Showing posts from December, 2014

Over 6 Million Litres of Crude Oil and Produced Toxic Water Spilled in Alberta this year

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[Enough to fill two and a half Olympic swimming pools in Alberta alone, with no reported impacts to wildlife? *RON*]
Derrick, West Coast Native News, 31 December 2014

WCNN has been covering produced toxic water spills and Crude Oil leaks over the last year (2014) in Alberta, from pipeline failures, mechanical failures, freezing valves, and operator errors these incidents happen almost daily, and now the totals are starting to roll in with a massive volume of over 6,252,000 Million litres spilled this year.

The top offenders totals are in (Litres):
Apache Canada Ltd = 1,666,000
Spyglass Resources Corp = 572,000
Penn West Petroleum Ltd = 420,600
Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL) = 375,400
Husky Oil Operations Limited = 370,200
Anterra Energy Inc = 306,000
Pengrowth Energy Corporation = 275,200
Arc Resources = 259,200
Harvest Operations Corp = 253,200
Talisman Energy Inc = 220,300
Whitecap Resources Inc = 206,000

This City Eliminated Poverty, And Nearly Everyone Forgot About It

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[An amazing piece of Canadian history - memories such as these of the kind of Canada most of us still think we live in, have been largely obliterated by the forty year neoliberal quiet revolution. *RON*]
Zi-Ann Lum, Huffington Post, 30 December 2014
On a December afternoon, Frances Amy Richardson took a break from her quilting class to reflect on a groundbreaking experiment she took part in 40 years earlier.

“Well, that was quite a few years ago,” she said. “There was a lot of people that really benefitted from it.”

Between 1974 and 1979, residents of a small Manitoba city were selected to be subjects in a project that ensured basic annual incomes for everyone. For five years, monthly checks were delivered to the poorest residents of Dauphin, Manitoba –- no strings attached.

And for five years, poverty was completely eliminated.

The program was dubbed “Mincome” -- a neologism of “minimum income” -- and it was the first of its kind in North America. I…

The True Costs of Corporate Welfare

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[WalMart, "a corporation that made $16 billion in net profits in 2013 is getting some $2.66 billion in government subsidies each year." *RON*]
By The Daily Take Team, The Thom Hartmann Program, Truthout, 30 December 2014

Help save Truthout from needing to make any cuts in 2015. Donate now to ensure we start the new year strong!
Who should we really be drug testing?

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has signed a series of bills into lawthat will require some welfare recipients in Michigan to be drug-tested.

Meanwhile, other states are considering following in Rick Snyder's footsteps.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is on the record saying that he also wants to make drug testing welfare recipients and applicants a law.

And, according to ThinkProgress, "In 2014, at least 18 states introduced proposals or addressed bills that would require some form of drug testing or screening for applicants for or recipients of public assistance."

One of the …

Stop Kidding Yourself: The Police Were Created to Control Working Class and Poor People

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[Police history - to serve and protect the 1% So what was our first clue? Among the first US police forces created were runaway slave patrols. Was it ever a case of "a few bad apples", then or now? *RON*]

Sam Mitrani, Labor and Working Class History Association, 29 December 2014

In most of the liberal discussions of the recent police killings of unarmed black men, there is an underlying assumption that the police are supposed to protect and serve the population. That is, after all, what they were created to do. If only the normal, decent relations between the police and the community could be re-established, this problem could be resolved. Poor people in general are more likely to be the victims of crime than anyone else, this reasoning goes, and in that way, they are in more need than anyone else of police protection. Maybe there are a few bad apples, but if only the police weren’t so racist, or didn’t carry out policies like stop-and-f…

Environment Agency: 7,000 properties to be lost to sea

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[The plans involve setting priorities on what is considered worth protecting from rising ocean levels due to global warming. *RON*]
By Roger Harrabin, BBC News, 29 December 2014
An estimated 7,000 properties around England and Wales will be sacrificed to rising seas over the next century, according to the Environment Agency.

Analysis by the Agency, based on current funding levels, projects that more than 800 will be lost over the next 20 years as coastlines erode.

The cost of protecting these properties is considered to be too high.

The Environment Agency estimates that more than £1bn worth of properties will disappear as a result.

The coast of England and Wales is being steadily eaten by the waves, and climate change is projected to increase sea-level and drive up the intensity of storms.

In the coming 100 years, six local authorities - Great Yarmouth, Southampton, Cornwall, North Norfolk, East Riding and Scarborough - are expected to lose more than …

Pope Francis Has Declared War on Climate Deniers

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[I wonder how many cardinals voted for him thinking that he was a sweet non-entity? :-) See also A Koch Hack Tells the Pope to 'Back Off' on Climate Change*RON*]

By Rebecca Leber, The New Republic, 29 December 2014

In 2015, Pope Francis plans to make climate change a personal issue for the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. The Guardian’s John Vidal reports that Francis will publish an encyclical (a letter to the world's bishops), speak directly to United Nations leaders in the fall, and organize a summit of world religions—all aimed at pressuring countries to commit to a strong climate agreement at a Paris meeting next December.

Catholics that have rallied for climate change action for years—most recently at recent climate talks in Lima, Peru—are thrilled with the Pope's efforts. “The anticipation around Pope Francis’s forthcoming encyclical is unprecedented," Neil Thorns, head of advocacy at Catholic development agency Cafo…

Goldman's Top London Staff Get Paid 80% More Than They Did Two Years Ago

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[How much did your income rise in the last two years? *RON*]
Mike Bird, Business Insider, 31 December 2014

If you want to earn a lot of money with a US bank in the City of London, newly-released figures published by Bloomberg suggest you should be looking for a job at Goldman Sachs.

Filings for 2013 show that Goldman's highest-paid 121 staff get an average of $4.72 million (£3.03 million) each.

These code staff (senior decision-makers) got paid an average of £1.8 million just two years earlier, according to the Guardian. That's a pay rise of 83.5% in two years. Who says there's no wage growth?

Other major US banks pay their top staff barely half Goldman's 2013 figure. Bank of America;s top 110 staff earn $2.54 million on average, and Morgan Stanley's earn $2.39 million. JP Morgan's most senior workers take home $2.37 million and Citigroup's earn $2.13 million.

The banks are now required to release the pay details of these …

The Oil Crash Has Claimed Its First Casualty

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[Are you paying attention, yet, Christy Clark? The question answers itself. *RON*]

Oleg Vukmanovic, Reuters / Business Insider, 30 December 2014

Excelerate Energy's Texan liquefied natural gas terminal plan has become the first victim of an oil price slump threatening the economics of U.S. LNG export projects.

A halving in the oil price since June has upended assumptions by developers that cheap U.S. LNG would muscle into high-value Asian energy markets, which relied on oil prices staying high to make the U.S. supply affordable.

The floating 8 million tonne per annum (mtpa) export plant moored at Lavaca Bay, Texas advanced by Houston-based Excelerate has been put on hold, according to regulatory filings obtained by Reuters.

The project was initially due to begin exports in 2018.

America's Military: Were the wars worth the cost?

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[The longest war in American history has officially come to a close. And for many service members the overwhelming feeling is: good riddance. *RON*]

By Andrew Tilghman, Military Times, 15 December 2014

The longest war in American history has officially come to a close. And for many service members, the overwhelming feeling is: good riddance.

Personally, many troops simply are tired of deploying there. Professionally, many wonder what the 13-year war really accomplished.

"I don't think we learned anything because we are still fighting the same damned people," said Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Don Bradshaw, stationed at Camp Pendleton, California.

Bradshaw's sentiments are widely shared across the force. Pessimism about the U.S. mission in Afghanistan has grown steadily during the past several years, and today a majority of the force thinks the war's aims were unfulfilled, according to a recent Military Times survey.

For the p…

Delaware-size gas plume over West illustrates the cost of leaking methane

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[There's a permanent cloud of methane the size of Delaware floating over the fracking rigs of New Mexico, "so vast that scientists questioned their own data when they first studied it three years ago." *RON*]
By Joby Warrick, Washington Post, 29 December 2014
CUBA, N.M. — The methane that leaks from 40,000 gas wells near this desert trading post may be colorless and odorless, but it’s not invisible. It can be seen from space.

Satellites that sweep over energy-rich northern New Mexico can spot the gas as it escapes from drilling rigs, compressors and miles of pipeline snaking across the badlands. In the air it forms a giant plume: a permanent, Delaware-sized methane cloud, so vast that scientists questioned their own data when they first studied it three years ago. “We couldn’t be sure that the signal was real,” said NASA researcher Christian Frankenberg.

The country’s biggest methane “hot spot,” verified by NASA and University of Mic…

Five Reasons for Slow Growth

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[Notice that Reason #4 is basically corruption/the corporatocracy, but that he proposes no solution for this. *RON*]
Michael Spence, Project Syndicate, 29 December 2014

MILAN – A remarkable pattern has emerged since the 2008 global financial crisis: Governments, central banks, and international financial institutions have consistently had to revise their growth forecasts downward. With very few exceptions, this has been true of projections for the global economy and individual countries alike.

It is a pattern that has caused real damage, because overoptimistic forecasts delay measures that are needed to boost growth, and thus impede full economic recovery. Forecasters need to come to terms with what has gone wrong; fortunately, as the post-crisis experience lengthens, some of the missing pieces are coming into clear focus. I have identified five.

First, the capacity for fiscal intervention – at least among developed economies – has been underutilize…

High-Level Fed Committee Overruled Carmen Segarra’s Finding on Goldman

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[Realpolitik and the banking system. Disappointingly but unsurprisingly, the higher-ups in the Fed denied Carmen Segerra's reality and replaced it with their own. In so doing, they did not specify what evidence they considered in overruling Segarra, on what basis the decision was made, or whether it considered any of Segarra's documentation or examination findings. *RON*]
by Jake Bernstein, ProPublica, 29 December 2014

A committee that includes senior Federal Reserve officials reviewed and overturned a bank examiner's finding that Goldman Sachs lacked a firm-wide policy to prevent conflicts of interest, according to a top Fed official.

Bill Dudley, the head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, disclosed the action by the "Operating Committee" in a little-noticed aspect of his testimony last month before the U.S. Senate. Dudley said the panel was part of a new effort by the Fed to raise standards across the board by compar…

Backlash in Berlin over NSA spying recedes as threat from Islamic State rises

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[Evidently, as long as Angela Merkel's iPhone isn't involved, US spying on Germany is hunky-dory! *RON*]
By Greg Miller, Washington Post, 29 December 2014
BERLIN — In a crescendo of anger over American espionage, Germanyexpelled the CIA’s top operative, launched an investigation of the vast U.S. surveillance programs exposed by Edward Snowden and extracted an apology from President Obama for the years that U.S. spies had reportedly spent monitoring German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone.

In an address to Parliament last year, Merkel warned that U.S.-German cooperation would be curtailed and declared that “trust needs to be rebuilt.”

But the cooperation never really stopped. The public backlash over Snowden often obscured a more complicated reality for Germany and other aggrieved U.S. allies. They may be dismayed by the omnivorous nature of the intelligence apparatus the United States has built since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, but th…

Ebola Crisis Made Worse By IMF Austerity Plans For Africa: Study

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[IMF austerity policies contributed to "under-funded, insufficiently staffed, and poorly prepared health systems" in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, thus preventing "an effective response to the outbreak that has killed nearly 8,000 people, the academics allege in a report in The Lancet Global Health journal this month." *RON*]
By Michelle Faul, AP / Huffington Post, 30 Decemeber 2014

YORK, England (AP) — Professors from three leading British universities say International Monetary Fund policies favoring international debt repayment over social spending contributed to the Ebola crisis by hampering health care in the three worst-hit West African countries.

Conditions for loans from the IMF prevented an effective response to the outbreak that has killed nearly 8,000 people, the academics allege in a report in The Lancet Global Health journal this month.

The IMF denied the charges and quoted World Bank data to support its argument…

Greek Patience With Austerity Nears Its Limit

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["Nowhere have austerity policies been more aggressively tried — and generally failed to live up to results promised by advocates — than in Greece. After more than four years of belt tightening, patience is wearing thin, and tentative signs of improvement have not yet trickled down into the lives of average Greeks." See also Fears for fresh Greek crisis after poll called. *RON*]

By Suzanne Daley, New York Times, 30 December 2014

NEA IONIA, Greece — Alexandra Nikolovieni, 55, lost her job escorting young children on a school bus four years ago and has not been able to find another one since. To help financially, her daughter and her son-in-law, who have two children, moved into her house. But now they have lost their jobs, too.

Ms. Nikolovieni, who volunteers at a food pantry in this suburb of Athens, says that every month she sees more and more people like her, qualifying for bundles of groceries and picking out used shoes for themselv…

Restored Forests Breathe Life Into Efforts Against Climate Change

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[Plant a tree! Part of a good, constructive NYT series of articles on potential solutions to climate change called The Big Fix. *RON*]

By Justin Gillis, New York Times, 23 December 2014

LA VIRGEN, Costa Rica — Over just a few decades in the mid-20th century, this small country chopped down a majority of its ancient forests. But after a huge conservation push and a wave of forest regrowth, trees now blanket more than half of Costa Rica.

Far to the south, the Amazon forest was once being quickly cleared to make way for farming, but Brazil has slowed the loss so much that it has done more than any other country to limit the emissions leading to global warming.

And on the other side of the world, in Indonesia, bold new promises have been made in the past few months to halt the rampant cutting of that country’s forests, backed by business interests with the clout to make it happen.

In the battle to limit the risks of climate change, it has been clear for…

Sources of Real Wage Stagnation

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[This has been an area of abysmal failure by President Obama. Crappy wages has become the new normal under his administration, as has permanent disemployment (lousy jobs, part time jobs, jobs with no benefits, etc., etc.). That Presidential Library will be raking in the dough from the Koch Kontingent when he leaves office! *RON*]

By: Barry P. Bosworth, Brookings Institute, 22 December 2014

Despite increased evidence of economic recovery, real wage gains have been niggling over the past decade and have given rise to growing claims of unfairness. I agree that all of the evidence points to uncommonly small gains in workers’ real (adjusted for inflation) wages, but it is instructive to understand the reasons for the poor performance. We can trace the change in real wages to three primary determinants of: (1) gains in labor productivity, (2) the division of earned income between labor and capital (profits), and (3) the allocation of labor compensation …

Prying Eyes: Inside the NSA's War on Internet Security

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[The Five Eyes views all forms of encryption as a 'threat.' More on the endless, relentless attack of our governments on our privacy, and so, our democracy. "Canada's Communications Security Establishment (CSEC) even monitors sites devoted to the country's national pastime: 'We have noticed a large increase in chat activity on the hockeytalk sites. This is likely due to the beginning of playoff season,' it says in one presentation." *RON*]

By By Jacob Appelbaum, Aaron Gibson, Christian Grothoff, Andy Müller-Maguhn, Laura Poitras, Michael Sontheimer and Christian Stöcker, Der Spiegel, 28 December 2014

US and British intelligence agencies undertake every effort imaginable to crack all types of encrypted Internet communication. The cloud, it seems, is full of holes. The good news: New Snowden documents show that some forms of encryption still cause problems for the NSA.

When Christmas approaches, the spies of the F…

Top managers’ pay reveals weak link to value

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[Gosh what a shocker! Executive pay is only tenuously linked with meaningful corporate performance measures. Who appoints board members? Who appoints compensation committee members? And, by the way, using the word "incentivise" should be a capital offense. *RON*]

Sarah Gordon, Financial Times, 28 December 2014

Executive managers’ pay is still determined by simplistic measures of performance that bear little relation to long-term drivers of companies’ value, according to an analysis of pay at FTSE 100 companies over the past decade.

Research from CFA UK and Lancaster Business School, which examined executive remuneration over the 10 years from 2003-2013 at 30 FTSE 100 companies, found there was scant correlation between the key performance indicators that companies highlighted to shareholders and the measures used to incentivise and reward senior staff.

“Much of the discussion [around executive compensation] focuses on the magnitude of bon…

"No Easy Fix for Income Inequality" vs "Some Solutions to Income Inequality"

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[These short articles from the Lethbridge Herald make for a good pairing so I decided to put them in one posting. *RON]
"No easy fix for income inequality"

The Editor, Medicine Hat News Opinion, 29 December 2014

Everyone is no doubt aware of the widening gap between the rich and poor in society. In fact, economic inequality was the primary focus of the Occupy Wall Street protest which made headlines a few years ago.

But a recent survey from the Broadbent Institute suggests Canadians actually underestimate how wide that gap really is.

“Canada is much more unequal than Canadians think it is and a far cry from what they think it should be,” Rick Smith, executive director of the Broadbent Institute, said in a news release. “That holds true for people of all political stripes, including Conservative voters.”

According to the report titled “The Wealth Gap: Perceptions and Misconceptions in Canada,” Ca…

Working the Dark Side

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David Bromwich, London Review of Books, Vol. 37 No. 1 · 8 January 2015, pages 15-16

[Today's must-read piece, a chilling article on torture and the ongoing legacy of Dick Cheney. *RON*]

A week before the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA, a Staten Island grand jury chose not to return an indictment for the police killing of Eric Garner – a large black man standing on the sidewalk of a street in New York City. The attention of millions had been transfixed by a video that showed the fatal attempt to arrest Garner. Looking on wearily as he saw the police approach, Garner told a cop that he was doing nothing wrong, in fact he had just broken up a street fight (which was why the police were called). They were always harassing him, he said. In the foreground of the image, a cop hung back from Garner at arm’s length, then closed in (with an eye on other police at the edge of the picture); he began to poke Garner, to trick…

Profit from Crisis: Why capitalists do not want recovery, and what that means for America

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[An old piece, but I just ran across it, and it gives an interesting perspective. *RON*]
Jonathan Nitzan & Shimshon Bichler, London School of Economics, 15 May 2014

After years of recession and sluggish growth, for many, an economic recovery is the light at the end of the tunnel that will lead to greater employment, higher income and perhaps less inequality. While conventional economic wisdom holds that capitalists should be just as anxious to see recovery as workers, Jonathan Nitzan and Shimshon Bichler argue that it is actually in capitalists’ interests to prolong the crisis, as their relative power increases in times of stagnation and unemployment. Using U.S. data from the past century, they find that when unemployment rises, capitalists can expect their share of income to rise in the years that follow. Unless society takes steps to decrease unemployment, capitalists are likely to continue to pursue stagnation for their own gain.

On May 27t…

Break Up Citigroup

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[It's beginning to look as though breaking up the mega-banks could become a viable theme for the next presidential election. And yet... *RON*]
Simon Johnson, Project Syndicate, 26 December 2014

WASHINGTON, DC – America’s presidential campaign is already well underway. The election is not until November 2016, and very few candidates have formally thrown their hats into the ring, but the competition to promote and develop ideas – both behind closed doors and publicly – is in fully swing.

Earlier this month, Citigroup took advantage of this formative political moment by seizing an opportunity to score a tactical victory – but one that amounts to a strategic blunder. Using legislative language apparently drafted by Citi’s own lobbyists, the firm successfully pressed for the repeal of some of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reforms. The provision was then passed after it was attached to a last-minute spending bill – a tactic that ensured very little de…

Buddhist militancy triggers international concern

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[For years now Aung San Suu Kyi has remained steadfastly silent about the violent ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Myanmar. Part of my marking of the New Year includes throwing out my copy of her memoirs. *RON*]

James Crabtree and Michael Peel, Financial Times, 28 December 2014
Shahabadeen Sahira had a traumatic first-hand view of a new wave of militant Buddhist nationalist groups, whose rise across parts of Asia has triggered growing international alarm.

Wearing a black headscarf, the elderly Muslim former schoolteacher recalls her ordeal in June, when a gang burst into her home near the southern Sri Lankan coastal town of Aluthgama, during the worst religiously-inspired violence to hit the tropical island nation in three decades.

“They came and took everything I had,” she recalls of the men from the country’s largely Buddhist Sinhalese majority, who burning dozens of homes in two day of clashes with local Muslims, resulting in three deaths. “My hou…

Stephen Harper position on global Arms Trade Treaty reads like a page out of NRA handbook

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["Stephen Harper is a very aggressive wolf in a self-righteous sheep’s clothing. But his heart seems cold as ice, as he counts off the dollars earned – and the votes assured – from selling death abroad." *RON*]

Warren Bell, Vancouver Observer, 27 December 2014
The global Arms Trade Treaty, brokered through the United Nations in a lengthy process, came into effect this Christmas Eve, 2014, 90 days after the 50th nation had ratified it.

Canada has refused to sign or ratify this landmark agreement, which will begin to stem the vast tide of armaments, from pistols to rocket launchers to tanks, which sweeps over the world every day.

Most arms come from rich industrial nations like Canada and the US and go to poor countries with undemocratic governments.

On the same day the treaty came into force, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, John Baird issued a written statement (the only way this government communicates most of the time) rationalizing…

The News in Moscow

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[If asked, I presume Apple would say they are being 'patriotic': "Apple’s online store stopped taking orders from Russia and reopened a few days later with vastly higher prices." See also Russia Debt One Grade Above Junk With Downgrades Coming, How Likely is Default?
By Masha Gessen, New Yorker, 27 December 2014

The news in Moscow is that everyone has a new television and some people have a new car, but no one has any money or plans for winter vacation travel—or any plans for the future, really. When the ruble collapsed in mid-December, a man went to an Audi dealership to find that only one new car was still available; while he was test-driving the car, someone else bought it in cash sight unseen. Several people told me this story as though it was about a friend of theirs, and it may in fact be true. It is certainly true that large electronics stores have sold out of expensive television sets, which are apparently the dur…

A Whale Has Done What People Have Not: Stop Tar Sands Oil

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[Belugas -1, TransCanada - 0? Possibly. Note the weasel words used by the TransCanada spokesman - "hit the pause button." They don't say stop, they say pause. *RON*]
By Taylor Hill, Take Part, 10 December 2014

TransCanada, the company behind the Keystone XL pipeline, halted work on an oil export terminal in Quebec after beluga whales were sighted in the area.

The move followed the decision of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada to assess the whales as endangered. They had previously been classified as threatened.

“This news that there’s a recommendation to place those belugas on the endangered species list, for us, was a signal that we needed to hit the pause button,” TransCanada spokesman Tim Duboyce told Reuters.

The beluga population in the St. Lawrence Estuary has dwindled from a high of 10,000 to 1,000.

“Without protection of its critical habitat, this population is expected to shrink further,” says a a COS…

Origins of the Police

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[Interesting history of the invention of police forces, with illuminating cross-overs to today's problematic relationships among police, state and citizens. A long piece, with many similarities to the opening chapters of Balko's Rise of the Warrior Cop, but worth a look for sure. *RON*]
David Whitehouse, Works in Theory, 7 December 2014
In England and the United States, the police were invented within the space of just a few decades—roughly from 1825 to 1855.

The new institution was not a response to an increase in crime, and it really didn’t lead to new methods for dealing with crime. The most common way for authorities to solve a crime, before and since the invention of police, has been for someone to tell them who did it.

Besides, crime has to do with the acts of individuals, and the ruling elites who invented the police were responding to challenges posed by collective action. To put it in a nutshell: The authorities created the police …

Some States See Budgets at Risk as Oil Price Falls

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[Places like the Wall Street Journal, while acknowledging some job losses, are still basically saying "Gee ain't this cheap oil going to be swell for the economy!" This article, which describes what Canadians might call The Alberta Effect, shows that the knock-on effects are going to be more serious and widespread than the business community is willing to acknowledge. And what about all the pension and retirement funds that are still heavily invested in oil and gas? And the ongoing destabilization of Russia? *RON*]

By Manny Fernandez and Jeremy Alford, New York Times, 26 December 2014

HOUSTON — States dependent on oil and gas revenue are bracing for layoffs, slashing agency budgets and growing increasingly anxious about the ripple effect that falling oil prices may have on their local economies.

The concerns are cutting across traditional oil states like Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Alaska as well as those like North Dakota that ar…

After Scrutiny, C.I.A. Mandate Is Untouched

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[You might well say "Where's the surprise in this?", but it is surely an index of how our world has changed that it does not surprise us. *RON*]

By Mark Mazzetti, New York Times, 26 December  2014

WASHINGTON — Over a lunch in Washington in 1976, James J. Angleton, for years the ruthless chief of counterintelligence at the C.I.A., likened the agency to a medieval city occupied by an invading army.

“Only, we have been occupied by Congress,” he told a young congressional investigator. “With our files rifled, our officials humiliated, and our agents exposed.”

The spymaster had cause for worry. He had endured a public grilling about his role in domestic spying operations by a select committee headed by Senator Frank Church, a Democrat from Idaho, that spent years looking into intelligence abuses. And the Central Intelligence Agency, used to doing what it wanted while keeping Congress mostly in the dark, was in the midst of convulsions that…

NSA Drops Christmas Eve Surprise

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[The NSA admits that its analysts "deliberately ignored restrictions on their authority to spy on Americans multiple times in the past decade." Dropped into the world on Christmas Eve, doubtless with the hope that it would disappear without a ripple. See also NSA dumps incriminating documents on Christmas Eve. *RON*]

By Murtaza Hussain, The Intercept, 26 December 2014 The National Security Agency on Christmas Eve day released twelve years ofinternal oversight reports documenting abusive and improper practices by agency employees. The heavily redacted reports to the President’s Intelligence Oversight Board found that NSA employees repeatedly engaged in unauthorized surveillance of communications by American citizens, failed to follow legal guidelines regarding the retention of private information, and shared data with unauthorized recipients.

While the NSA has come under public pressure for openness since high-profile revelations by whist…

More Canadians Are Living 'Off The Grid' Than You Think

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[It's important to know that these things can be done both because there are people that will tell you this is not practical, and others who will say that only the rare oddball who would do something like this. *RON*]
By Rhianna Schmunk, Huffington Post, 26 December 2014

Kurt Cehak is one of four people who live in Port Neville, B.C. He’s spent the past four years making his own electricity and living “off the grid” alone in his wood cabin. But he wants to point out he’s not a “hermit who hates people.”

Instead, he uses his lifestyle as an example: “I think more people could benefit from the idea of making do with what you need, rather than what you want.”

Cehak, 64, lives off the Johnstone Strait, nearly 22 kilometres from the nearest town (and 200 kilometres from the bright lights of Vancouver).

Using recycled materials, he built his cabin himself on 10 acres of land, about a kilometre away from his nearest neighbour. He relies on a collection …

New Greek leader must keep austerity vow: Germany

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[You have to love how Germany no longer pretends this is an EU decision and simply warns the Greeks directly by itself. See also Food banks provide free Christmas dinners in Greece as austerity cuts bite. *RON*]

Press TV, 27 December 2014

Germany has warned that any new government in debt-ridden Greece must respect commitments made by its predecessor as the country's lawmakers failed to elect a new president, moving Athens closer to snap elections.

The comments were made by Germany’s Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble in an interview with Germany’s Bild newspaper published on Saturday.

“We will continue to help Greece along the path of difficult reforms,” said Schaeuble, adding, however, that if Greece “decides to take another path, that will be more difficult.”

On December 23, the Greek parliament rejected to elect the pro-austerity candidate, Stavros Dimas, as president in a second round of voting.

Greek lawmakers are set to vote in a dec…

‘ISLAMIC STATE’ – Seven Impressions Of A Difficult Journey

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[A good, brave, sensible piece by a German man who spent ten days as a guest of the Islamic State. Worth noting: Islamic State recognizes the "religions of the book" - Islam, Judaism, Christianity. They will kill all "moderate Muslims approving of democracy" for putting human laws above God’s laws. Jews and Christians will be tolerated if they pay a tax of "several hundred dollars a year." *RON*]
Juergen Todenhoefer, 22nd December 2014

Dear friends, we are slowly recovering from the stress the journey into the “Islamic State” has induced on us. Frederic, my son, has lost several pounds. Of course, I have been aware that both, meeting with ISIS and American and Syrian bomb attacks, could put me into high risk.
In Mosul, low-flying US aircraft circled over us numerous times. And our “apartment” in the Syrian town Raqqa was largely destroyed by a Syrian bomb while we were staying in Mosul, Iraq. Hence, our last night in …