Showing posts from April, 2015

Revealed: Alberta’s ploy to break First Nations' pipeline opposition

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[Notice that this report is from the UK, not the (gutless) Canadian, press. Premier Jim Prentice angled for Alberta’s First Nations to sign a pact that would turn them into pro-pipeline lobbyists in exchange for oil and gas profits.]
Martin Lukacs, The Guardian, 29 April 2015

The Alberta government escalated its campaign to build tar sands pipelines under Premier Jim Prentice by seeking to have First Nations become full-blown proponents of the projects in return for oil revenues.

Documents obtained by the Guardian show that under a proposed agreement the province would have funded a task force of Alberta First Nations and government officials to “work jointly on removing bottlenecks and enabling the construction of pipelines to tide-water in the east and west coasts.”

The push was part of a broader diplomatic offensive launched by Progressive Conservative Premier Jim Prentice after he came to power in late 2014, making approval of pipelines his hig…

'Am I being executed?' Brazilian killed by Indonesia unaware until end, says priest

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[The poor schmuck didn't even realize he was being executed. The priest who counselled Rodrigo Gularte – who had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar disorder – says he tried in vain for three days to explain to the inmate he was about to die. Just five countries - China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the USA - carried out the overwhelming majority (88%) of known executions in the world last year. Iran and Saudi Arabia have executed minors. Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Somalia perform public executions. Also see a story from today: A shocking number of mentally ill Americans end up in prison instead of treatment. *RON*]

Michael Safi, The Guardian, 30 April 2015 A Brazilian man executed by firing squad along with seven other prisoners in Indonesia on Wednesday had no idea he was about to be killed until his final minutes, the priest who counselled him has said.

He also revealed that Mary Jane Veloso, a Filipino wom…

Report Says American Psychological Association Collaborated on Torture Justification

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["The involvement of health professionals in the Bush-era interrogation program... enabled the Justice Department to argue in secret opinions that the program was legal and did not constitute torture, since the interrogations were being monitored by health professionals to make sure they were safe." There are some good comments on the original article: "Why does this article call psychologists and health professionals 'dissidents' because they oppose torture? Any decent human being opposes torture. The article, rather, should call those who colluded with the Bush regime by their rightful name: criminals." *RON*]

By James Risen, New York Times, 30 April 2015

WASHINGTON — The American Psychological Association secretly collaborated with the administration of President George W. Bush to bolster a legal and ethical justification for the torture of prisoners swept up in the post-Sept. 11 war on terror, according to a new re…

Ben Bernanke scores another Wall Street payday

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[Washington = Wall Street = The 1%. *RON*]
By Matt O'Brien, Washington Post, 28 April 2015
If anyone deserves two seven-figure sinecures, it's Ben Bernanke.

The former Fed Chair put his academic work on the Great Depression to the best possible use when he saved the financial system in 2008, and then went further than any other central banker to try to bring unemployment down. But now he's putting that expertise to the best possible financial use by not only signing on to advise the $25 billion hedge fund Citadel, but also the $1.5 trillion bond fund Pimco. (Don't worry, though, these are the only two consulting gigs he says he'll take). Now Bernanke hasn't disclosed the terms of his compensation, but it's safe to say that if hedge funders are willing to pay him $200,000 just to dispense his wisdom over dinner, they'd be willing to pay him a lot more to do so on a regular basis.

It's yet another example of the r…

Living Wage In Metro Vancouver Jumps To $20.68/Hour: Study

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[This doesn't include savings for retirement, childrens' education or home ownership. *RON*]
By Rhianna Schmunk, Huffington Post B.C., 29 April 2015

Vancouver's sky-high cost of living is no secret, and a new report released Monday has found that the living wage in Metro Vancouver is only going up.

Calculated by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the report says two working parents living in the area would each need to earn $20.68 an hour to support two children — and that just covers basic expenses like food, rent, child care, and transportation.

That's up 58 cents from 2014 for an increase of 2.9 per cent, outstripping Vancouver's inflation rate of 1.1 per cent.

“The Metro Vancouver living wage rate demonstrates what many families already know: costs are increasing at a rate much faster than any increases in wages,” says Deanna Ogle, the campaign organizer with the Living Wage for Families Campaign in a news release. &…

Tribunal Hears Regulatory Capture Behind B.C.’s Decision to Increase Rio Tinto Alcan Pollution in Kitimat Airshed

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[The salary of the senior Ministry of Environment official in charge of reviewing the application by Rio Tinto Alcan to dramatically increase its sulfur dioxide emissions was bought and paid for by Rio Tinto which "in the end got exactly what it wanted" - no conflict of interest there, no sir! *RON*]

By Carol Linnitt, DeSmog Blog, 28 April 2015

The B.C. Ministry of Environment was too concerned with the interests of Rio Tinto Alcan when it granted the company a permit to dramatically increase the release of sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions in the Kitimat airshed, attendants of a tribunal heard in Victoria on Monday.

“This case raises the specter, in a very real way, of regulatory capture,” Chris Tollefson, lawyer for the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre, argued in his opening statement.

Tollefson said the B.C. Ministry of Environment put senior official Frazer McKenzie in a conflicted position when it allowed Rio Tinto Alc…

Behind Closed Doors, Canada’s Rickford Calls Oil Firms to Action

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[A good illustration of how fully intertwined the oil industry is with the Harper government. It's a bit discouraging to see how much time our public servants spend on the matter of oil patch propaganda. *RON*]

by Josh Wingrove, Bloomberg Business, 28 April 2015

Canada’s resource minister is privately urging oil and gas executives to get outside the board room and pitch projects to the public, boost spending on environmental research and work more closely with aboriginal groups to win the public relations battle over energy.

Greg Rickford spoke to a closed-door meeting of about 40 to 50 oil and gas executives in October -- a speech that went through several drafts as bureaucrats worked to make it more “pointed on what is needed from industry,” prepared remarks and e-mail documents obtained by Bloomberg through an Access to Information request show.

In the private address, Rickford congratulated industry on its achievements and touted his governm…

Record Financial Engineering Will Goose Stocks: Goldman

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[Why the corporatocracy loves free money: it uses the cash the buy back its own shares. Case in point: GE pulls a banner year for share prices and executive bonuses out of a $13.6 billion loss and declining revenues. Not only are they not doing anything useful for society or the economy, they are screwing up royally, and still enriching themselves massively in the process. And the best part of it all? When it all blows up they will be too big to fail! *RON*]
by Wolf Richter, Wolf Street, 28 April 2015

GE, in order to paper over a net loss of $13.6 billion and declining revenues in the first quarter, said on April 10 that it would buy back $50 billion of its own shares. That’s on top of the $10.8 billion in actual buybacks last year. The announcement was beat only by Apple’s $90 billion announcement last year, to which it added another $50 billion on Monday.

It’s going to be a great year, not for revenues and earnings, but for share buybacks. Hence …

Resistance Isn't Always Rational

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[Excellent piece. "We needn't endorse the means of desperate people to acknowledge their ends are worth fighting for." *RON*]

Elizabeth Nolan Brown, Reason, 27 April 2015
I agree with Robby Soave that non-defensive violence is not a good solution, both for moral and tactical reasons. But I nonetheless find myself filled with empathy for the people—rioters? protesters?— who have been engaging in acts of violence against police property, corporate property, and police themselves this afternoon and evening in Baltimore. That's not to say I condone their acts, but I find them understandable. Resistance isn't always rational, nor necessarily kind. Or, to say it another way, desperate people do desperate things. And it is very clear that there are a lot of people in this country in a state of desperation over our unaccountable, ever-encroaching, fee-mongering, violence-first police force and its myriad biases.

Bernie Sanders To Announce Presidential Run

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[I love Bernie's progressive politics, but the main effect of this is that now Hillary has someone to blame when she loses. *RON*]
By Bob Kinzel, Vermont Public Radio, 28 April 2015
VPR News has learned from several sources that Independent U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders will announce his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination on Thursday.

Sanders will release a short statement on that day and then hold a major campaign kickoff in Vermont in several weeks.

Sanders' entry into the Democratic race ensures that Hillary Clinton will face a challenge to win the support of the liberal wing of the party.

Sanders' basic message will be that the middle class in America has been decimated in the past two decades while wealthy people and corporations have flourished.

His opposition to a proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal (T.P.P.) shows how he plans to frame this key issue of his campaign.

"If you want to understand why the mid…

More Than 10,000 Enroll In Free University Course To Debunk Climate Science Denial

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[Sounds like a good course - and enrollment is still open. *RON*]

By Graham Readfearn, DeSmog Blog, 28 April 2015

More than 10,000 people from 150 countries have signed up for a free online university course that aims to explain the science of climate science denial and give the public the best tools to fight misinformation.

The course, from the University of Queensland in Australia, has recruited some of the world’s leading climate scientists, along with psychologists, science historians and even world famous natural history presenter Sir David Attenborough, who all gave interviews for Denial101x. Course instructors include scientists and contributors to the Skeptical Science website.

John Cook, course developer, instructor and Climate Communication Fellow at the university’s Global Change Institute, told DeSmogBlog the seven-week course would explain everything from the fundamentals of climate change science, to the techniques used by climate sci…

GDP figures: a blow for Osborne's growth and austerity mantra

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[Austerity ≠ economic growth. Austerity = unemployment & poverty. See also Top economist attacks Tory austerity – and Labour's limp response. *RON*]

Phillip Inman, The Guardian, 29 April 2015

What a gift to Labour. With just a few days to go before the general election, official figures have shown that Britain’s growth rate halved in the first three months of the year. And without the huge boost from lower oil prices to consumer spending and the transport sector, the economy could be heading back into recession.

Such is the lopsided, unequal character of Britain’s recovery that the Office for National Statistics put the spotlight on the hotel, restaurant and distribution sectors as among the fastest growing. A 1.2% increase in the last quarter compares with a 2.2% collapse across the entire construction industry and a meagre 0.1% increase in manufacturing since January.

U.S. worried about Canada’s ability to respond to oil spills, records reveal

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["...if the U.S. Coast Guard ranked an eight or nine out of 10 worldwide, then Canada’s Coast Guard would rank a one or two.... B.C. lacks authority over marine waters, and their federal regime is probably a couple of decades behind the system currently in place in Washington State.… When it is spilled, we are concerned that dilbit oil may be considerably more toxic and damaging, and far more difficult to clean up, than conventional crude from Alaska." *RON*]

Stanley Tromp, Special to The Globe and Mail, 28 April 2015
Newly released U.S. documents show American authorities are nervously eyeing Canadian proposals to triple the number of oil tanker voyages through the shared waters off B.C.’s coast, saying among themselves that Canadian standards to clean up a major spill are decades behind those of the U.S. and leave states vulnerable to environmental damage and costs.
After the MV Marathassa spilled sticky, toxic bunker fuel into Vancouv…

Spain's recovery - Not doing the job

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[Unemployment and underemployment tick up as workers sink into poverty. The effects of austerity continue to be felt in Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece. "Spaniards have a long tradition of keeping up appearances, and many of Elsa's neighbours are too ashamed to admit to their growing poverty. 'That's why you don't see it on the streets,' she says." *RON*]
The Economist, 24 April 2015

“THEY are good figures, we should celebrate,” said Mariano Rajoy, Spain’s prime minister, after data released on April 23rd showed the country’s recovering economy had created close to half a million jobs over the past year. Many Spaniards were feeling less than festive. Since the euro crisis hit in 2010, Spain’s astronomical unemployment rates have vied with Greece's for first place in Europe; they have fallen from a high of 27% in 2013, but slowly. Indeed, the unemployment rate increased slightly in the first quarter, to 23.8%. A…

Auditor General: Billions in tax breaks given without proper oversight

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[Time and again, Harper simply takes action based on ideology and the likelihood of political gains, ignoring any attempt to hold him accountable for results. No democratic government should be given this much rope to run with. *RON*]
 Jason Fekete, Ottawa Citizen, 28 April 2015

Finance Canada is failing to properly manage billions of dollars in tax credits it offers to Canadians and, in many cases, does not know if they are relevant, effective or achieving the government’s goals, says the federal auditor general.

The Finance Department also does not provide adequate information to parliamentarians on the tens of billions of dollars in so-called tax-based expenditures, Auditor General Michael Ferguson says in a stinging report released Tuesday.

Among his criticisms – which, coincidentally, come at the height of the tax season and just a week after a federal budget touting tax relief – is the government’s failure to include the projected future co…

Nonviolence as Compliance

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[Controversial but highly charged and compelling piece. Officials calling for calm can offer no rational justification for Gray's death, and so they appeal for order. "When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse." *RON*]
Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic, 27 April 2015
Rioting broke out on Monday in Baltimore—an angry response to the death of Freddie Gray, a death my native city seems powerless to explain. Gray did not die mysteriously in some back alley but in the custody of the city's publicly appointed guardians of order. And yet the mayor of that city and the commissioner of that city's police still have no idea what happened. I suspect this is not because the mayor and police commissioner are bad people, but because the state of Maryland prioritizes the protection of police officers charged with abuse over the citizens who fall under its purview.
The citi…

Tsipras reshuffles negotiating team to sideline Varoufakis

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[Greece is looking well and truly screwed. "The moves come as senior Greek ministers have publicly acknowledged in recent days that they may be forced to accept economic measures they have been attempting to avoid, a sign they are preparing Greek voters for concessions." *RON*]

Kerin Hope & Peter Spiegel, Financial Times, 27 April 2015
Greece’s outspoken finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has been sidelined after three months of fruitless talks with international creditors to unlock €7.2bn in bailout funds, heartening investors and sparking a rally on the Athens stock market.

Eurozone officials said they were encouraged by the move by Alexis Tsipras, Greece’s prime minister, to overhaul his bailout negotiating team in the wake of an acrimonious meeting of eurozone finance ministers in Riga last week.

The shake-up comes as Athens faces questions over whether it can meet this month’s wage and pension bill of nearly €2bn as well as a €750…

The 23 Count Indictment of the TPP

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[The most serious attempt to date to fully replace democracy with the corporatocracy. See also Obama’s Big Trade Failure and Democrats’ free trade war is getting ugly, and Obama is bending the truth. *RON*]

by Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism, 28 April 2015

Yves here. This post will serve to remind you: call your Representative (contact info here) and Senators (contact info here) today and tell them in no uncertain terms that you expect them to vote against Fast Track authority.This post provides more detail about the dangers of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and its evil twin, the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. And you can read here about why Fast Track authority is a hazard to your political health.

By Joe Firestone, Ph.D., Managing Director, CEO of the Knowledge Management Consortium International (KMCI), and Director of KMCI’s CKIM Certificate program. He taught political science as the graduate and undergraduate level and blogs …

Baltimore Brings In National Guard After Clashes Between Protestors and Police

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[The police decided to withhold information on how Freddie Gray died. How is that lack of transparency working out for you, Baltimore? *RON*]
By Jon Swaine, Ben Jacobs, Paul Lewis / The Guardian, 28 April 2015

Troops from the US national guard began rolling into Baltimore in armored vehicles after violent clashes, looting and fires led city authorities to declare a week-long curfew banning people from the streets at night.

At least 27 people were arrested after intense rioting broke out following the funeral service for Freddie Gray, a young black man who died last week of injuries sustained after his arrest. Fifteen police officers were injured in Monday night’s unrest, six of them seriously, according to chiefs.

Young people began hurling bricks and bottles at police in riot gear soon after Gray was buried in the afternoon. Shops in the Mondawmin mall were looted and police cars were set on fire and smashed – one while an officer remained seated i…

Pope Francis Steps Up Campaign on Climate Change, to Conservatives’ Alarm

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[Pope Francis keeps knocking them out of the ballpark. "...the effort is already angering a number of American conservatives, among them members of the Heartland Institute, a libertarian group partly funded by the Charles G. Koch Foundation, run by the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers, who oppose climate policy." *RON*]

By Coral Davenport & Luarie Goldstein, New York Times, 27 April 2015

WASHINGTON — Since his first homily in 2013, Pope Francis has preached about the need to protect the earth and all of creation as part of a broad message on the environment. It has caused little controversy so far.

But now, as Francis prepares to deliver what is likely to be a highly influential encyclical this summer on environmental degradation and the effects of human-caused climate change on the poor, he is alarming some conservatives in the United States who are loath to see the Catholic Church reposition itself as a mighty voice in a cau…

New spy powers not so scary: Stephen Harper adviser

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[Just like Dick Fadden's not-so-scary facial expression. "The new disruption powers could permit CSIS to... covertly interfere with radical websites." Uh, define 'radical', si'l vous plait? *RON*]
By Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press, Metro Calgary, 27 April 2015

OTTAWA – Planned new powers for Canada’s spy agency seem scarier than they really are, says Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s national security adviser.

Giving the Canadian Security Intelligence Service the ability to disrupt extremist plots will help squelch such dangerous activity at a very early stage, Dick Fadden told the Senate national security committee on Monday.

Opponents of the government’s anti-terrorism bill have denounced the idea of allowing the spy service to go beyond gathering information to actively derailing suspected schemes.
The new disruption powers could permit CSIS to thwart travel plans, cancel bank transactions and covertly interfere with ra…

Coast Guard Station vs Pre-Budget TV Advertising

[Misplaced priorities and contempt for the concerns of the majority of Canadians. Conservatives "save" $0.7 million closing Coast Guard station, spend $7.5 million advertising the budget. Join the call to reverse the Coast Guard cuts. One might add, "Money lost in premature sale of GM shares in order to balance the budget: $100 million." And "Mugging the emergency fund for $2 billion." The emergency being to balance the budget come hell or high water. *RON*]

Rising Police Aggression A Telling Indicator Of Our Societal Decline

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[Detailed piece on rising US police violence. *RON*]

By Chris Martenson, Peak Prosperity, 26 April 2015

My first Uber lift was in South Carolina. My driver was from Sudan originally, but had emigrated to the US 20 years ago. Being the curious sort, I asked him about his life in Sudan and why he moved. He said that he left when his country had crumbled too far, past the point where a reasonable person could have a reasonable expectation of personal safety, when all institutions had become corrupted making business increasingly difficult. So he left.

Detecting a hitch in his delivery when he spoke of coming to the US, I asked him how he felt about the US now, 20 years later. "To be honest," he said, "the same things I saw in Sudan that led me to leave are happening here now. That saddens me greatly, because where else is there to go?"

It’s time to face some uncomfortable ideas about the state of civilization in the United…

Move Over Shale, Solar Is Shining Brighter With Each Passing Day

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[Developments show how booming demand and support for solar is shaking up the energy paradigm. *RON*]

by Jon QueallyCommon Dreams, 26 April 2015
Move over dirty fossil fuels, the solar revolution is coming.

That, at least, is the buried headline contained in new reporting from Reuters on Sunday which looks at the ability of the solar industry to upend the world's energy system in ways similar to recent innovations which allowed oil and gas companies to squeeze previously unattainable deposits from underground shale formations.

With a focus on Japan, Reuters catalogs how the rising capacity and falling prices of solar energy—even as it currently survives without contributions from a fleet of dormant nuclear plants —has led the country to turn off its "giant oil-fired power plants" one after another.

Paul Krugman Blasts Right-Wing 'Truthers' Who Refuse to Admit They Were Wrong . . . About Anything

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[When in doubt, just deny, deny, deny. "Refusing to accept responsibility for past errors is a serious character flaw in one’s private life. It rises to the level of real wrongdoing when policies that affect millions of lives are at stake." See also One Reason Economists Don’t Get Any Love: They Refuse to Take Any Blame for the Great Crash. *RON*]

By Janet Allon / AlterNet, 27 April 2015

"Truthers" is a word that has come to mean its exact opposite, describing groups of people, generally nutcases, who dig deeper into denial the more evidence mounts to show their claims are wrong. Paul Krugman sees more and more "trutherism" in the right-wing flank of American politics these days, and it is having a pernicious effect on the country.

Krugman begins his Monday column:
Imagine yourself as a regular commentator on public affairs — maybe a paid pundit, maybe an supposed expert in some area, maybe just an opinionated billi…

Assisted Suicide Canada: Federal Consultation Hasn't Materialized

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[It's called 'playing to your religious base.' The Supreme Court threw out Harper's legislated prohibition on doctor-assisted suicide and ordered him to write a new law permitting this after consulting with Canadians. Harper said he would comply, but he rejected a proposal for an all-party committee that said it would have a report ready by this summer, and has done nothing at all since then. Time is running out, the election is looming, and he refuses to ask the court for an extension. *RON*]
By Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press / Huffington Post, 27 April 2015

OTTAWA - Two months after Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised to consult widely on doctor-assisted dying, the federal government has yet to reveal how it intends to canvass Canadians' views on the emotional issue — much less how it intends to legislate on the subject.

And time is running out.

When the Supreme Court struck down the prohibition on physician-assisted dy…

Austerity Push Hurt Women Most by Reinforcing Pay Gap, UN Says

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[It's no surprise that people who start from a weaker economic position will be hurt most by austerity policies; but it's important that it be documented - which, by policy and intent, we can no longer do in Canada since Harper killed the Long-Form Census. You can help fight against this by supporting Evidence For Democracy. *RON*]
bSangwon Yoon, Bloomberg Business, 27 April 2015

Austerity programs enacted after the 2008 global financial crisis, often featuring deep cuts in public spending, hurt women more than men and helped to reinforce rising income inequality, the United Nations said.

A report from the UN women’s empowerment division on Monday looked at how broad policy measures taken by governments can have unequal and often gender-specific consequences -- but don’t have to.

“Macroeconomic policies can pursue a broader set of goals, including gender equality and social justice,” UN Women said in the 337-page report entitled “Progress …

Frustrated Tar Sands Industry Looks for Arctic Export Route

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[With the Keystone XL and other pipeline projects running into stiff opposition, Alberta’s tar sands industry is facing growing pressure to find ways to get its oil to market. So, with all that pesky ice gone (thanks, global warming!) now we can finally ship tar sands oil through the Arctic. *RON*]

by Ed Struzik, Yale Environment 360, 7 April 2015

The Alberta tar sands industry — and the governments that depend on tar sands tax revenues — are facing an increasingly pressing problem: How to get the growing flow of oil sands bitumen to market. And with proposed pipelines to the south, east, and west facing stiff opposition, tar sands interests are now investigating another controversial option — heading north and shipping their product via the Arctic.
Enlarge To the south, the proposed $10 billion Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport Alberta tar sands oil through the heartland of the U.S. to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico, faces the possibil…

Enbridge pulled into Duffy scandal, turns tables on suspended senator

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[You know things look bad for Enbridge when a noted Calgary Herald columnist says that Northern Gateway is probably dead. Also see: Mike Duffy's 'unsolicited contacts' drew Enbridge warning to PMO. I think the damage to their reputation is done no matter what Enbridge says at this point. *RON*]
 Stephen Ewart, Calgary Herald, 25 April 2015

The allegation? Astonishing. The response? Even more remarkable.

The scandal surrounding Mike Duffy reached the oilpatch this week over the contentious issue of pipeline politics following a media report that Enbridge Inc. had engaged in secret lobbying of the Prime Minister’s Office through the now suspended Conservative senator.

Enbridge called the allegations in the National Observer story“completely false.” However, the company went on to portray Duffy as a self-important meddler who tried to insert himself into the process for its Northern Gateway project while also seeking work for one of his …

Suicide on the Great Sioux Nation

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[A discouraging problem and what some people are trying to do about it. Culture-loss, poverty, substance abuse, family violence are all major factors. *RON*]

By Jason Coppola, Truthout, 26 April 2015

Suicide arrives in waves on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

On Christmas Day, a 15-year-old Lakota girl took her own life. Soon afterward, a boy, just 14, took his.

Since then, a young man and six more girls, one as young as 12, have followed as this current wave continues to swell. There have been numerous additional attempts in the last few months on this South Dakota reservation of about 28,000 people.

The rate of suicide among Native youth in the United States is more than three times the national average. Very often that rate climbs even higher.

In March 2010, then president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, Theresa Two Bulls declared a suicide state of emergency after a rise in the number of suicides. Current President John Yellow Bird Steele has now …

Why Bad News Is Good News

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[While the point of social media might be to maintain 'nice' conversations, the point of news is identify, document and evaluate events of import to the public interest. "Consuming bad news is evolutionarily adaptive, but the nature of the social Web might limit its supply." *RON*]
Paul Hiebert, Pacific Standard Magazine, 22 April 2015

If you read the news often enough, you’ll know the world is populated by corrupt politicians, rapacious bankers, perverted priests, racist college students, and several hordes of armed zealots. Our planet is not a kind place—at least, if you keep up with the latest media reports. In 2007, for example, the Pew Research Center released data showing that for the past two decades Americans have been mainly interested in the following types of news stories: United States-related war and terrorism, bad weather, and human-made and natural disasters. Crime and social violence, plus health and safety, also…

To help spread its message, the NSA has produced a coloring book. You know, for kids

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[The NSA: Capturing the hearts & minds of wee hackers-to-be in the surveillance state while they're still chewing on their crayons. *RON*]

By Dan Raile, Pando, 25 April 2015

By the time I found the National Security Agency booth on the expo floor at last week’s RSA Conference, all the best shwag was gone. The most prized giveaway was a faux-leather Post-it Note kit bearing the agency’s seal.

“We can’t print enough of those,” the agency rep manning the booth told me. “Next year, we are going to make the seal even bigger. Kids will really like that, like a badge to show their friends at school.”

Is it strange that the NSA, which takes such care to stay out of the public eye, should be so keen tocapture the attention and aspirations of the young?

While I wasn’t able to score any government-issue school supplies, and none of the representatives could tell me if the NSA was still operating out of the hermetic former AT&T fiber optic hub down t…

A Residence With Locking Doors And A Working Toilet Is All That's Needed To Justify A No-Knock Warrant

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[From the I-Love-the-Sound-of-Jackboots-in-the-Morning Department. *RON*]

Tim Cushing, TechDirt, 23 April 2015

No-knock warrants have become the strategy of first choice for many police departments. Most of these target those suspected of drug possession or sales, rather than the truly dangerous situations they should be reserved for. The rise in no-knock warrants has resulted in an increased number of deadly altercations. Cops have been shot in self-defense by residents who thought their homes were being invaded by criminals. Innocent parties have been wounded or killedbecause the element of surprise police feel is so essential in preventing the destruction of evidence puts cops -- often duded up in military gear -- into a mindset that demands violent reaction to any perceived threat. In these situations, the noise and confusion turns everything into a possible threat, even the motions of frightened people who don't have time to grasp the rea…

Crash Boys

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[More on the insanity that is Wall Street. Flash Crash culprit Navinder Singh Sarao is "not some kind of exception to the standard operating procedure in finance. He’s a parody of it." *RON*]

By Michael Lewis, Bloomberg View, 24 April 2015
The first question that arises from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s case against Navinder Singh Sarao is: Why did it take them five years to bring it?

A guy living with his parents next to London's Heathrow Airport enters a lot of big, phony orders to sell U.S. stock market futures; the market promptly collapses on May 6, 2010; it takes five years for the army of U.S. financial regulators to work out that there might be some connection between the two events. It makes no sense.

Trading on Speed

A bunch of news reports have suggested that the CFTC didn’t have the information available to it to make the case. After the flash crash, the commission focused exclusively on trades that had occurr…

Big Bank 'Crime of the Century' Results in Guess What? No Jail Time for Anyone

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[Despite the severity of the offenses, 'the government concluded that these crimes should be punished only through a financial penalty,' says Public Citizen. "Until the public has seen justice being done, in the shape of the bankers and traders carted off to face trials and retribution, the appalling transgressions of the banking sector will remain an open wound. Not only should the bankers face long jail sentences, but the ill-gotten assets should be reclaimed by the state as would be the case were they common or garden criminals." *RON*]

By Deirdre FultonCommon Dreams, 24 April 2015

While corporate watchdogs hailed the record $2.5 billion settlement paid by Deutsche Bank to U.S. and U.K. authorities for its rate-rigging role in the massive LIBOR scandal, some noted that the fine—while large—suggests that some institutions are still considered "too big to jail."

Authorities announced Thursday that Germany's bigg…

The Asshole Factory

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[The only truly must-read piece I've seen this year. I've downloaded a sample chapter to my e-reader. Our economy doesn’t make stuff anymore. So what does it make? Assholes. *RON*]

Umair Haque,, 21 April 2015

My good friend Mara has not one but two graduate degrees. From fine, storied universities. Surprise, surprise: the only “job” she was able to find was at a retail store.

Hey—it’s only minimum wage, but at least she’s working, right? And at a major-league, blue-chip company, An American icon; an institution; a name every man, woman, and child in this country knows; an historic company that rings of the American Dream the world over, besides. Surely, if nothing else, it’s a start.

Perhaps you’re right. Maybe it isn’t the start she always dreamed of…but at least it is one. If so…then awaits her at the finish?

What is Mara’s job like? Her sales figures are monitored…by the microsecond. By hidden cameras and mics. They listen …

Greece Talks With Eurogroup Hit “Complete Breakdown”

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[Is it already too late for sovereignty in the face of the banksters? "Greece was almost certain to continue to face harsh times, but the likely outcome looks to be particularly difficult. I wish the long-suffering Greek people the best of luck. They need it." *RON*] 

By Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism, 25 April 2015

We said as soon as Syriza was voted into office, in How Much Success is Syriza Likely to Have in Ending Austerity? that it was unlikely to prevail:
I see three stumbling blocks for the Greek negotiating position. The first is that there seems to be no overlap between what they want and the northern bloc is likely to be willing to concede…. Second is that the best idea that the Greeks have to square the circle of austerity v. the Greeks wanting a more pro-growth, more humanitarian solution, the so-called Modest Proposal, is not modest at all from the Eurozone perspective. While it is “modest” in that it works within the existin…

Cities and States Across the Country Are Paying Massive Secret Fees to Wall Street

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["Massive payouts to Wall Street are happening at the very moment politicians are demanding big cuts to retirees’ pension benefits." *RON*]

By David Sirota, In These Times, 23 April 2015

Massive payouts to Wall Street are happening at the very moment politicians are demanding big cuts to retirees’ pension benefits.

With so much money at issue—and with pensioners' retirement income on the line—scrutiny is long overdue.

California’s report said $440 million. New Jersey’s said $600 million. In Pennsylvania, the tally is $700 million. Those Wall Street fees paid by public workers’ pension systems have kicked off an intensifying debate over whether such expenses are necessary. Now, a report from an industry-friendly source says those huge levies represent only a fraction of the true amounts being raked in by Wall Street firms from state and local governments.

“Less than one‐half of the very substantial [private equity] costs incurred by U.S.…