Showing posts from March 19, 2014

Alison Redford Resigns As Alberta Premier Amid Spending Scandal

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[Who would have taken a bet one year ago that Christy Clark would last longer as Premier than Alison Redford? Or that Redford would quit over expenses while Rob Ford runs for re-election in the middle of a crack cocaine scandal? *RON*]

The Huffington Post Alberta, Posted: 03/19/2014

Alison Redford announced she is resigning from office this weekend, the Alberta premier said at a press conference on Wednesday.

“I’ve given my heart and my soul to this province, every single minute of every day for the last two and a half years,” said Redford to a crowd of media and supporters in the Alberta legislature rotunda.

“Quite simply, I am not prepared to allow party and caucus infighting to get in the way of building a better future for our province and for all Albertans,” Redford continued.

“And that is why I am announcing today with profound optimism for Alberta’s future, I am resigning as premier of Alberta effective this Sunday evening.”

She did not ta…

New resources minister takes over as Canada's pipeline warrior

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[Never heard of him. You can't say they have a weak front bench, since they barely have a bench at all. *RON*]
By Randall Palmer, Reuters Canada, Mar 19, 2014

OTTAWA (Reuters) - When Greg Rickford, Canada's new natural resources minister, became the first Conservative ever to be elected to Parliament from northern Ontario's Kenora district, reports said he began his victory speech: "Mission impossible - accomplished."

Rickford now faces another daunting challenge: winning support for the controversial Keystone XL and Northern Gateway oil pipelines that have galvanized the environmental movement in opposition.

To the job, he brings expertise in dealing with aboriginal communities, referred to in Canada as First Nations, which may prove helpful in winning support for the pipelines.

The Conservative government says the lines are needed to get landlocked crude from northern Alberta's oil sands to international markets.

Rickford, …

Inequality Costing UK $64.7 Billion A Year: Report

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["...nearly £12.5 billion was lost through reduced healthy life expectancy, £25 billion was lost through poorer mental health, and a futher £1 billion lost through increased imprisonment figures and another £678 million through an increase in the number of murders." *RON*]
 By EconomyWatch, News Desk Team, 19 March 2014

The widening wealth gap in the U.K. is costing the economy more than £39 billion ($64.7 billion) a year, according to a report by the Equality Trust think-tank, calling on all political parties to begin crafting policies to tackle the issue.

The Cost of Inequality, published last weekend, found that the richest 100 people in the U.K. had as much wealth as the poorest 30 percent of all households – or around 18.9 million people.

The financial impact of inequality was measured across several social consequences, including health care and crime rate.

Killer dust

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[Long but remarkable article on how asbestos -- with strong government collusion, notably from Canada -- continues to kill tens of thousands of people each year, despite perfectly clear scientific evidence of its deadly effects. *RON*]
Nick Fleming, Mosaic Science, March 18, 2014
Why is asbestos still killing people? Nic Fleming finds out in a twisting tale of industry cover-ups and misinformation that spans decades.

A long vertical pipe sits against white-painted brickwork in the corner of a cramped storeroom. Two men wearing orange boiler suits and gloves crouch at its base. One uses a scraper to remove lumps of what looks like wet papier-mâché from the outside of the pipe, into a red bag held by the other.

Both men are breathing through facemasks, their air sucked from outside the isolation unit: a short, makeshift corridor constructed from black plastic panels and transparent polythene sheeting. An extractor fan hums relentlessly.

It might look…

The Osborne audit: what have we learned?

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[Ahead of this week’s budget, the economic historian Robert Skidelsky provides a Keynesian take on how four years of austerity have affected Britain. It's not all about lost output, it's also very much about potential future output lost. "The official explanation for this failure is 'bad luck.'" *RON*]

By Robert Skidelsky, New Statesman, 17 March 2014 On Wednesday, for the first time in four Budgets, George Osborne will be able to claim plausibly that Britain has come out of the Great Recession. Growth was 1.8 per cent in 2013 and is expected to be between 2.4 and 2.8 per cent in 2014. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the economy is still 1.4 per cent smaller than it was in 2008 and 14 per cent smaller than it would have been had the recession not struck.

That lost output, amounting to £210bn, is gone for ever. Every household is almost £2,000 poorer on average than it would have been; the government’s revenue i…

Just 83,000 Homeowners Get First-Lien Principal Reductions from National Mortgage Settlement, 90 Percent Less Than Promised

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[The mortgage relief promised by the Obama government for Americans ruined by the bank crash is a faint shadow of what was trumpeted in the news when it was announced. *RON*]
By David Dayen, Naked Capitalism, March 19, 2014

By David Dayen, a lapsed blogger, now a freelance writer based in Los Angeles, CA. Follow him on Twitter @ddayen

Yesterday, the National Mortgage Settlement monitor, Joseph Smith, released his final crediting reports, confirming that all five banks (Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Citi, JPMorgan Chase and Ally, now known after bankruptcy as Residential Capital, or ResCap) have now satisfied the consumer relief portion of the foreclosure fraud settlement. The banks were required to spend $20 billion in “credited” relief (some actions received less than a dollar-for-dollar credit). Smith exults that the gross relief provided totaled over $50 billion, and that “more than 600,000 families received some form of relief.”

What the mainstr…

Seven New York McDonald’s Will Pay Thousands Of Workers In Settlement Over Wage Theft

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[A too-low minimum wage isn't enough for MacDonald's. *RON*]

By Bryce Covert, Think Progress, March 19, 2014
Seven McDonald’s franchises in New York owned by Richard Cisneros will pay nearly $500,000 to fast food workers who claimed they were victims of wage theft under a settlement reached by state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, the Huffington Post reports.

More than 1,600 current and former employees will receive payment. The labor bureau “found that cashiers regularly performed off-the-clock work before and after their shifts,” Dave Jamieson writes, doing work without earning any extra income, and were also made to pay for cleaning their own uniforms and didn’t get an extra hour of pay after shifts where they worked 10 hours in a row. All of these practices violate New York State labor laws.

Robert Reich: 'Austerity is a terrible mistake'

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[President Clinton's former labour adviser is angry at the human and economic cost of austerity policies in the US and UK. *RON*]
Mary O'HaraThe Guardian, Tuesday 18 March 2014
Robert Reich's verdict on the prospect of yet more austerity is unequivocal. "The austerity narrative is nonsense – and its dangerous nonsense. It's sort of the Vietnamisation of the economy – [that] you're saving the economy by killing it."

The political economist who has served in three US administrations, most recently as labour secretary under former president Bill Clinton, is a longstanding vocal opponent of the kind of neo-liberal economics that have influenced policy in the US and the UK since the early 1980s and fostered soaring levels of inequality and entrenched poverty. He dismisses as "nonsense" the notion that if the rich get richer wealth will "trickle down" to the wider population.

Critics call Alberta's plan for Athabasca River 'pathetic,' not science-based

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[As a rationale for irreversible actions, this is about as bad as it gets. They collect so little in taxes that they are unable to afford the science needed to perform their governmental duty to protect the public interest. On top of which, they are unmotivated to do any review to begin with. *RON*]

By Bob Weber, CP, Huffington Post, 03/19/2014
EDMONTON - Alberta's plan to protect the Athabasca River from the escalating pressure of oilsands development reveals how little the government understands about the environment it claims to protect, say prominent scientists and critics.

"It's pretty pathetic," said David Schindler, a retired University of Alberta ecologist and a leading expert on fresh-water systems. "If you were to put this before a panel of international scientists, they would be incredulous."

Government officials say the draft plan, obtained by The Canadian Press, is the best they can do with what they have.