Primark opening flop in Dresden

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

In Dresden, in the former German Democratic Republic, now annexed by West Germany, the opening of a Primark store, the first in this ancient city, and also one of the first in the former East Germany (GDR), on November 19, 2014, was more or less a total flop. The expected crowds stayed away almost completely.

Whether it has to do with the people of Dresden are being more ethically minded than those in other parts, especially of West Germany, and avoided the store for that reason, or whether they the mindset of the old East still exists to some degree, or whether it is for another reason is not something that can be ascertained, fact is, however, they stayed away and the store was almost devoid of customers, with staff outnumbering customers by ten to one or more even.

Expected were in the region of 20,000 people through the doors upon opening but nothing happened. The only people queuing were two teenage girls. And those two customers, at this opening, were outnumbered by staff and security personnel, the latter who were supposed to keep the crowd in check.

Primark claims to be able to sell its clothing so very – one could say dirt – cheap because of high volume and low profit margin. The truth appears to be another one, as we have already discovered, namely that they goods are produced in Third World countries where workers are exploited and where they work for very little wages in often dangerous conditions.

Whether it was the weather, or the fact that the opening was on a weekday, or that the people in that city really have begun to return more to the ways that they and their parents have known, namely that of a more caring society under GDR socialism, that led to the flop of the opening is anyone's guess.

But, I firmly believe that we should send that company and others a message by staying away as much as possible from that kind of outlets that sell goods that are made on the backs of the poor in Third World countries.

And not buying that much is a good move on other levels too, not least the environment and our wallets.

© 2014

Building Super Soil

Garden soilSoil is the crucial building block for a city farm. Learn how to build healthy soil to nourish your farm garden.

When it comes to urban gardening, your soil will either make you or break you. To nurture healthy soil that will provide nutrients to your garden’s crop, understand what your soil is made of and how you can improve its structure.

Soil Components

In order to understand how best to care for the soil, it’s important to know what’s in it. Every sample of soil contains the same basic ingredients in relatively the same proportions.

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North Dakota Finds Itself Unprepared To Handle The Radioactive Burden Of Its Fracking Boom

Bags full of radioactive waste in an abandoned North Dakota building.North Dakota recently discovered piles of garbage bags containing radioactive waste dumped by oil drillers in abandoned buildings. Now, the state is trying to catch up to an oil industry that produces an estimated 27 tons of radioactive debris from wells daily.

Existing fines have apparently not been enough to deter contractors from dumping oil socks — coiled filters that strain wastewater and accumulate low levels of radiation.

“Before the Bakken oil boom we didn’t have any of these materials being generated,” the state’s Director of Waste Management Scott Radig told the Wall Street Journal. “So it wasn’t really an issue.”

The state is in the process of drafting rules, out in June, that require oil companies to properly store the waste in leak-proof containers. Eventually, they must move these oil socks to certified dumps. However, North Dakota has no facilities to process this level of radioactive waste. According to the Wall Street Journal, the closest facilities are hundreds of miles away in states like Idaho, Colorado, Utah, and Montana.

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This could happen anywhere where fracking will be allowed. Are we prepared too having to deal with the aftermath just to get more fossil fuel to burn? Ed.

Finding Takers for Lonely Leftovers in a Culinary Nook of the Sharing Economy

BERLIN — Fresh from a bracing workout at the gym, Anton Kaiser gazed hungrily into a refrigerator, considering arugula, pineapple jam, salted butter and two bags of green grapes before reaching for a white bread roll, baked that morning. “I haven’t eaten all day,” he said, “so it’s great.”

Perhaps best of all, it was free, available in the middle of a graffitied courtyard in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin. Like the rest of the offerings in this so-called food sharing refrigerator, Mr. Kaiser’s bread roll would, under normal circumstances, have gone straight into the trash.

But in Germany, where concern about wasted food has mounted in recent years, such refrigerators — stocked with leftovers from private parties and restaurants, and open to the public — are just one of several initiatives aimed at keeping edibles out of the garbage.

There are roughly 100 of these food sharing sites in Germany. About 50 have refrigerators, and the rest are just shelves. They are a small, offline branch of, a two-year-old Internet platform that gives members a chance to connect with other food sharers online, should they find themselves in possession of an extra cabbage or, as one Foodsharing post put it, “too many delicious organic potatoes for one person to eat.”

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How to Use Lambsquarter from Root to Plant to Seed

Some people might take one look at a patch of lambsquarter and yank it out of the ground to rid their garden or yard of an undesirable weed. Not wild-foods advocate and author Katrina Blair. At her home in Durango, CO, she tends to her lambsquarter and a number of other so-called weeds with the utmost care.

Why, you ask? Because according to Blair’s extensive research weeds are entirely misunderstood plants. In her new book, The Wild Wisdom of Weeds, she focuses on the thirteen plants which together comprise a complete food source and extensive medical pharmacy and first-aid kit.

Blair’s philosophy is sobering, realistic, and ultimately optimistic. If we can open our eyes to see the wisdom found in these weeds right under our feet, instead of trying to eradicate an “invasive,” we could potentially achieve true food security and optimal health.

Lambsquarter is one of Blair’s 13 “super weeds.” You can blend its leaves into a green juice, sprout its quinoa-like seeds and use them in a salad, mash its roots into a cleansing soap, and more. In the following excerpt, learn all about the edible and medicinal uses of lambsquarter and find recipes for a variety of lambsquarter-based foods and products.

Happy foraging!

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Welfare reform reinforces growing class prejudice reminiscent of Victorian era

Welfare reform reinforces growing class prejudice reminiscent of Victorian era• Study finds people believe work is plentiful and unemployment is a lifestyle choice
• Evidence of an alarming intolerance towards disabled people, with questions over legitimacy of benefits
• Government rhetoric on ‘scroungers’ likely to reinforce these attitudes

British society is becoming increasingly intolerant of unemployed people and other disadvantaged groups, according to academics at the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI).

A study by the University of Sheffield has found there is a growing sense that unemployment is caused by individuals’ personal failings, rather than by structural problems in the economy.

People tend to believe that work is plentiful, and that unemployment was therefore a lifestyle choice, rather than an imposition, and that poverty therefore results from moral deficiencies.

The research also highlighted an alarming intolerance towards disabled people, with participants questioning the legitimacy of benefits for disabled people deemed incapable of working.

It is clear that the derogatory term ‘chav’ remains in popular usage. Middle class research participants tended to identify and condemn ‘chav’ culture so as to validate and re-affirm their own superior social position. Working class respondents were more likely to identify and condemn ‘chav’ culture in order to distinguish themselves from it.

We appear to be witnessing the re-emergence of traditional distinctions between the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor, associated with the Victorian era.

This research identifies contemporary attitudes to the unemployed by drawing on a series of case studies conducted in Leeds, in Northern England. The evidence presented here is based on 90 interviews which were conducted with participants from a variety of different social classes and ethnic backgrounds.

The Coalition government’s welfare policies are in part a response to the kind of popular prejudices identified in the research. However, government rhetoric on welfare ‘scroungers’ is likely to reinforce these attitudes – focussing blame for poverty on individuals rather than on wider structural problems in Britain’s increasingly low-pay, low-skill economy.

There is in fact a danger that misplaced fears and prejudices relating to welfare claimants will present a threat to social cohesion, potentially legitimising policies which might exacerbate, rather than alleviate, social inequality.

Professor Gill Valentine, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Sheffield and author of the report, said: “The evidence is mounting that the coalition government’s austerity agenda has been targeted at the poorest groups in society rather than the most affluent.

“This research shows that this is reinforcing prejudicial and intolerant attitudes towards the most disadvantaged members of society, as the government has been successful in individualising the causes of poverty and unemployment, and marginalising the socio-economic determinants of hardship.”

The full report can be viewed at .

Today’s publication is the eight in a new series of SPERI British Political Economy Briefs. Through this series SPERI hopes to draw upon the expertise of its academic researchers to influence the debate in the UK on sustainable economic recovery.

Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute

The Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI) is an academic institute based at the University of Sheffield. The institute aims to bring together leading international researchers, policy-makers, journalists and opinion formers to develop new ways of thinking about the economic and political challenges posed for the whole world by the current combination of financial crisis, shifting economic power and environmental threat.

The University of Sheffield

With almost 26,000 of the brightest students from around 120 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world’s leading universities.

A member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.

Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in.

In 2014 it was voted number one university in the UK for Student Satisfaction by Times Higher Education and in the last decade has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes in recognition of the outstanding contribution to the United Kingdom’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life.

Sheffield has five Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.

Global research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, AstraZeneca, Glaxo SmithKline, Siemens and Airbus, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.

Source: University of Sheffield

Food Forests Could Bring Healthy Organic Food To Everyone – For Free

food_forestFood forests or Forest gardening have been around for a long time with many of the native cultures practicing this form of sustainable agriculture. It is a form of low-maintenance plant-based food production which replicates natural ecosystems, incorporating fruit and nut trees, shrubs, herbs, running vines and perennial vegetables. Beneficial plants and companion planting is a big part of the food forest system.

Unlike much of the modern industrial agricultural system which relies heavily of inputs such as fossil fuels and artificial herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers, a food forest once established is self-regulating and highly abundant in yield.

Why Food Forests?

  • Forests are home to approximately 50-90% of all the world’s terrestrial (land-living) biodiversity — including the pollinators and wild relatives of many agricultural crops (Source: WWF Living Planet Report 2010)
  • Tropical forests alone are estimated to contain between 10-50 million species - over 50% of species on the planet.
  • Rainforests cover 2% of the Earth’s surface and 6% of its land mass, yet they are home to over half of the world’s plant and animal species.

It is evident that forests themselves are synonymous with life, biodiversity and fertility. Where life gathers, complex and mutually beneficial relationships are created between organisms; natural harmonious communities form, and life forms multiply and proliferate. If forests are where most of the life on the planet is, then anything less than a forest is most likely less suited to supporting life. Life supports life, yet we have forgotten that we are in fact part of the web of life itself, and depend on other life to sustain ours.(1)

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Ambrogio Lorenzetti – Allegory of Good GovernmentIn the first part of the series “The Quest for New Value(s)”, I argued that the collaborative economy was a convenient “catch-all” concept, utterly insufficient to create a new paradigm shift all by itself. Yet we fiercely need a paradigm shift. My take is that the true paradigm shifter we are looking for is less the collaborative economy than its indirect impact on our social organization and our culture. Although less visible, they have the power to profoundly upset the current social order and are the key to what, at OuiShare, we call a collaborative society.

It’s time to explore what this collaborative society we started talking about a few months ago is. The consequence of this adventure is quite obviously the end of consensus: there is no guarantee that the social visions each one of cherishes are one and the same.

The “collaborative economy” and “collaborative society” approaches are peculiarly different: the latter is prescriptive while the former is descriptive. Having the ambition to build a collaborative society implies that we have at least a set of principles, values, beliefs, wishes, in one word, an affirmative vision for which we could fight for. Some would call it an ideology. I am certain most of you would prefer to avoid to talk about ideology altogether because of its heavy historical burden. But thinking about society exclusively in economic terms is actually the most hidden and perfidious form of ideology, and it’s called neoliberalism. This ideology’s biggest asset consists in disguising its set of values and beliefs under alleged rational and scientific terms. Maybe talking openly about the ideology associated to a collaborative society is more honest, yet more dangerous.

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7 Crops to Kick Off Your Spring Garden

Is your green thumb itching to get gardening again? These cold-loving crops will help you get the growing season started.

7 Crops to Kick Off Your Spring Garden - Photo by Stephen Ticehurst/Flickr ( of us gardeners eagerly anticipate getting our hands in the dirt after a long winter indoors. To get a jump on the spring growing season requires a bit of planning, as well as knowledge of cold-tolerant vegetables and season extension techniques.

A key is to prepare the soil in the fall, so you can begin planting seeds in the spring as soon as the soil has completely thawed and warmed to the seed variety’s minimum temperature for germination. Keep in mind that heavy soils, such as clay, compact when worked while wet, preventing drainage. Allow them to dry out adequately before working them, especially if you didn’t prepare them in the fall.

Growing crops that germinate at cooler soil temperatures also helps you get an early start. (It also helps if they can withstand unexpected late frosts, though isn’t necessary if you use row covers or cold frames when the temperature is expected to dip below freezing.) To determine the soil temperature, stick a soil thermometer about 1 inch deep into the soil and allow it to stabilize. If it’s at the minimum recommended temperature, it’s time to kick off planting your spring garden. Here are seven crops to try.

1. Beets (Beta vulgaris subsp. vulgaris)

Some beet varieties, like heirloom Chioggia, mature in as little as 45 days, making them ideal for an early crop. When soil has warmed to 40 degrees F, plant seeds 3/4 inch deep, 1 inch apart, in rows spaced 12 to 18 inches apart. When seedlings are 4 inches tall, thin them to 4 to 6 inches apart by cutting off the tops. Don’t pull seedlings, as this might uproot nearby plants you want to keep.

Beets tolerate soil low in nutrients but need even water to prevent becoming bitter, so keep soil moist, but not soggy, throughout the growing season.

Begin harvesting beets when they reach 1 inch in diameter, or if you want larger crops, wait until they reach 3 inches in size. Larger beets can become pithy. Beets can withstand light frost, but should be harvested before the heat of summer, which slows sugar production, making them less palatable.

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More than village gossip: how hyperlocal journalism is reinvigorating communities

Citizen JournalistAs local newspapers close and budget cuts put increasing pressure on remaining journalists, the hyperlocal journalism movement is stepping up to provide the services communities rely on. Nicola Slawson finds out more

For 126 years there had been a local newspaper in Fulham and Hammersmith. The first issue, which came out on 6 April 1888, featured a story about an accident involving a local boy who had been delivering milk on Dawes Road. In April 2014 the Hammersmith and Fulham Chronicle was closed, leaving 180,000 people without a local newspaper.

Some, including the local council, were shocked when owners Trinity Mirror announced their decision. But some 242 local newspapers were closed between 2007 and 2011, according to the Press Gazette. More newspapers are being added to this figure each year. And it’s not just closures that are causing waves in local journalism; budget cuts and redundancies are putting increased pressure on remaining staff.

It’s in this environment that a new sector is fast emerging. Known as ‘hyperlocal’, or community journalism, thousands of websites have been set up across the UK serving local communities.

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