10 09 2011

Texas Governor Rick Perry recently lead a three-day prayer marathon, asking for God to make it rain on Texas.  God’s answer?  Tropical Storm Lee skipped the state, and even more wildfires have broken out.  No reports yet of any brimstone, but a volcanic eruption in Texas would put quite a cap on the summer disaster season, wouldn’t it?  Where are all the Evangelicals who have framed other natural disasters as God’s wrathful judgment on the sinners of New Orleans, New York,  or wherever?  If God is all-powerful and on their side, how come he’s burning up the home state of his self-proclaimed most devoted servant?  Do I blaspheme?

Speaking of God’s wrath, today is the tenth anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center.  I’m starting to suspect we will never know the real story of what happened, despite the many obvious contradictions and peculiar decisions contained in the official version.  For instance:  cell phones didn’t work on airplanes in 2001–how was someone allegedly on one of the hijacked flights able to make cell phone calls?  How could an airliner hit a building at ground level (the Pentagon), and disintegrate so thoroughly that virtually no trace of the airliner was left?  How could somebody with virtually no experience flying an airliner do such a good job of flying it so close to the ground?  Why was no attempt made to shoot the plane down before it hit?  And if, as some claim, it was a missile and not an airplane that hit the Pentagon, thus explaining the lack of debris, what happened to the missing airplane?

And that’s just the Pentagon–moving to the main event, in New York, we don’t know how a kerosene (aka jet fuel) fire could get hot enough to melt structural steel–there are videos that seem to show molten metal pouring out of the stricken floors of the World Trade Center, and plenty of eyewitness reports of molten metal in the collapsed ruins.  Why were the remains of the buildings hastily recycled, rather than carefully examined for evidence of why they collapsed?  Why were traces of high explosives found in World Trade Center structure samples that were independently analyzed?  Why did Building 7, which was not hit by an airplane, and contained the security camera records for the towers, collapse and burn hours after the main event?

On the other hand, if it was, as many allege, a controlled demolition, how could the enormous amount of material needed have been spirited into the building and put in place without attracting notice?  Such a task would require so many hands that it is hard to believe that everyone’s lips would remain sealed after ten years.

I haven’t even touched on the larger questions–who knew what, and when.  Perhaps that is why our government took such great care to seal Mr. Bin Laden’s lips and confiscate his records.  We may never know if the attack occurred without the knowledge of our government, or whether it occurred with the collusion or outright participation of our government.  After all, the neoconservative “Project for a New American Century” had, only the year before, proclaimed a need for “a new Pearl Harbor” to galvanize Americans into supporting a war that, they believed, would result in American dominance of the Middle East and its oil.  And Pearl Harbor, let us not forget, was an attack that upper echelons of U.S. intelligence may have known  about, and allowed to happen, in order to…galvanize Americans into supporting a war.  Maybe that’s what happened.  As I said, there’s a lot we just don’t know.

But, in a way, it doesn’t matter whether Dick Cheney was in on the 9-11 plot or not.   It doesn’t even matter that the country, or at least the media, has largely lost interest in these questions. What the attack really succeeded in doing was provoking a massive increase in U.S. government spending–and borrowing.  Our national debt nearly doubled during the Cheney administration, largely due to increased war and “homeland security” spending.  This was all part of a mindset that saw no need to regulate or rein in government spending on big business , or in any way question the basic assumption on which our economy runs:  economic growth is the ultimate good thing.

And that is where this country has run into trouble, because our commitment to unrestrained economic growth at any cost was bound to create a crash, sooner or later, and increased government spending and borrowing–not to mention private sector spending and borrowing, as in the consumer credit boom–just brought the contradictions to a head that much faster.

Here’s the key:  a financial system based on loaning money at interest presumes that the economy can somehow grow indefinitely.  There is no way to pay off an interest-bearing loan other than to somehow create more wealth than the original loan represents.  But oops!  That presumes infinite growth on this small and extremely finite–not to mention fragile–planet.

In the prescient climactic scene from the 1983 Monty Python movie “The Meaning of Life,” the Chairman of the Very Big Corporation of America says

… which brings us once again to the urgent realisation of just how much there is still left to own.

In 1983, it seemed that there was still a lot left to own, but, just a few years later, the field had narrowed considerably.  By the early 90’s, the planet’s material resources were pretty much accounted for or tapped out, and bankers started resorting to what you could call ‘creative financing”–Collateralized Debt Obligations, Collateralized Bond Obligations, and so forth, even a second generation of essentially artificial financial instruments based on CDO’s, etc., which catapulted high finance into a realm of such huge amounts of–ultimately–imaginary money that the only “collateral” for these abstract investment opportunities was more  abstract money, because there just wasn’t enough actual stuff to do the job.  The world of finance had run out of things to own, and yet  banksters made billions in a market that resembled nothing so much as an off-track betting parlor for an imaginary horse race.  They made enough money to buy the U.S. government, with the result that, when their schemes blew up in their faces, they were able to manipulate that government into bailing them out instead of prosecuting them for theft and fraud.

The rest of us are not so well-connected.  Debt also became overwhelming at the family/individual level, resulting in a flood of bankruptcies and foreclosures that has decimated the American middle class and shoved the poor even farther down the storm drain.  Oh, and did I mention that part of the corporate Ponzi scheme involved moving as much manufacturing out of the US as possible, to places where they wouldn’t have to pay their workers as well, or observe expensive environmental safeguards?

Here’s some numbers:   real wages for the average person have declined by about 14% since the early 1970’s, while the cost of living,  as measured by the consumer price index,  has risen by a factor of five.  The cost of living increase is partly due to price increases, but also  involves using television to hypnotize people into believing they need things that they do not, in fact, need, thus inflating demand.

A more concrete example:  the average home price in 1972 was $27.000.  Adjusted for inflation to 2007 prices, that’s about $134,000.  But, in 2007, the average home price in the U.S. was  around $300,000, and the median was in the neighborhood of $250,000.  So, for the average American, income–down 14%,  while the price for keeping a roof over our head is up nearly 100%.  That has opened up a big hole between our expectations and our ability to fulfill them, a hole known as a “debt trap.”  The total amount of individual debt in the U.S. is about 2.4 trillion dollars, about a third of it credit card debt, the rest mostly home and college loans.  In 2009, the average household debt was only about $16K, but the average household debt of households with credit card debt was $54K.  The good news is, both these figures were about half of what they had been a year earlier.

The bad news is that a fair amount of this debt disappeared when banks gave up on collecting it, because the debtors went bankrupt.  Foreclosure, of course, technically transfers the asset to the bank, but unoccupied, unsaleable homes have a funny tendency to lose value rather rapidly.  Too bad for the banks.  My heart bleeds.

The other bad news is that, since our economy is based on credit, the fact that people are borrowing and spending less is ‘bad for the economy.”

But the good news is, our unsustainable, growth-dependent economy needs to wither and die, to keep the planet from withering and dying.  I’m not too hung up in the “either/or” of this, because it looks like the planet is going to wither and die enough to shake the cancer of our civilization, and possibly our entire species.  As one who appreciates what is valuable in humanity–our self-awareness, our ability to understand large concepts, and our ability to be compassionate with each other–I hope it doesn’t come to that.  But unless several million mostly rich, white, mostly Americans ( who are overall somewhat deficient in self-awareness, understanding, and compassion) don’t get a clue pretty quick, it could, indeed, be curtains for us.  These are interesting times, indeed.

music:  Eliza Gilkyson, “2153


12 02 2011

Last month, in a post entitled “Dude, where’s my $30K?,” I tried to shed some light on the magnitude of income inequality here in “the land of the free” by pointing out that our country’s per-capita spending on bank bailouts and our military apparatus, plus corporate profits, comes to $30,000 per person.  Yes, that’s $120 thou for a a family of four.  And they say we don’t have money for unemployment benefits, a national health care system, or social security.  Go figure!

That money, all $7.5 trillion of it, is not coming out of our tax dollars, at least not yet.  Mostly, it’s being created out of thin air by “quantitative easing” and/or being borrowed from the Chinese and the Saudis.  It’s not being created by the classic route of taking raw materials, conceiving a use for them, modifying them, and selling a product at a “profit”–profit being both the difference between what workers are paid and the true value of their work, and what we keep for ourselves instead of repairing (if possible) the damage to the environment that our extraction of raw materials has caused.  That paradigm as a road to wealth is obsolete, although it’s obviously what we are going to need to relearn how to do, minus the profit and plus the environmental repair–just to get by, as international trade implodes under the weight of the end of cheap fuel and other raw materials.

I was raised to believe in the virtue of the labor movement.  My early heroes were the IWW martyrs and all those who fought for the poor in the class war that runs through the history of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  These were epic struggles for justice.  Workers fought for fair treatment by their employers, and, for a time, prevailed.  The result was the blossoming of the American middle class in the thirty years between the end of World War II and the mid-seventies, which we are starting to realize was America’s “golden age.”

But several things were wrong with that superficially happy picture .

The most obvious, and widely commented on, was the spiritual emptiness of our material paradise, noted by commentators as disparate as Jack Kerouac (who, I hope, needs no introduction!) and Sayyid Qutb, one of the leading lights of the Muslim Brotherhood and, along with the CIA, a major inspiration to the founders of Al Qaeda.  But that’s a whole other story.  Back to “work,” as it were.

Another thing that is wrong with the struggle of the American labor movement is that, after the marginalization of the IWW and the Socialist Party, the labor movement never questioned capitalism as an economic arrangement.  That has been the subject of much commentary and analysis, and certainly has a great deal to do with how the ruling class has been able to dump the American working class and its unions into that famous, even cliched, “dustbin of history.”

But there’s something else the labor movement never questioned, something that has rarely even been noted:  the labor movement, even the Socialists and “radical” anarchists of the IWW, never questioned whether the work they were doing was, in the long run, worth doing.  The forests of America were clearcut, Appalachia was despoiled, and General Motors destroyed America’s interurban railroad system so it could sell more cars–and all the unions wanted was a bigger piece of the pie.  Nobody in the labor movement questioned the wisdom of these moves.

That last one, GM’s dismantling of mass transit in America, is especially worth examining, because shifting from mass transit to personal motorized vehicles has had such a massive, destructive, and likely unintended effect on not only America, but the world.

Because individual automobile ownership has become the norm in this country, our population dispersed over a far wider area than would have been the case had we remained dependent on mass transit.  Suburbia became possible.  Urban sprawl sucked up millions of acres of woodland and farmland adjacent to cities, undermining local self-sufficiency.  In the name of boosting automobile and gasoline sales, our country’s intercity highway system was improved.  Thus subsidized, trucking and automobile travel undermined the country’s long-distance railroad system, once the best in the world.  Now, like the much of the rest of the country’s infrastructure, our railroads are struggling not to fall into third world status.  The net result of this is that now, as petroleum production slips into decline, we are tied to the most petroleum-dependent and inefficient methods of transport–road and air, and our automobile-addicted population is too scattered to be served by mass transit, even if we had the money left to build it.

Wait, there’s more!

The psychological effects of America’s transition to individual automobile transportation are likewise manifold.  Travelers no longer need to deal with railway schedules; we can leave whenever we want to, travel by any route we choose, stop where we feel like stopping, and we don’t have to share our space with anybody else and negotiate whatever compromises that might entail.  We do not sit on benches in train stations waiting for connections.  The primacy of individual preference has been enshrined, from our individual psyches to our lifestyle expectations to our national foreign policy.   It’s all me, all all the time, all splendid isolation, from our far-flung suburban homes to our daily commutes…oops, fewer and fewer of us have a job or the resulting daily commute.

And that is where it all starts falling apart.  I have commented before on the fascistic nature of American society–how our government increasingly exists solely to promote corporate interests.  It’s not just about health care or the right of corporations to spread GMOs for fun and profit. Full participation in American society, if you live outside a few urban areas, requires that automobile ownership.  For most people, that means an investment of twenty to forty thousand dollars or more–hundreds of dollars in monthly payments to a private corporation for an object that, ironically, does nothing but lose value from the moment you drive it off the lot.

Think about how much money is tied up in automobiles.  Five relatively new vehicles are easily worth a hundred thousand dollars.  How many cars do you encounter on a typical drive around town?  Five hundred?  ten million dollars.  Five thousand?  A hundred million dollars worth of automobiles, all stuck in rush hour traffic.

But, as I said, fewer and fewer of us are stuck in rush hour traffic, because fewer and fewer of us have jobs, nor are we going to have “jobs,” at ;east not in the traditional meaning of that term.  As I pointed out last month, it would take 630 businesses with 35,000 employees each just to absorb people who are currently “unemployed,” let alone create cubicles for all those who are, as they say, “just entering the labor market.”  There are no buyers in the labor market, not in America.

But that’s not the same as there being nothing to do.  On the contrary, there is everything to do.  Somewhere along the line in its drive to monetize everything, the official economy of America has largely ceased to do the things that really matter to people.  There is food to grow for people who want something besides sugar, starch, fat, and salt.  There are young people, old people, and sick or handicapped people who need care that is truly caring rather than being motivated by the promise of a paycheck.  Increasingly, there will be a need to manufacture and use basic tools, a need and the skills to sift through America’s trash middens and waste stream to find what can be reused or repurposed.

Our profit-crazed, out-of-touch formal economy now places a higher value on putting people out of their homes than it does on keeping them in those homes.  There are currently eighteen million unoccupied houses in this country, many of them foreclosures, and about 700,000 homeless people.  Do the math.  Many of the unoccupied houses have been stripped of wiring and copper pipes and anything else that could be recycled.  Many homes, unoccupied or occupied, are poorly insulated and inefficiently heated,  These are all jobs screaming out for someone to do them, but there is no money to be had, because housing the poor is of no value to the rich.

Soon enough, it won’t matter.  Our system has stoutly resisted reform, which means that the only alternative left is collapse, and a rebuild from the ground up.  The web of car payments, college loans, and credit card debts that keeps so many ensnared in a world a few removes from reality, running on a paycheck treadmill, will melt away like a bad dream, and we will find ourselves in a different world altogether.  All together, indeed.  That will be the only way to succeed at surviving.  And there will be plenty of work for everyone.

music: Burning Times, “The Only Green World”


13 06 2009

Last month, I suggested that, rather than pursue the chimeras of Maytown and the Convention Center, Nashvilleans would be better served by taking the suggestions of the” Mayor’s Green Ribbon Committee” and running with them.  Much to my delight, that’s just what Metro Councilman Jason Holleman is doing.

The step he is proposing is a no-brainer, really, and I was surprised to learn that it needs to be taken, but–get this: for the last fifty years, it has been illegal to have a community garden in Nashville .  It doesn’t matter if you own the land and it’s an open field, you can’t legally farm it in the urban services district.  And, even if you live on the property and just have a garden, it is illegal for you to sell your produce.  Gee…I thought the only produce that was illegal to sell was the kind people grow in closets…but it turns out that the criminal agricultural population is not restricted to pot growers…all the urban community gardens springing up around Nashville–and there are more and more of them–are illegal.  We are fortunate that Metro has not sent out the paddy wagons and bulldozers to round up these criminal gardeners and turn their paradises back into parking lots.

Holleman’s bill is co-sponsored by Kristine LaLonde, Emily Evans, Erik Cole, Mike Jameson, Bo Mitchell, Megan Barry, Jerry Maynard, Sandra Moore, Erica Gilmore, and Darren Jernigen. Remember those names–these are the  Metro Council members who have at least a clue about where this country is headed.  Councilman Holleman told me in an email that his proposal has attracted “questions about the details, but no negative feedback.” In other words, there’s a strong likelihood that it will pass.

One hair that the bill splits is that, while it legalizes the sale of produce grown in the city, which will allow  gardeners to support and expand their operations, it does not allow “farm stands” at gardens in residential neighborhoods.  In other words, you can’t have a stash of picked tomatoes sitting there waiting for customers.  Gardeners must take their produce elsewhere and sell it, or contract with people through consumer-supported agriculture-type arrangements.  My guess is that this barrier will increasingly, and informally, be breached.

The bill does not permit raising livestock in the city, which I think is another prohibition that will soon fall.   Currently, if you have a few rabbits, chickens, or pigeons in your backyard, you have to be able to pass them off as “pets”–but who’s going to notice where your breakfast egg comes from, or complain if one of your “pets” disappears and ends up on the dinner table?  Is this what the National Animal Identification System is intended to enforce?

“Mrs. Jones, we’re from Animal Control and we noticed that the transponder on one of your chickens went dead yesterday.  Here’s our search warrant–why don’t you just tell us: where’s the body?”  Yeah, right…

Backyard animal raising is a more complex issue, in some ways, because animals, unlike plants, sometimes make noises and create odors that are annoying to neighbors. Perhaps the way to deal with this would be to allow people to keep animals if all or most of a neighborhood is in agreement. It’s certainly worth discussing. What do you think, Metro Council members? Are you ready for the next bold step in local food security?

Now, besides food production, another tightly regulated part of the American urban scene is housing, which in our economic model is privately owned, or often privately owed rather than owned.  As the economy has begun to stumble (and you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!), many people have fallen behind in their house payments or been unable to come up with their rent money and been evicted, frequently resulting, at first, in perfectly good houses standing empty.  I say “at first” because often these empty houses are broken into and stripped of anything salvageable, such as copper pipes.  They then become derelict shells that all too often get bulldozed, since we’re not yet desperate enough for building materials to take them apart stud by stud.  Soon come, soon come.

But meanwhile, the stupid logic of private property dictates that these houses must stand empty while their former occupants, already unable to afford  to keep a roof over their heads, have to seek shelter elsewhere.  Many move in with friends and relatives, which is kind of  good, since one of the things we as a culture need to relearn is how to get along with each other and share close quarters, but that’s a lesson better learned voluntarily.  Some people who are evicted don’t have family or friends who can make room for them, and become homeless.

We can contrast this peculiar behavior with what happened during the breakdown of the Soviet Union.  Since all housing was government owned, people were not made homeless due to their inability to earn money.

Or we can contrast it with the third world, where, from Sao Paulo to Calcutta, the poor scavenge together shelter from whatever they can find, and create vast cities-within-cities.  Whenever homeless people in the US start to do that, the codes department soon shows up with a bulldozer and “cleans it up.”  Property rights and appearances are still paramount in America.  They trump compassion every time.

It would be great if we could change that and allow people a little freedom to create a roof over their heads if we as a community are otherwise unable to provide them with one.  That’s a big step down the road from legalizing community gardens, and I don’t expect Councilman Holliman to propose it next month or even next year, but we are going to have to start examining all the ways in which unreasonable expectations create unsolvable problems–whether in the area of food, housing, or personal behavior–and don’t get me started on that topic!

Hopefully enough people will realize that it’s easier and more compassionate to change our expectations and relax the law than it is to try and keep a tight rein on  things and create criminals ex nihilo.  We’ve got enough real problems to deal with already.

music:  Incredible String Band, “Big Ted


5 02 2009

We have a tie for the “Truth in Strange Places” award this month.  I was going to give it to Antonio Maria Costa, head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, a guy who is usually so slippery that if he said the sun was shining I’d look to check.  However, I believe he gave us the real straight dope last month when he said, in an interview with Austria’s Profil magazine,

“The drug trade at this time could be the only growth industry …The money that is being made is flowing only partly back into illegal activities, in parts of Asia, Africa, and South America, where it is used to bribe politicians, buy elections, or finance insurgents, such as the Talibans in Afghanistan, the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka, or the FARC in Colombia, for example.”

The rest of the profit, Costa said, “is fed into the legal economic circulation through money laundering. We do not know how much, but the volume is imposing. As such, seen from the macroeconomic effect, this is simply bringing in investment capital. There are indications that these funds also ended up in the finance sector, which has been under obvious pressure since the second half of last year. In many instances, drug money is currently the only liquid investment capital, to buy real estate, for example,” Costa continued. “In the second half of 2008, liquidity was the banking system’s main problem and hence liquid capital became an important factor.”

When pressed on just how this was accomplished, Costa responded: “It appears that interbank credits have been financed by money which comes from the drug trade and other illegal activities. It is naturally hard to prove this, but there are indications that a number of banks were rescued by this means.”

Costa noted that money laundering controls put in place to stop drug trafficking have “ironically” resulted in drug traffickers sitting on large stashes of cash — the ultimate liquid financial instrument. “To get around the electronic surveillance of bank transactions, now criminals stash their funds in cash sums which can be up to hundreds of millions of dollars. This is the way they try to hold these funds liquid.”

Thanks to StopTheDrugWar.org for what you just heard/read.  Now, I’ve hearing this for years from Catherine Austin Fitts,  but as a social scientist of sorts, I have an easier time believing things when they are, as it were, proved in different laboratories with different priorities, and I don’t think that you can get much more difference than these two and still stay credible.

Senor Costas shares this month’s award with U.S. House of Representatives member Marcy Kaptur, who is the senior member of the Ohio House delegation and the longest-serving woman in the U.S. Congress, who told Amy Goodman and anyone else who would listen, not to surrender their home in the event of a foreclosure:

possession is nine-tenths of the law; therefore, stay in your property.

Get proper legal representation. If you believe that Wall Street has been deceptive, could have been fraudulent or tried to dupe the public, and with these subprime loans and with the kind of circuitous financing that’s been done, Wall Street cannot produce the deed nor the mortgage audit trail, you need a lawyer.

And you should stay in your home. It is your castle. It’s more than a piece of property. It’s your home….

I’m recommending your Legal Aid Society. Call your local bar association or the national number, (888) 995-HOME. Most people don’t even think about getting representation, because they get a piece of paper from the bank, and they go, “Oh, it’s the bank,” and they become fearful, rather than saying, “Oh, wait a minute. This is contract law. The mortgage is a contract. I am one party. There is another party. What are my legal rights under the law as a property owner?” And many times, they are abrogating their own rights. They’re forgetting that they have rights in this proceeding. And they need to exercise those legal rights.

In case you missed it, Representative Kaptur was pointing out back in there that banks are all too frequently foreclosing on properties that, due to the “slicing and dicing” of the mortgage market prior to our current financial collapse, they do not actually have clear title to–that is, the deed to the property that the homeowner surrendered as collateral for the mortgage loan.  The devil is in the details, they say, but so is the savior.  Continuing to roar like a radical lion, Ms. Kaptur continued,

You know, when this mess started, when the meltdown really started back last year, 75 percent even of the subprime loans were performing. That means people were making their payments. What Washington has done and what Wall Street has done has made it so much worse….

I think that Wall Street really didn’t want (too be investigated), and they were powerful enough, in order to help to pass a bill, scaring Congress right before the election, before a new president was elected last fall, that they really put all the power in the Treasury Department, which isn’t a housing agency. It really doesn’t do bank regulation in the same way that the FDIC does, nor oversight. Treasury really works with Wall Street. They basically sell US debt. There’s a real circuit that goes between Wall Street and Washington, the Capitol, the US Treasury Department. So they used the wrong agency.
They brought in people from the very companies, like Goldman Sachs, to run the Treasury that had been one of the agencies—one of the companies that was going under, so they made it into a bank holding company. You can follow the trail of what they did. Meanwhile, they’re protecting their interests on Wall Street. And here on Main Street, the so-called bailout that they were given hasn’t trickled down. And so, millions and millions of families are getting foreclosure notices.

There’s plenty more where that came from on the Democracy Now website.  It’s reassuring to know that there are some honest people in Congress…her and Dennis Kucinich, maybe a few more.  It’s not too early to begin looking to 2010, and how to break the Democratic Leadership Council”s stranglehold on  the Democrat party, and how to break the two-party system’s lock on the American mind.   Obama could be the reincarnation of Jesus, Buddha, and Bucky Fuller rolled into one, but as long as the legislative branch keeps on being as venal and shortsighted as it still is, JIM COOPER, he would not be able to get the first piece of sane policy through Congress, which continues to be a whore for big money, and has been a whore for big money for so long that most Congresspeople can’t imagine doing anything else.  Two words:  Green Party.

Rave on, Marcy Kaptur!  May your tribe increase.

music:  Eliza Gilkyson, Runaway Train

still more stories to watch

9 01 2008

i used to save these stories to files on my computer, then pull them out to write my stories, but i’ve decided to post the links, with comments, instead…probably shoulda done this months ago, but i’m slow to change sometimes….when i started writing these, i didn’t even put in links at all!

anyway, this one comes via www.climatecrisiscoalition.org, and it tells us how sincere the Bush junta’s reps were when they said after being booed in Bali that they’d go along with efforts to curb global warming:

EPA stonewalling Barbara Boxer’s investigation of its denial of a waiver for California and other states

some good news from the same source:

Community-Owned Wind Power Development Planned in North Dakota.

popular rebellion? A judge in Ohio has ruled that owners of CDOs have no right to foreclose and evict people from their homes…

just how fast is Greenland melting? And what will it mean to live in an era of rapidly rising sea level?

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