Showing posts from April 10, 2014

'A terrible shock:' Politics set aside as MPs learn of death of Jim Flaherty

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[Former Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has died at age 64 - CBC reports his death as possibly due to a heart attack (this was confirmed on Friday) - House of Commons activity suspended - little known at present. *RON*]

By Postmedia News, Calgary Herald, April 10, 2014 1:40 PM

OTTAWA – Colleagues of former finance minister Jim Flaherty, who has passed away at age 64, set aside political differences Thursday to praise him as a “very good person” and “a very decent man.”

A statement from Flaherty’s wife and family was released Thursday afternoon, saying “Christine Elliott and her triplet sons, John, Galen and Quinn would like to make Canadians aware that her beloved husband and father passed away peacefully today in Ottawa.

“We appreciate that he was so well supported in his public life by Canadians from coast to coast to coast and by his international colleagues.

“The family asks for privacy at this time.”

The House of Commons immediately s…

Former Harper Communications Director Calls 'Fair Elections Act' Vengeance

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[Wow! Vengeance is mine saith the Prime Minister. *RON*]

Jason Koblovsky, Unpublished Ottawa, April 9, 2014

A huge stunner from Harper’s former Communications Director Geoff Norquay today on CBC’s Power and Politics, suggesting that the Fair Elections Act is vengeance on the Chief Electoral Officer for bringing in charges regarding two Conservative MP’s for their role in the “in and out” scandal.

Norquay went on to explain that the “in and out” scheme was being used by all parties and developed at first by the Bloq Quebecois in the late 90′s. Norquay has stated that the Conservative party feels discriminated against as a result of charges being brought forth on Conservative MP’s and not on any other party that had used this scheme in the past.

Many experts have weighed into the Fair Elections Act, all of which have come out against the bill, stating the bill would inhibit the powers of the Chief Electoral Officer to investigate election complaints.…

BofA agrees $772m credit card settlement

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[This is rapidly becoming institutionalized corruption -- it's fine if banks commit crimes as long as they agree to cough a share of the haul to the government as 'fines' that become part of the cost of doing business, which is in turn passed along to consumers. *RON*]
April 9, 2014 9:44 pm

By Camilla Hall, Financial Times, April 9, 2014
For Bank of America’s credit card customers, paying a little extra to the bank was a means to protect themselves against the worries of meeting card payments if they lost their job or became ill.

But US regulators found the bank had misled more than a million customers over products that were meant to make them feel more financially secure, in some cases charging them without giving them the promised protection or making the benefits sound much better than they were.

BofA on Wednesday became the latest big US bank to be fined for tricking customers into buying add-on credit card protection products. It a…

Has the NSA Been Using the Heartbleed Bug as an Internet Peephole?

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[An interesting thought - though something we will almost certainly never know the actual answer to. *RON*]
By Kim Zetter , Wired, April 20, 2014
When ex-government contractor Edward Snowden exposed the NSA’s widespread efforts to eavesdrop on the internet, encryption was the one thing that gave us comfort. Even Snowden touted encryption as a saving grace in the face of the spy agency’s snooping. “Encryption works,” the whistleblower said last June. “Properly implemented strong crypto systems are one of the few things that you can rely on.”

But Snowden also warned that crypto systems aren’t always properly implemented. “Unfortunately,” he said, “endpoint security is so terrifically weak that NSA can frequently find ways around it.”
Since the Heartbleed bug has existed for two years, it raises obvious questions about whether the NSA or other spy agencies were exploiting it before its discovery.

This week, that caveat hit home — in a big way — when r…

Why We’re in a New Gilded Age

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[A keeper. I know I've already posted several items on Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century, but it seems silly not to post Paul Krugman's review in The New York Review of Books. *RON*]

Paul Krugman, New York Review of Books, May 8, 2014
Capital in the Twenty-First Century. by Thomas Piketty, translated from the French by Arthur Goldhammer
Belknap Press/Harvard University Press, 685 pp., $39.95
Thomas Piketty, professor at the Paris School of Economics, isn’t a household name, although that may change with the English-language publication of his magnificent, sweeping meditation on inequality, Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Yet his influence runs deep. It has become a commonplace to say that we are living in a second Gilded Age—or, as Piketty likes to put it, a second Belle Époque—defined by the incredible rise of the “one percent.” But it has only become a commonplace thanks to Piketty’s work. In particular, he and a few colleagu…

Ukraine, Putin, and the West

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[Good review of how Ukraine arrived where it is, and where things are at today. It argues, in part, without in the slightest letting Putin off the hook, that America helped bring about the crisis in Ukraine by relentlessly caricaturing and humiliating Vladimir Putin. *RON*]

The Editors, n+1, April 4, 2014
In November of last year, a spirited protest took place in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv after the country’s president, Viktor Yanukovych, declined at the last minute to sign an association agreement with the European Union. The agreement would have been a very small first step toward a still hazy, far-off EU membership, but it had major cultural and symbolic significance, and its sudden rejection, under clear pressure from Russia, brought people to the streets.

Inner city kale on the rise! Urban farmers transforming yards

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[Ways of increasing the local, sustainable food supply through approaches such as Community-Supported Agriculture, or CSAs. *RON*]
By Christina Turner,, April 10, 2014

In March, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its latest report, a document the Independent labeled an "official prophecy of doom." Among other things, the report predicts that global crop yields will decrease by two per cent per decade over the next 100 years. The predictions of this report are already a reality in many places. California, which exports $5 billion in food to Canada each year, is currently experiencing one of the most severe droughts on record, and it's estimated that if conditions continue food prices in Canada could rise by 20 per cent this summer.

Even though local food has seen an increase in popularity in recent years, we still rely largely on food imported from California and other warm places in many parts…

Cleaning up contaminated sites to cost billions more than expected: PBO

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[I suppose it would be useless to ask why many of these sites -- the mines, specifically -- are not corporate costs rather than taxpayer costs. *RON*]

By Steve Rennie, CP / Huffington Post, 04/10/2014

OTTAWA - Cleaning up nearly 25,000 sites across the country contaminated by hazardous waste and pollution will cost billions of dollars more than the federal government has anticipated, says a new analysis by Canada's budget watchdog.

And the cost could run even higher now that a new chemical used in fire-retardant foam has been found in the groundwater at some airports, says the report by the Parliamentary Budget Office released Thursday.

"The likely financial costs associated with contaminated sites are significant and are not reflected in the figures reported to Parliament in the public accounts," says the report.

SEC Goldman Lawyer Says Agency Too Timid on Wall Street Misdeeds

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[A departing SEC lawyer says his bosses are afraid of Wall Street's top bosses. James Kidney "said his superiors were more focused on getting high-paying jobs after their government service than on bringing difficult cases." *RON*]

By Robert Schmidt, Bloomberg, Apr 7, 2014

A trial attorney from the Securities and Exchange Commission said his bosses were too “tentative and fearful” to bring many Wall Street leaders to heel after the 2008 credit crisis, echoing the regulator’s outside critics.

'I'm Not Male. Not White': Olivia Chow On How She'll Be Different From David Miller

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[Chow is leaning heavily on the race card. Some believe the immigrant vote was what defeated the PQ in the recent Quebec election. The strategic importance of courting the immigrant vote in Canada was the subject of Bricker and Ibbitson's recent book The Big Shift. *RON*]

By Michael Bolen, Huffington Post, 04/09/2014

Toronto mayoral candidate Olivia Chow answered questions from Toronto Star readers during an online chat Wednesday and made one eye-catching comment.

Asked by a reader about how she would be different than former mayor David Miller, Chow answered "I'm not white. Not male. Want to start there?"

Stephen Harper's Electoral Reform View Starkly Different In 1996

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[Harper, 1996: "In my view, the procedure of using time allocation for electoral law, doing it quickly and without the consent of the other political parties, is the kind of dangerous application of electoral practices that we are more likely to find in Third World countries." You can hear his mental process: "That's a terrible political trick to pull! I really have to remember *that* one!" *RON*]
By CP / Huffington Post, 04/09/2014

OTTAWA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government appears determined to whisk its controversial overhaul of election laws through Parliament, despite near-universal condemnation from electoral experts and strenuous political opposition.

When he was a Reform MP back in 1996, Harper had a starkly different view of how electoral reform should be handled. He objected to the way the then-Liberal government made several last-minute amendments as it rushed to get final parliamentary approval fo…