Showing posts from December 14, 2014

Earth faces sixth ‘great extinction’ with 41% of amphibians set to go the way of the dodo

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[A few more stories than usual today - sorry about that! Analysis for prestigious Nature magazine sounds alarm on the way that human activity, from overfishing to agriculture, is forcing a vast number of species to vanish from the wild. *RON*]

Robin McKie, The Guardian, 14 December 2014

A stark depiction of the threat hanging over the world’s mammals, reptiles, amphibians and other life forms has been published by the prestigious scientific journal, Nature. A special analysis carried out by the journal indicates that a staggering 41% of all amphibians on the planet now face extinction while 26% of mammal species and 13% of birds are similarly threatened.

Many species are already critically endangered and close to extinction, including the Sumatran elephant, Amur leopard and mountain gorilla. But also in danger of vanishing from the wild, it now appears, are animals that are currently rated as merely being endangered: bonobos, bluefin tuna and log…

Prenatal exposure to common household chemicals linked with substantial drop in child IQ

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[Pre-natal exposure to high levels of common household phthalates is associated with a drop of more than 6 IQ points. *RON*]
Science Daily, 10 December 2014

Source: Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health

Summary: Children exposed during pregnancy to elevated levels of two common chemicals found in the home -- di-n-butyl phthalate and di-isobutyl phthalate -- had an IQ score, on average, more than six points lower than children exposed at lower levels, according to researchers. The study is the first to report a link between prenatal exposure to phthalates and IQ in school-age children. While avoiding all phthalates in the United States is for now impossible, the researchers recommend that pregnant women take steps to limit exposure by not microwaving food in plastics, avoiding scented products as much as possible, including air fresheners, and dryer sheets, and not using recyclable plastics labeled as 3, 6, or 7.

Americans are 40% poorer than before the recession

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[The size of the fall for the general population is remarkable (Gosh, I wonder why the electorate is so discontent), but I couldn't get over the gap between Whites and non-Whites. *RON*]

Quentin Fottrell, Market Watch, 13 December 2014
The Great Recession is officially over, but Americans are still 40% poorer today than they were in 2007, the year before the global financial crisis.

The net worth of American families — the difference between the values of their assets, including homes and investments, and liabilities — fell to $81,400 in 2013, down slightly from $82,300 in 2010, but a long way off the $135,700 in 2007, according to a new report released on Friday by the nonprofit think-tank Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C.

“The Great Recession, fueled by the crises in the housing and financial markets, was universally hard on the net worth of American families,” the report found.

There is also a dramatic disparity in net worth between rac…

Missouri Prosecutor Releases More Ferguson Grand Jury Evidence

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[St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch: “Clearly, I inadvertently omitted some material,” this being some of the evidence collected after the shooting of Michael Brown. Uh-huh. See also Thousands March in Washington to Protest Police Violence. *RON*]

David Mack, BuzzFeed, 13 December 2014

Almost two dozen documents related to the August shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, were made public Saturday by the St. Louis County Prosecutor.

Prosecutor Bob McCulloch — who had promised to unseal all evidence submitted to the grand jury when he announced on Nov. 24 their decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson, the police offer who killed Brown, setting off a wave of protests across the U.S. — apologized for “inadvertently” omitting to release the documents.

“Clearly, I inadvertently omitted some material,” McCulloch said in a statement. “I apologize for any confusion this may have caused.”

Among the 23 newly-released…

Bail-In and the Financial Stability Board: The Global Bankers' Coup

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[Good piece on oil, the usual bad decision-making by banks, life under the new alphabet soup (BIS, FSB, G20) and why Jamie Dimon wanted to gut Dodd-Frank’s derivatives provision so very badly. With a connection to the Bilderberg Group tossed in for good measure. *RON*]

By Ellen Brown, The Web of Debt Blog / Truth-Out, 13 December 2014

On December 11, 2014, the US House passed a bill repealing the Dodd-Frank requirement that risky derivatives be pushed into big-bank subsidiaries, leaving our deposits and pensions exposed to massive derivatives losses. The bill was vigorously challenged by Senator Elizabeth Warren; but the tide turned when Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorganChase, stepped into the ring. Perhaps what prompted his intervention was the unanticipated $40 drop in the price of oil. As financial blogger Michael Snyder points out, that drop could trigger a derivatives payout that could bankrupt the biggest banks. And if the G20's new "ba…

Warren to banks: We should have ‘broken you into pieces’

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[Dodd-Frank isn’t perfect,” Warren said. “It should have broken you into pieces. If we want to open up Dodd-Frank, let’s do it and really end too big to fail rather than just saying we did.” *RON*]

By Ramsey Cox, The Hill, 13 December 2014

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) again lashed out at big banks for lobbying to repeal financial reforms made after the economic crisis.

“A dangerous provision was slipped into a must pass bill,” Warren said Friday.

The Senate is considering the $1.1 trillion “cromnibus,” which funds must of the government through September.Warren is trying to whip up opposition to the bill because of a GOP rider that would repeal part of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

But Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) blasted her willingness to risk another government shutdown.

"My advice to people on her side is don’t follow her lead," Graham said on the Senate floor. "She’s the problem."

He compared her actions to those of…

Microsoft Gets Green Light From Ottawa For Foreign Worker Trainees

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[Obama did the same thing in the US, bowing down to pressure from Silicon Valley. The high tech corporations claim there are skilled labour shortages when all they mean is "there are shortages of people willing to work for what we are willing to pay." An ever so slightly different matter, but not for Harper. *RON*]
CBC / Huffington Post, 13 December 2014

The federal government has granted an exemption to Microsoft Canada that will allow the company to bring in an unspecified number of temporary foreign workers to British Columbia as trainees without first looking for Canadians to fill the jobs.

A notice posted on the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website says foreign workers will receive specialized training in a new human resources development centre in the province. The tech giant will not have to perform a labour market impact assessment (LMIA) — a rigorous process that would include a search for Canadians who could fill the posit…

'Stuff your stockings with B.C. coal': province

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Jenny Uechi, Vancouver Observer, 13 December 2014

In an unusual news release titled "Stuff your stockings with B.C. coal", the provincial government urged British Columbians to keep coal in mind one of the things to be grateful for this holiday season. According to a centuries-old tradition, coal is given to misbehaving children during Christmas in lieu of presents.

"Most people don't think of coal when they go shopping for gifts, but the fact is without the coal that is mined right here in British Columbia, we wouldn't have access to things like smartphones, cars or even shopping malls," said Mining minister Bill Bennett in the news release. "British Columbians can take pride in knowing that no matter the product or where it was made, it probably wouldn't exist without B.C. coal."

Ottawa’s advertising contracts reach nearly $500 million over past five years

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[Half a billion dollars to tell us what a swell job he's doing. We can't afford our federal information watchdog, or spend money to ensure the safety of oil and gas transport by rail or tanker, or guarantee clean drinking water for Aboriginal people, or health services for refugees, or guarantee benefits to veterans, or erase our shameful record or child poverty. Yet somehow we cobble together the money for wars, bank bail-outs, tax cuts for the rich and subsidies for giant oil companies. But ignore all that because we have a surplus, and we're smiling, so vote for us because we're financially responsible. *RON*]

By: Alex Boutilier, Ottawa Star, 14 December 2014
Ottawa inked or amended $93.2 million worth of advertising contracts in 2013-14, a Star analysis of ad contracts shows.

Among major campaigns, the government’s ubiquitous “Economic Action Plan” advertisements cost $14.9 million,

OTTAWA—Ottawa inked or amended more than $9…

National debt set to increase despite economic recovery and austerity cuts

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[The arithmetic is pretty simple: big austerity cuts plus even bigger corporate tax cuts equals a deficit. Surprise all around, apparently. And, despite the fact that debts and deficits are down to historic lows, you will predictably hear the cry for even more austerity cuts and tax breaks in response. Eventually we will all be back in 2008 and it will be surprise all around, apparently. *RON*]

By Geoff Ho. The Sunday Express, 14 December 2014

The Office for National Statistics will release the latest snapshot of the public finances on Friday.

Economists believe that the black hole in the UK's finances has grown, due to HM Revenue & Customs collecting lower than expected tax receipts.

The budget deficit for October, which is the amount the Government needs to borrow to make up for any differences between what it spends and what it makes through tax receipts, was £5.1 billion. November's total is expected to be £8 billion.

Investec chief …