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Showing posts from February, 2015

Gates Foundation Ditches McDonald’s, Coca-Cola in Fourth Quarter

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[The Gates Foundation "doesn’t invest in companies whose corporate activity it finds to be 'egregious.'" *RON*]
By Lauren Streib, Bloomberg Business, 17 February 2015

(Bloomberg) -- The Gates Foundation Asset Trust, which manages the investments for the $42.3 billion Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, liquidated its positions of McDonald’s Corp., Coca-Cola Co. and Exxon Mobil Corp. in the fourth quarter.

The trust sold 10.9 million shares of McDonald’s valued at $1 billion at the end of September, according to a regulatory filing. It sold 21.4 million shares valued at $914.2 million in Coca-Cola, and 8.1 million shares in Exxon Mobil that were worth $765.9 million.

The Gates Foundation focuses on fighting polio, AIDS, malaria and improving health systems in developing countries. It doesn’t invest in companies whose corporate activity it finds to be “egregious,” including tobacco stocks and investments in Sudan, according to the …

When the commodity rents stop flowing…

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[Perhaps a small ray of hope as oil prices plummet? *RON*]
Izabella Kaminska, Financial Times Alphaville, 27 February 2015

Ever wonder what the collapse of a commodity means for the hegemonic order that controls access to it?

Look no further than the sugar trade of the 1800s.

A new paper by Christian Dippel, Avner Greif, Daniel Trefler entitled The rents from trade and coercive institutions: removing the sugar coating examines the effect of the sugar price collapse on wages and incarceration rates in colonies established for sugar cane cultivation.

The paper finds that a collapse in commodity prices doesn’t always translate into lower wages or greater poverty for the workers in a commodity producing colony.

From the conclusion:
According to standard international trade theories, the 19th century collapse of world sugar prices should have reduced wages in each of the 14 British West Indies sugar colonies. It did not. In colonies that were either margin…

Chicago nears fiscal free fall with latest downgrade

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[Not much different from Russia. For the third-largest city in the United States why isn't this bigger news? *RON*]
By Karen Pierog, Reuters / Yahoo Finance, 27 February 2015

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Chicago drew closer to a fiscal free fall on Friday with a rating downgrade from Moody's Investors Service that could trigger the immediate termination of four interest-rate swap agreements, costing the city about $58 million and raising the prospect of more broken swaps contracts.

The downgrade to Baa2, just two steps above junk, and a warning the rating could fall further still, means the third-biggest U.S. city could face even higher costs in the future if banks choose to terminate other interest-rate hedges against fluctuations in interest rates. All told, Chicago holds swaps contracts covering $2.67 billion in debt, according to a disclosure late last year.

"This is an unfortunate wake-up call for anyone still asleep over the fiscal cliff …

GOP Lawmaker: Cancer Is "Fungus" & Can Be Flushed Out with Baking Soda!

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[Little wonder they don't believe in Obamacare. *RON*]

by SemDemFollow, Daily KOS, 25 February 2015

So we had a GOP lawmaker a few days ago who tried to lecture a doctor during another anti-abortion fight right before he announced that he believed a woman's stomach was connected to her vagina. (And then proceeded to pass his anti-abortion bill).

Now we have another GOP lawmaker, tax cheat, and Cliven Bundy supporter Michele Fiore (R). If she sounds familiar, it's because just last week she suggested "hot, little girls" on college campuses have firearms or you like rape.

(The photo she likes to use of herself is on my blog, because photobucket sucks.)

But this week the GOP has collectively decided to show their ignorance of biology, so Fiore contributed by proposing a bill that would let people use drugs without the approval of the FDA. (She thinks the government is holding out on us.) She made her point by literally argui…

To fight homegrown jihadis, Germany takes lesson from battle with neo-Nazis

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[Sounds promising. Germany has turned away hundreds of neo-Nazis from violence and reintegrated them into society. Could the same approach work for German would-be jihadis? *RON*]
By Isabelle de Pommereau, Christian Science Monitor, 26 February 2015

FRANKFURT — This summer, Thomas Mücke managed a coup: he dissuaded a young German from joining the Islamic State.

The teenager, a Kurd whose family is originally from Turkey but now living in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt, had landed in prison after committing a petty crime. Angry, confined, and looking to lash out, he “had pretty much given up with life and was ready to pack his bag" for Syria, Mr. Mücke says.

But Mücke, a street worker and head of the Berlin-based Violence Prevention Network (VPN) in Berlin, challenged the aspiring jihadi. Did he know that Islamic State fought against Kurds? No, the boy didn’t. In fact, he had no idea about his religion. It was a prison inmate that gave him t…

Russian opposition mourns murdered leader Nemtsov

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[The bad old days of Russia never went away. See also Boris Nemtsov’s murder is another dark sign for Russia and Shock after anti-Putin activist Boris Nemtsov shot dead near Kremlin. *RON*]

By Alexander Winning & Katya Golubkova


(Reuters) - Thousands of stunned Russians laid flowers and lit candles on Saturday on the bridge where opposition politician Boris Nemtsov was shot dead near the Kremlin, a murder that showed the risks of speaking out against President Vladimir Putin.

Nemtsov, 55, was shot four times in the back by assailants in a white car as he walked across the bridge over the Moskva River in central Moscow with a Ukrainian woman, who was unhurt, just before midnight on Friday, police said.

Police sealed off the blood-stained bridge close to the red walls of the Kremlin and Red Square for two hours overnight, then hosed it down as people came to pay tribute to one of Putin's biggest opponents over Russia's role in Ukraine.

'Gestapo' tactics at US police 'black site' ring alarm from Chicago to Washington

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[Amazing story. Shocked politicians and rights groups call for inquiries into Homan Square. Rahm Emanuel faces questions as top supporters examine ‘outrageous’ abuse. "The justice department declined to comment to the Guardian on Wednesday." *RON*]
Spencer AckermanZach StaffordMark Guarino and Oliver Laughland, The Guardian, 26 February 2015
The US Department of Justice and embattled mayor Rahm Emanuel are under mounting pressure to investigate allegations of what one politician called “CIA or Gestapo tactics” at a secretive Chicago police facility exposed by the Guardian.

Politicians and civil-rights groups across the US expressed shock upon hearing descriptions of off-the-books interrogation at Homan Square, the Chicago warehouse that multiple lawyers and one shackled-up protester likened to a US counter-terrorist black site in a Guardian investigation published this week. As three more people came forward detailing their stories o…

Kinder Morgan, NEB Draw Ire for Oil Spill Response Plans Released in Washington State, But Not B.C.

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[Great that this story has some 'legs.' *RON*]
Carol Linnitt, DeSmog Blog Canada, 24 February 2015

Since DeSmog Canada broke the story two weeks ago that Kinder Morgan publicly released its emergency oil spill plans for the Trans Mountain pipeline in Washington State while withholding or severely redacting the exact same plans in B.C.,there's been a firestorm of activity on the topic.

The story has now been covered by the Globe and Mail, the CBC and the Canadian Press, the issue was raised in the House of Commons this week and the president of Kinder Morgan and the chair of the National Energy Board (NEB) have been forced to respond.

Kinder Morgan and the NEB angered the B.C. government in January after ruling the company could keep spill response plans for the proposed oilsands pipeline secret due to “security concerns.”

This week Kinder Morgan president Ian Anderson defended the company’s actions, saying the NEB did not demand disclos…

Amal Clooney Puts Stephen Harper On Blast Over Treatment Of Her Client Mohamed Fahmy

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[I imagine we'll finally see some action now; sadly, it takes the negative international publicity made possible by celebrity to force our government do anything resembling the right thing. *RON*]
By Diana Mehta, The Canadian Press / Huffington Post, 27 February 2015


The high-profile human rights lawyer for a Canadian journalist on trial in Egypt is lashing out at what she calls Canada's "woefully inadequate" efforts to bring him home.

Mohamed Fahmy spent more than a year in a Cairo prison after being arrested along with two colleagues while working for satellite news broadcaster Al Jazeera English.

The 40-year-old, who was released on bail earlier this month, is currently being tried a second time after a successful appeal of his original conviction on terror-related charges that have been widely denounced.

Although his legal case continues to wind its way through the courts, Fahmy has been hoping to leave Egypt under a law which a…

Do Not Use TurboTax This Tax Season

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[Note that this is merely allegations by former employees - I see nothing in this story about charges being laid, or there even being an active investigation. Certainly this is interesting to me, at least, however, since I use TurboTax every year! Note that I just found this (somewhat soothing) article: TurboTax fraud uncovered in U.S. couldn't happen here, CRA says. *RON*]

Sam Biddle, Gawker, 26 February 2015


If you haven't already filed your taxes, you're probably considering TurboTax, the widely used software that makes filing a return easy for our nation of babies and dimwits. Consider an alternative: according to two former high-ranking employees, the company ignored rampant refund theft because it could take a cut.

Intuit, the corporation that owns TurboTax, is an unequivocally evil firm that's spent millions of dollars lobbying the IRS to make sure filing your taxes is enough of a pain in the ass that you'll continue us…

Crude Awakening: How the Keystone Veto Dashes Canada's 'Superpower' Dreams

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[Good Rolling Stone piece on the fall of the Alberta tar sands. *RON*]
By Tim Dickinson, Rolling Stone, 24 February 2015
Barack Obama's veto of Keystone XL has placed the export pipeline for Canadian tar-sands crude on its deathbed. Earlier in February, the Environmental Protection Agency revealed that Keystone could spur 1.37 billion tons of excess carbon emissions — providing the State Department with all the scientific evidence required to spike the project, permanently. If the news has cheered climate activists across the globe, it also underscored the folly of Canada's catastrophic quest, in recent years, to transform itself into a dirty-energy "superpower."
SIDEBAR
In the minds of many American right-wingers, Canada may be a socialist hell-scape of universal health care and quasi-European welfare policies. But it is also home to 168 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, the third-largest in the world. Since ultraconserv…

Kinder Morgan drillers hit by protests in Coquitlam

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[ ]
Mychaylo Prystupa, Vancouver Observer, 26 February 2015

A third day of protests encircled Kinder Morgan contractors attempting to do borehole pipeline-test drilling in the Coquitlam and New Westminster area. Megaphones are being blasted, and water trucks are being interfered with, protesters claim.

“People are standing up to the destruction of the land, the expansion of the oil sands, [and] worsening climate change,” said Jacob Markiewicz on Thursday, who was on the scene.

“One of the hired private security pushed a megaphone out of a protester's hands,” he added.


Ottawa Largely Ignored 700 Recommendations On Missing Aboriginal Women, Study Finds

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[When asked about missing and murdered Aboriginal women, the Harper government routinely says no national inquiry is needed, since "40 studies" have already been done. This deflects attention from the question of action. What they don't say is that they have ignored the vast majority of the recommendations from these reports, while cutting the funding available to the RCMP to do anything about this. *RON*]
By Chinta Puxley, The Canadian Press / Huffington Post, 26 February 2015


A new study says the federal government is ignoring dozens of recommendations on how to reduce the number of missing and murdered aboriginal women.

The study, which analyzed 58 others on violence against native women, found most of the reviews spanning two decades agreed on the root causes of that violence.

But Ottawa has largely ignored more than 700 recommendations to address the issue, says the report, which was commissioned by the Legal Strategy Coalition on…

Net neutrality rules passed by US regulator

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[Most people won't recognize how huge a victory this is - see also Net neutrality: should you care about it? However this battle will continue to be fought for a long time coming. *RON*]
By Jane Wakefield, BBC World News, 26 February 2015
New rules on how the internet should be governed have been approved by the Federal Communications Commission.

In what is seen as a victory for advocates of net neutrality, the commission voted in favour of changes proposed by chairman Tom Wheeler.

Three commissioners voted in favour and two against.

The US Telecommunications Industry Association said that broadband providers would take "immediate" legal action over the rule changes.

The main changes for broadband providers are as follows:
Broadband access is being reclassified as a telecommunications service, meaning it will be subject to much heavier regulationBroadband providers cannot block or speed up connections for a feeInternet providers cannot …

Controversial Spanish mine to reopen

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[The photo of the breached tailings dam will certainly be familiar to British Columbians. Conservationists claim environmental concerns have been ignored in the runup to regional elections in decision to reopen Aznalcóllar mine that caused one of Spain’s worst ecological disasters 17 years ago. The Doñana is a spectacular wildlife reserve in the the largest parkland in Europe. *RON*]
James Bryce, The Guardian, 25 February 2015
A controversial mine which caused one of Spain’s biggest ever environmental disasters is set to reopen, the government has announced.

Los Frailes mine in Aznalcóllar, near Seville, will resume operations 17 years after a tailings dam burst, dumping five million cubic metres of toxic sludge into the Guadiamar river.

The spill narrowly avoided one of Europe’s most important wetlands and led to a €240m (£178m) cleanup operation.

The Andalucían regional government claims reopening the mine will create 450 jobs in an area with one …

US government and private sector developing ‘precrime’ system to anticipate cyber-attacks

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[Orwell was right: there's nothing left to persecute in the surveillance state now but thought-crime. *RON*]
Martin Anderson, The Stack, 24 February 2015

The USA’s Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) is soliciting the involvement of the private and academic sectors in developing a new ‘precrime’ computer system capable of predicting cyber-incursions before they happen, based on the processing of ‘massive data streams from diverse data sets’ [1] - including social media and possibly deanonymised Bitcoin transactions.

In January the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), administrated by ODNI, held a Proposers’ Day Conference [2] for the Cyber-attack Automated Unconventional Sensor Environment (CAUSE) initiative, inviting interest from IBM and other cyber-security companies including Battelle [3], RepKnight [4], the Florida Center for Cybersecurity (FC2) [5], Galois Inc [6], SoarTech [7], SRA International I…

Canada Considers Joining U.S.-Led Training Mission In Ukraine

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[Austerity Harper style. "There's always money for another war," quips a smiling Minister Kenney. "Just don't ask us for pensions for disabled veterans (or about murdered Aboriginal women, or poor children). By the way, did I mention that the budget is balanced, and we're financially responsible, so vote for us?" *RON*]
By Murray Brewster, The Canadian Press / Huffington Post, 25 February 2015


OTTAWA - The Harper cabinet is actively and seriously considering whether Canada should join the U.S. and Britain in a military training mission to shore up embattled Ukrainian troops, Defence Minister Jason Kenney said Wednesday.

The notion drew a lukewarm response from opposition parties, who seem reluctant to see Canada venture further into the tinderbox of eastern Europe beyond the delivery of non-lethal military aid and satellite intelligence.

Britain said Wednesday that it would send 75 military trainers to Ukraine next mo…

Rafe: Federal leaders out of touch on LNG, fracking

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[In other words, if the dangers of fracking to health and the environment matter to you, at this point in time your only choice as a responsible citizen is to vote Green; yet they cannot possibly form the next government. So on this issue you're democratic choices in reality boil down to: nil. You can join the protests and hope you aren't arrested under Bill C-51. *RON*]
By Rafe Mair, Common Sense Canadian, 23 February 2015
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has thrown down the gauntlet with his promise of federal tax giveaways for LNG enterprises.

I expected this sort of nonsense – just one look at the smug sneer of power on the face of James Moore, Minister of Industry, over the last few months, indicated that this decision was coming and that the opinions of the people of British Columbia didn’t matter a tinker’s dam.

This I think is one of the central points.

When it comes to industry and the people with whom this government are philosophical…

DFO Slams Kinder Morgan's Shoddy Analysis of Oil Tankers' Impact on Whales

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[A shoddy environmental impact analysis by Kinder Morgan? Colour me surprised! *RON*]
Carol Linnitt, DeSmog Blog, 23 February 2015

A report submitted to the National Energy Board (NEB) by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) points to “insufficient information and analysis” in Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion proposal as it relates to whale populations off the coast of British Columbia.

“There are deficiencies in both the assessment of potential effects resulting from ship strikes and exposure to underwater noise in the Trans Mountain Expansion Project Application documents,” the report says. “Ship strike is a threat of conservation concern, especially for…Fin Whales, Humpback Whales and other baleen whales.”

The report concludes that an increase in shipping intensity related to Kinder Morgan’s proposal would lead to an increase in threats to whale populations that occupy the Strait of Georgia and the Juan de Fuca …

U.S. Geological Survey: Fracking waste is the primary cause of the dramatic rise in earthquakes

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[It's decidedly risky. But I also wonder to what extent other extractive activities (e.g., coal mining) have a similar effect? One thing's for sure solar and wind power don't do this. *RON*]

by Jen Hayden, Daily KOS, 23 February 2015

Large areas of the United States that used to experience few or no earthquakes have, in recent years, experienced a remarkable increase in earthquake activity that has caused considerable public concern as well as damage to structures. This rise in seismic activity, especially in the central United States, is not the result of natural processes.

Instead, the increased seismicity is due to fluid injection associated with new technologies that enable the extraction of oil and gas from previously unproductive reservoirs. These modern extraction techniques result in large quantities of wastewater produced along with the oil and gas. The disposal of this wastewater by deep injection occasionally results in eart…

Canada pulls funding for Palestinian NGO after founder criticizes Baird

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[Foreign Affairs pins blame for project's termination on founder's refusal 'to acknowledge Canada’s contribution to the project.' *RON*]

Chris Plecash, Embassy News, 25 February 2015

Attachment: MIFTAH Contribution Agreement (abridged).pdf 1.1 MB

Canada has terminated a funding agreement for a project aimed at training women to participate in municipal politics in the West Bank following critical comments directed at John Baird by the founder of a Palestinian NGO.

The Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development signed a $27,000 contribution agreement with a Ramallah-based NGO known as MIFTAH on Jan. 13, 2015 for the organization to provide training for women involved in municipal politics in the West Bank.

One week later, then-foreign minister John Baird arrived in Israel for what would be his final Mideast tour before his sudden resignation on Feb. 3. During his visit, Mr. Baird reiterated the Harper government’s position t…

Meetings between Kinder Morgan and feds leave no paper trail

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[The totalitarian corporatocracy. "If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself." - George Orwell, 1984. "It's not just bad administration," says former ICBC CEO. "It's a betrayal of public trust." *RON*]
Jenny Uechi, Vancouver Observer, 23 February 2015

No records, no agenda, no minutes, no briefing notes. That's what Vancouver-based economist and former ICBC CEO Robyn Allan learned from a Freedom of Information (FOI) request on senior-level meetings between the federal government and Texas-based oil giant Kinder Morgan.

"It's not just bad administration," said Allan. "It's a betrayal of public trust."

Three of the meetings involved then-Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver.

Allan filed FOI requests on records relating to 20 meetings between Kinder Morgan and the federal government in 2013 and 2014 in May, and received her first response in October.

She s…

Harper's anti-terror law will turn Canada into a police state

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[“War is peace.  Freedom is slavery.  Ignorance is strength.”  ― George Orwell, 1984 "This act could apply to Rosa Parks sitting in the Whites Only section of the bus. It could apply to anyone who talked with her about it ahead of time. It could apply to journalists who wrote she should be commended for breaking the law." See also C-51: Conservatives Demand Limit On Anti-Terror Bill Expert Testimony. *RON*]
By Elizabeth May, rabble.ca, 24 February 2015

I remember the events of October 22. While I was in lock-down on Parliament Hill, I remember who hid in a closet and who ran toward gun fire. The guy in the closet is now planning to concentrate the powers of the state in his own hands while converting the Canadian spy agency into a secret police with virtually unlimited powers. And, at the same time, he has decided to demote the security team that performed its role heroically, the House of Commons Security, led by former Sargeant at Arms K…

Mentally Ill Canadian Soldiers With Afghan Experience Often Declared Unfit For Service: Study

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[Harper sends them to war, destroys their mental health, then declares them unfit for service so they can be fired without having to pay them a pension. Remember this the next time you see a photo-op of him saluting nobly in front of a war memorial. *RON*]
By Murray Brewster, The Canadian Press / Huffington Post, 24 February 2015


OTTAWA - New research by National Defence shows that soldiers with mental health conditions, especially those with Afghan war illnesses, are far more likely to be declared unfit for military service and almost 70 per cent of them can expect to be mustered out within 10 years of deployment.

The startling figures are contained in an analysis by the Canadian Forces Health Services Branch, which reviewed the medical files of over 30,000 troops who deployed as part of the nearly 12 year Afghan campaign.

The analysis focuses on the long-term career impact of service-related mental disorders and how they are impacted by the milita…

CSE Monitors Millions Of Canadian Emails To Government

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[The Canadian surveillance state. "The surveillance service vacuums in about 400,000 emails to and from the government every day... The agency refused to provide specifics... CSE, under its cyberdefence mandate, is allowed to hold on to personal information for up to 30 years, then transfer it to Library and Archives Canada... [Civil liberties lawyer] Vonn says it’s “an utter mystery” why the government would need to retain personal information of those implicated in a potential cyberthreat for that long." *RON*]
CBC / Huffington Post, 25 February 2015


Canada’s electronic spy agency collects millions of emails from Canadians and stores them for “days to months” while trying to filter out malware and other attacks on government computer networks, CBC News has learned.

A top-secret document written by Communications Security Establishment (CSE) analysts sheds new light on the scope of the agency’s domestic email collection as part of its m…

Obama blocks Republicans' Keystone pipeline bill in rare veto

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[The Republicans, peering out from deep within the pockets of the oil and gas industry, will continue to force votes on this matter (e.g., see President Obama vetoes Keystone bill; GOP plans override vote). Harper would have needed a change of pants yesterday. You can also sign a petition asking Obama to withdraw their permit altogether here: Thanks for the veto, Mr. President, now reject the KXL once and for all. *RON*]

Dan Roberts, The Guardian, 24 February 2015

Barack Obama has blocked a Republican bill that would allow a contentious extension of the Keystone oil pipeline, in a rare veto that arrived in low-key fashion but leaves open a long road to the end of his presidency.

Though long expected and downplayed by the White House, the symbolic clash over a pipeline from Canadian tar sands to US refineries on the Gulf coast is the first time the president has refused to sign legislation in his second term, and only the third veto of his presiden…

Snowden Calls for Disobedience Against the U.S. Government

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[How to oppose Big Brother. Nicely stated. *RON*]
Posted on February 24, 2015 by WashingtonsBlog

In a question and answer session on Reddit earlier today, Edward Snowden wrote: The progress of Western civilization and human rights is actually founded on the violation of law. America was of course born out of a violent revolution that was an outrageous treason against the crown and established order of the day. History shows that the righting of historical wrongs is often born from acts of unrepentant criminality. Slavery. The protection of persecuted Jews. But even on less extremist topics, we can find similar examples. How about the prohibition of alcohol? Gay marriage? Marijuana? Where would we be today if the government, enjoying powers of perfect surveillance and enforcement, had — entirely within the law — rounded up, imprisoned, and shamed all of these lawbreakers? Ultimately, if people lose their willingness to recognize that there are time…

Tebartz van Elst: God knows what to do with €31m mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

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[Religion as corporatocracy. From the front lines of the class war - good for the Pope! :-) *RON*]
Tony Paterson, The Independent, 23 February 2015
A Japanese koi-fish breeding pond worth €213,000, wall-mounted iPads to close the curtains or even call up a prayer, an opulent bathroom fitted with a Jacuzzi and a “wellness” shower are just some of the luxuries Germany’s disgraced “Bishop of Bling” had enjoyed.

The pampered lifestyle that Limburg’s former Catholic Bishop, Tebartz van Elst, had envisaged for himself in his self-designed palatial residence not only failed to amuse his parishioners – it also embarrassed a Pontiff famous for siding with the poor.

Pope Francis removed the “Bishop of Bling” from his post in March 2014 after it was revealed the bishop had spent at least €31m of secret church funds on rebuilding and re-furnishing his residence.

Almost a year on from Bishop van Elst’s abrupt departure, his former diocese now finds itself landed…

HSBC CEO – My Pay Was so Outrageous I Had to Use Tax Havens to Hide it from My Peers

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[A new nadir from the hilariously obvious scams department, "Combining Panama and Swiss tax havens to ensure secrecy is the new 'transparent' in banking." *RON*]
By Bill Black, New Economic Perspectives. Posted on Naked Capitalism by Yves Smith24 February 2015

Yves here. This tidbit from HSBC reveals a new low in the standards of banking, which given how low those already are, amounts to an accomplishment of sorts. Perhaps we should create a Stuart Gulliver Award for other instances of creative extreme seaminess. Nominees?

By Bill Black, the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One and an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Originally published at New Economic Perspectives

Greetings from Quito, where I will be spending four months teaching at IAEN about effective regulation and building ties with UMKC.

The latest twists on the latest HSBC tax evasion and tax avoidance scand…

Bid To Make O Canada Lyrics Gender Neutral Opposed By Tories

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[The Tories cite public opinion in this matter ("How can we possibly support this bill after that clear message?"), yet ignore it when a majority of the public opposes pipelines. Likewise, they pass a Bill to spy on Canadians saying this is essential to our security, yet cancel the Long-Form Census because it is a violation of our privacy. Consistency thou are a jewel. *RON*]
CBC / Huffington Post, 23 February 2015


A Liberal backbencher's bid to make O Canada more gender neutral by replacing the reference to "all thy sons" with "all of us" in the English lyrics seems set for defeat after several Conservative MPs — including the parliamentary secretary to the heritage minister — spoke out against it during the opening round of debate on Monday morning.

In an impassioned address to a sparsely populated House of Commons, Ottawa Vanier Liberal MP Mauril Belanger argued that the change was not just necessary, but overd…

F-35 Procurement Troubles May Hurt Military's Relations With Allies

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[It's been exactly 10 days since Lockheed announced price-cuts on their pig-in-a-poke F-35 since no one outside of the US will buy them. A pig with lipstick is still a pig, even if it was at half price. But it sure didn't take the Harper government long to jump all over this one.*RON*]
CBC / Huffington Post, 24 February 2015


The widening fallout from a botched program to replace Canada's aging CF-18 fighter jets may be damaging the military's relationships with its international allies.

A defence briefing note says hundreds of arrangements the military has with allies to share facilities and services are being called into question, and must be reviewed as if they were formal supply contracts.

The arrangements now are subject to a time-consuming procurement process that is tying the department in knots and leaving the military sometimes unable to commit to joint operations internationally.
"Increasingly, Canada is viewed as a ch…

Shell pulls plug on long-delayed Alberta oil sands mine

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[
This will make the Athabaska Chipewyan First Nation very happy - they have been fighting this development for at least 7 years now. I don't think you can call this a 'victory' on their part, though. This is pretty plainly an economic decision on Shell's part, brought on by the precipitous drop in oil prices. Note that the oil company is also hinting that they will be back eventually, "The Pierre River mine remains a very long-term opportunity for us, but it’s not currently a priority" *RON*]
Jeff Lewis, The Globe and Mail, 23 February 2015


Royal Dutch Shell PLC has scrapped plans for a long-delayed oil sands mine, becoming the latest company to pull the plug on a major Alberta expansion as crude prices hover near multiyear lows.

The global oil giant said on Monday it is withdrawing an application with federal regulators to build its Pierre River mine north of Fort McMurray, Alta., effectively killing a 200,000 barrel-a-d…

Despite Kinder ruling, NEB wants pipeline emergency response plans made public

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[Spin-doctoring. This is very much a political move on the part of the NEB, not a principled one motivated by the public interest. Note that the court ruling was made long ago, but that this reaction only came after the news story on the ruling broke and public reaction was strongly negative. NEB remains a profoundly undemocratic organization that is undeserving of public support. *RON*]
David Geselbracht & Laura Kane, The Globe and Mail, 20 February 2015

The National Energy Board wants companies in Canada to make their emergency response plans public for existing pipelines, even though it has ruled Kinder Morgan can keep its plans secret from British Columbians.

"Our chairman is not very happy. Canadians deserve to have that information,” said Darin Barter, a spokesperson for the NEB.

"There's a public will for that information, and industry needs to find a way to make it public.''

Companies are not required to disclose th…

How Michele Bachmann Inspired Factcheck.org to Debunk Lies About Science

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["It's thanks to Michele Bachmann." I've added the Annenberg Foundation's SciCheck site to my news feed. *RON*]

—By Kishore Hari, Mother Jones, 20 February 2015

Four years ago, Michele Bachmann slammed Rick Perry—then the governor of Texas—for his executive order mandating HPV vaccinations. "I'm a mom of three children," Bachmann said during a GOP presidential debate. "And to have innocent little 12-year-old girls be forced to have a government injection through an executive order is just flat out wrong."

Bachmann, who at the time was a Republican congresswoman from Minnesota, expanded on her allegations the next day. "I will tell you that I had a mother last night come up to me here in Tampa, Fla., after the debate," she said on the Todayshow. "She told me that her little daughter took that vaccine, that injection, and she suffered from mental retardation thereafter. It can have very dan…

Will America's Shale Boomtowns Bust? A Report from the Heart of North Dakota's Fracking Country

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["Then came the swoon [and]...a strange cognitive dissonance." A very interesting piece that I'm sure refelcts the future of Alberta. *RON*]
By Jennifer Reingold, Fortune, 2 March 2015 edition
We’re standing on a windswept, snow-covered expanse of frozen ground in western North Dakota, imagining a future that is hard to picture here. Gesturing toward a grassy field, hatless in the 10-degree chill, Terry Olin and Ellen Simone Weyrauch, the principals of a real estate development firm called Stropiq, lay out their vision for Williston Crossing. They’ve planned a $500 million, 219-acre complex with 900 residential units, a hotel, a water park, and tons of big-box retail. As soon as Stropiq gets the expected approval from the county, it will break ground later this year and hopes to finish the first phase of construction by 2018.

Just 10 years ago the area was an American Empty Quarter, with nothing but a few grain farms and the occasion…

Bill C-51 Will Make It Easier To Throw Canadians In Jail Without a Charge

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[Excellent point: "...the intrusions of a census are deemed unacceptable while the disastrous privacy consequences of Bill C-51 are pushed as imperative." *RON*]
Yan Roberts, rabble.ca, 22 February 2015

In early February, Canada's Parliament voted down a bill to bring back the mandatory long-form census. The Conservative government's position was that the census was too intrusive. Remember that word: intrusive. Two weeks later they are arguing for the need of mass surveillance and other drastic civil liberty erosions that Bill C-51 brings. The inconsistency is disturbing when the intrusions of a census are deemed unacceptable while the disastrous privacy consequences of Bill C-51 are pushed as imperative.

The Conservative government first axed the mandatory long-form census in 2010, citing concerns about personal freedoms. Canada's then Industry Minster, Tony Clement, argued the census was intrusive to Canadians "who ju…