However, the Mother of all water born disasters in terms of current dollars and personal suffering was the disaster wrought by Hurricane Katrina. Some years after the storm came ashore, New Orleans is still a literal ghost town once out of the central district. Sixty-eight percent of all homes are unoccupied most of those people will never come back. Louisiana Napoleonic politics is responsible for the almost all of the damage. Diversion of funds from much needed water control systems have left most of the city uninhabitable.    


[1] Financial Times Survey, Friday September 19, 1997

[2]  “When the Bank began its work, developing countries were overwhelmingly rural. Poverty was located in the countryside, because that’s where the people were. One consequence of development, however, has been a dramatic shift from the country to the city. By the year 2000 it is expected that more than half the population of the developing world will be crammed into its cities – many driven there after Bank-financed projects drove them from their traditional homes.

The problems to which this population shift has given rise are truly staggering. In Madras, in southern India, for example, half the population lives in shantytowns with no water supply, no sanitation, no streets, and no electricity.” Masters of Illusion, The World Bank and the Poverty of Nations, Catherine Caufield, Henry Holt and Company.

[3] Biological diversity is made up of ecosystems, species and genetic material.

[4] “The IMF and the World Bank share a weakness in creating macroeconomic strategy plans/programs in concert with national governments and identified beneficiaries. The World Bank notes that the commitment of borrowers to funded operations has received little attention in the past, but also acknowledges that host-country participation and commitment of operations are essential to success.” Perspectives on the Role of Science and Technology in Sustainable Development, Congress of the United States.

[5] WFP Emergency Report Issued weekly by the United Nations World Food Programme Report No. 32 / 2000 Date 11 August 2000.

[6] Contamination of drinking-water by arsenic in Bangladesh: a public health emergency, Allan H. Smith, Elena O. Lingas: Mahfuzar Rahman. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 9/1/00

[7] From, Contamination of Drinking Water in Nepal “Environmental Problems in the Kathmandu Valley.” In, Urban and Environmental planning in Nepal. By Ambika P. Adhikari, IUCN the World Conservation Union, 1998, and “Nitrate and Groundwater…” J. Frankenberger, Purdue University, USA

[8] Mercury contamination in the Amazon, Quicksilver for Gold, Greenpeace.

[9] Environment – current issues, The CIA Fact book 2000

So, as we see, almost everyone has their problems but if you are interesting in the almost unsolvable read the following:

A Population Explosion of a Third Kind

While the human population of  Japan is heading south at breakneck speed, its simian population is spiraling out of control. Historically, the Japanese culture is unusually understanding when it comes to the humane treatment of animals. Between a combination of unfettered population growth and a high fat diet readily available in local garbage cans, not only has the number of monkeys spiraled in a numerical sense but they are also growing larger physically from their high fat diet. Thus, number of monkeys has spiraled out of control (1000 percent in a short period of time) and the animals now are beginning to create a minor catastrophe on Japanese highways.

 The have developed a common strategy. They sit in the middle of a highway and when an approaching car screeches on its brakes to avoid the creature, the monkeys either jump onto the hood or through the window demanding food. Unbelievably they have become adept at entering cars speeding along Japanese highways at speeds up to 25-miles per hour. This sudden second-story entry creates momentary driver havoc, potentially leading to collisions.  Moreover, the animals will not go away until fully satiated and with a razor sharp pair of teeth, they are not to be toyed with. Thus, in order to cope with this sophisticated simian shake-down, travelers on Japanese roads are now literally required to carry a “monkey bag” so as not to have an unexpected free-riding consumer join them for the ride. In addition, the Japanese are fundamentally an animal respecting country where the idea of hunting  any sort of land creature, even for food, is looked at askance aiding and abetting the population explosion.

 As animal hunting diminished to close to absolute zero in this country, the monkey population began to rise like a hot-air balloon. At first the increase was hardly noticeable and the population thought that seeing the creatures was an interesting experience. However, with the monkeys becoming ever more sizeable, they are becoming a definitive threat to younger children on their way to classes. Mothers are now not trusting their youngsters to walk even short distances to classes in certain of the monkey captive cities and are now driving children everywhere for safeties sake. Some cities in Japan such as Nikko have defensively criminally banned the feeding of these animals in hopes that the animals will pull up stakes and find another town in which to propagate.

However, not only are cars and children in jeopardy, but just leave a window open in your home or office and you may return to a coven of simians enjoying your food and surroundings.  They are now inflicting millions of dollars of damage to crops and farmers have now given to erecting 12-foot high fences to keep the marauders out.  Another unique solution employed by farmers is for them to grow vegetables earmarked only for the monkeys, thus saving the rest of their crops from being ravaged. As Japan imports more of its food, the area given to farms has gradually been laid fallow, decreasing the number of dogs that were the only real natural enemies of the monkeys in this country.  

Japan’s plight is not unique as Hong Kong had the same problem. However, they have chosen to successfully sterilize the animals as a method of controlling the population while Japan has not been able to come to grips with any solution at all. Police have now given to organizing “monkey posses” and equipping the officers with poles having a banana at its end. When the animal grabs the banana, its is netted and dumped out-of-town. However, it does not take very long for these animals to find their way back.

 Yakuza Express

The art of the shakedown in Japan has risen substantially above the basics. The streets of Tokyo in particular, are filled with sound trucks populated with what looks to be a Japanese version of skin-head types dressed in military fatigues looking for a fight. Fundamentally, these overbearing and highly portable sound machines are forums for a shakedown. Should you want to subvert a business competitor in this country, all you have to do is pick up the phone and call the nearest yakuza express location and pay them to park one of their sound trucks in front of your competitor and they will beam horror messages about his business practices to anyone within hearing distance. Moreover, it is not obligatory that the vocalizations have to have one bit of truth to them. The fact is, that many of these hoodlums work hand-in-glove with local police and are granted some form of impunity.

 Does someone owe you money? The court system in Japan is laborious and more importantly the people are not particularly litigious. However, why waste your time suing someone when you can hire the a sound truck to blast a message over his entire neighborhood about what kind of a deadbeat you are dealing with. The Japanese are extremely socially conscious and having their private matters hung out to dry, in a public sense is enough to send them scurrying to make payment. This form of extortion is the required methodology in solving certain problems here and no one is particularly surprised anymore when a sound truck pulls up. The only surprise is who will be the victim of the verbal abuse this time.

 Usually, the tirade begins with the playing of Japanese martial music which is dramatically utilized to get everyone’s attention. The next step out of the box depends upon the target. Not surprisingly, the sound truck people have extremely conservative leanings and because of this bent, are used by Japan’s conservative political parties to attack their enemies. The main people using of this form of political blackmail is the incumbent Liberal Democratic party. Thus, under this scenario, when the martial music has ended, the propaganda begins, starting with the Japanese Emperor and his wondrous talents and ending with extreme militaristic propaganda. The fact that these trucks are operating at a decibel level quantumly higher than the law allows does not seem to challenge local police officials in the least. They have been advised in advance of the cacophony’s message and have usually been paid to pave the way for their freedom of speech. Hideo Kurokawa who is the spokesman for the Tokyo Police Department said: “We are not protecting these people. It is more like guiding them through the streets.”

Japan is well aware of the stinking international message being sent by these vocal hit-men. Thus, whenever there is an international media event happening in Tokyo, these sound trucks seem to mysteriously vanish into thin air only to reincarnate themselves when the last media visitor has departed.  However, one of the main targets of the extortion trucks is the liberal media in Japan. The Japanese press lives in deadly fear of retaliation from this group. For this reason, there is not a lot of press given to what these folks are getting away with for fear of immediate and catastrophic reprisal.

 The sound trucks in order to make their point more meaningful have to send a unifying message and with no minorities to attack in Japan, the common political attack theme has become one of opening old war wounds while praising the emperor. Thus, by laying the right foundation, the type of aggressive political propaganda can make its point.  These gangsters of the right, hide behind righteous indignation and as one of their leaders, Misuhiro Kimura put it: “Japan today has lost its purpose as a nation and is stuck with a dysfunctional system. Political corruption is beyond belief. I just don’t believe the law can fix all the problems”  Thus, it appears that they have taken matters into their own hands.

 While the sound-trucks may have some ultimate effect in shifting public opinion and ultimately changing the system, its potential result is to unpleasant to comprehend.