Showing posts from August, 2015

Canada's prime minister wants to make it harder for people to vote against him

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[It's interesting how much of this commentary is coming from places like The New York Times and The Guardian. "It’s time for voters to refuse to be cowed, push through the obstacles and ensure the electoral crown is claimed by a candidate with a mandate from the people and not won through trickery and manipulation." *RON*]
Caroline Konrad, The Guardian, 28 August 2015

Acclaimed Canadian author Margaret Atwood faced censorship in the national press late last week for her satirical take on Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s hair. It might have been a rather amusing episode if it wasn’t symptomatic of darker, Orwellian trends that have marked Harper’s nine years in office.

Stephen Marche’s article in the New York Times mid-month does an excellent job of summarizing how Harper has pulled tight the reins of power, stifled criticism and eroded the freedoms of Canadians. But it is in the prime minister’s assaults on the most fundamental of dem…

Myanmar's president signs off on law seen as targeting Muslims

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[Where is the voice of Aung San Suu Kyi in all this? She has lost whatever moral authority she may have once possessed. *RON*]
Naypyidaw | BY Hnin Yadana Zaw, Reuters, 31 August 2015

Myanmar's president on Monday signed into law the last of four controversial bills championed by radical Buddhists but decried by rights groups as aimed at discriminating against the country's Muslim minority.

Myanmar, which will hold its first democratic national poll in more than two decades on Nov. 8, has seen a flowering of anti-Muslim hate speech since the military gave up full power and opened up politics and the economy in 2011.

President Thein Sein signed the Monogamy Bill after it was passed by parliament on August 21, Zaw Htay, a senior official at the president's office, told Reuters. The law was briefly sent back to parliament for review before being signed.

The bill sets punishments for people who have more than one spouse or live with an unmarr…

Canada has asked Egypt for Mohamed Fahmy’s deportation: wife

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[This is a very low profile story in the Canadian press. It's getting coverage in The New York Times and the BBC, but it appears to be invisible in the election campaign. *RON*]

The Canadian Press / Globe & Mail, 31 August 2015
The wife of a Canadian journalist imprisoned in Egypt says the Canadian Embassy in Cairo has applied to have her husband deported from the country.
An Egyptian court sentenced Mohamed Fahmy to three years in prison on Saturday — a verdict which shocked his family and led many international observers to call for his release.

It’s the second time Fahmy has landed behind bars in the same case. He was originally arrested in December 2013 with two colleagues while working for satellite news broadcaster Al Jazeera English and faced widely denounced terror charges.

He spent more than a year in prison before an appeal of his conviction resulted in a release on bail during a retrial that culminated in Saturday’s verdict.

His wi…

Harperman Case: Can Public Servants Be Political Activists?

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[This is part and parcel with Harper's extreme interpretation of 'representative government.' He grudgingly admits that people are allowed to vote but that, outside of this, people should shut up, get out of his way, and let the politicians who 'represent' us to get on with their job. *RON*]
CBC / Huffington Post, 30 August 2015

An investigation into an Ottawa federal scientist who wrote and performed an anti-Harper protest song and posted it to YouTube has sparked a debate about just how political Canada's public servants are allowed to be.

Tony Turner, a scientist in habitat planning at Environment Canada, was sent home on leave with pay pending a government investigation into the making of Harperman, a highly critical song about Conservative Leader Stephen Harper that has amassed more than 50,000 hits since June.

At issue is whether Turner violated the code of ethics that all public servants must adhere to — one that manda…

Jason Kenney Touts Broader Definition Of 'Recession'

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[Pathetic spin-doctoring. *RON*]
CBC / Huffington Post, 31 August 2015

Conservative candidate Jason Kenney laid the groundwork for a broader definition of "recession" just a few short days before GDP numbers for the second quarter of 2015 are set to be released.

"Most economists define a recession as a widespread downturn in the economy," Kenney told host Rosemary Barton on CBC News Network's Power & Politics on Sunday.

"What we know is we have a clear sectoral downturn in oil and gas, because of a 60 per cent decline in global prices for that commodity."

Traditionally, economists define a recession as two consecutive quarters with negative GDP growth. Canada's economy has contracted in each of the first four months of the year and Tuesday's GDP numbers will show whether that trend continued over the second quarter of 2015.

Kenney offered a different take on the R-word.

UN chief 'horrified' by latest refugee deaths, asks states to act with humanity

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["U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon plans a 'special meeting devoted to these global concerns' on Sept. 30, during the annual General Assembly of world leaders at U.N. headquarters." See also: Europe shouldn’t worry about migrants. It should worry about creeping fascism. *RON*]
By Associated Press, US News & World Report, 28 August 2015.
(Geneva AP) — Here are the latest developments Friday regarding the tens of thousands of migrants trying to reach Europe.

10 p.m.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says he is "horrified and heartbroken" by the latest deaths in Austria and at sea.

In a rare statement issued under his name and not a spokesman, he stresses that a "large majority" of people undertaking such dangerous journeys are refugees who have the right to protection and asylum.

He calls on all governments to act with compassion and humanity.

Ban also says the conflicts and repression that force people t…

Uh-oh, Canada. China Pales as a Risk to U.S. Growth

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[Oh Mister Harper! Bloomberg thinks the sinking Canadian economy could be a bigger threat to the US economy thank the sinking Chinese economy! "The U.S. neighbor to the North could cool off momentum." *RON*]
Jeanna Smialek, Bloomberg, 28 August 2015

Canada probably experienced a technical recession in the first half of 2015, and the fact that the No. 1 U.S. export market is in a slump could spell bad news for growth in the world's biggest economy.

Canada's gross domestic product contracted for a second quarter in the three months through June, a Sept. 1 report will show, according to almost all economists in a Bloomberg survey. The economy probably shrank by 1 percent, even worse than the 0.6 percent first-quarter drop.

"When Canada hurts, U.S. exporters do, too," Bricklin Dwyer, an economist at BNP Paribas in New York, wrote in an Aug. 27 note to clients titled "Canada (not China) matters more."

The great blackout of '15! :-)

[Well, we finally have power back! *RON*]

Harper's violation of international law in Libya

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[In 2011, in direct contravention of UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCR) 1970 and 1973, highly secretive Canadian special forces were on the ground in Libya, despite the fact that any Canadian 'boots on the ground' in Libya violated UNSCR 1973, which explicitly excluded "a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory." If the situation was reversed Harper would be the first to shout 'terrorism!' *RON*]
By Yves Engler,, 28 August 2015

Since the start of the Canadian election campaign a series of posts have detailed the Harper Conservatives repeated abuse of power. The Tyee published "Harper, Serial Abuser of Power", which listed "70 Harper government assaults on democracy and the law." But the widely disseminated list omitted what may be the Conservatives' most flagrant – and far-reaching –lawbreaking. In 2011 Ottawa defied UN Se…

The Harper Conservative economic disaster

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[He's put all our eggs in the tar sands basket, he has the worst economic record since WWII, we have rising levels of child poverty and homelessness under his watch, and he's constantly put the GDP above the survival of the planet. *RON*]

By Doug Carrick, Common Sense Canadian, 28 August 2015

According to Stephen Harper, the coming election offers a choice between the certainty of Conservative economic expertise on the one hand…or the risk of Liberal or New Democrat inexperience. However, a closer examination reveals a different picture. It is the Conservatives who have the shaky economic record.
All his eggs in one basket
For example, instead of diversifying the economy, Harper has put all his eggs in one basket (the tar sands). Farmers on the prairies know all about diversification. To cover the possibilities of crop failure or an unexpected drop in market price, they plant a variety of crops – wheat, canola, legumes, oats, barley, …

An Act of Genocide, Colonialism and the Sterilization of Aboriginal Women

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[Such a glorious piece of our history; the Canadian equivalent of Doctor Mengele. Treating Aboriginal women like meat: "Preventing indigenous women from getting pregnant was a means of limiting government responsibilities". *RON*]
By Jody Porter, CBC News / West Coast Native News, 28 August 2015

A new book is shedding light on the coercive sterilization of indigenous women in Canada in the 1970s.

An Act of Genocide, Colonialism and the Sterilization of Aboriginal Women was written by Karen Stote, an assistant professor of women and gender studies at Wilfred Laurier University in Ontario.

She documents 580 sterilizations of indigenous women that took place at federal hospitals between 1971 and 1974. The hospital in Moose Factory, Ont. conducted 147 of them. The Sioux Lookout, Ont. hospital is responsible for 61.

“Evidence indicates this practice was carried out by eugenically minded doctors in Ontario and northern Canada, where aboriginal wo…

Unis’tot’en stop TransCanada again

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[TransCanada says this is a public road and that the Wet’suwet’en are legally obligated to participate in meaningful consultation. The Wet’suwet’en say they have title to this land, that they will never agree to a pipeline on their land, and that it is TransCanada that has failed to engage in meaningful consultation. The RCMP are largely stuck in the middle. *RON*]
By Alicia Bridges – Smithers Interior News, posted in West Coast Native News, 28 August 2015

TransCanada reported to the RCMP today after a convoy of their workers were refused access to Wet’suwet’en land by members of a Unist’ot’en clan blockade.

Four vehicles carrying Coastal GasLink Pipeline Project workers were turned away at a checkpoint on Chisholm Road south of Houston about 11 a.m. this morning.

The checkpoint is one of two camps blocking pipeline proponents from accessing the traditional territory of the Unis’tot’en clan, which is part of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation.

The TransCa…

Fracking-induced quakes in B.C. are among largest on record

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["...experts caution much is still not known about just how strong a fracking-induced earthquake could be. 'There’s a huge difference between a 4.4. and a 5. To be perfectly honest, we don’t know what the upper limit of a fracking-induced earthquake can be....' The B.C. Oil and Gas Commission did not respond to repeated requests for comment." *RON*]

Kat Sieniuc, Globe and Mail, 26 August 2015
At least two earthquakes in British Columbia over the past year – including one last week – are among the largest ever caused by natural gas fracking in North America and were both strong enough to force temporary shutdowns of operations.
But while the province’s oil and natural gas ministry as well as the shale gas industry have both played down the severity of fracking-induced quakes – insisting they are rare and present no threat to people or buildings – experts caution much is still not known about just how strong a fracking-induced eart…

B.C. Minister Bennett’s Visit Fails to Ease Alaskans’ Mining Concerns

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[They certainly know our politicians: "...promises of a strengthened dialogue and more opportunities to comment on mine applications fall far short of a growing chorus of Alaskan demands.... 'Increased involvement in the B.C permitting process is not a bad thing, but it is not a solution on its own. In other words, we stand firm for the need of an international solution under the Boundary Waters Treaty.... We are looking for very specific action to back these words up.'" *RON*]

By Judith Lavoie, DeSmog Blog, 28 August 2015
Promises of a closer relationship between B.C. and Alaska and more consultation on B.C. mine applications are a good start, but, so far, Southeast Alaska has no more guarantees that those mines will not pollute salmon-bearing rivers than before this week’s visit by B.C.’s Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett, say Alaskan fishing and conservation groups.

Bennett, accompanied by senior civil servants from the m…

Migrant crisis: Why do politicians seem unable to act?

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[Neoliberal and neoimperial concepts of international politics have unleashed monsters they now feel powerless to control. *RON*]
By Chris Morris, BBC News, 28 August 2015

"We can't cope!" is the collective cry from across Europe, as the huddled masses spill onto its shores and scramble over hastily-assembled razor wire fences.

"The numbers are too great. It's biblical!"

A little perspective, however, would not go amiss.

This may be Europe's biggest migration crisis since World War Two, but it is nothing compared to the challenges facing neighbouring countries in the Middle East.

Take a look at the numbers in Turkey. In Jordan. In Lebanon.

There are millions of people seeking shelter, in countries that have far fewer resources to help them cope.

And yet so many people want to reach the EU that the system is creaking at the seams, and the limits of European cooperation are being laid bare.

Hawaii’s Going 100 Percent Renewable, And It’s Not Using Natural Gas As A ‘Transition’

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[Again, just because our governments tell us this can't be done. *RON*]

By Samantha Page, Think Progress, 28 August 2015
One out of every eight homes in Hawaii has solar.

Hawaiian Gov. David Ige said this week he opposes plans to use liquefied natural gas as a “transitional fuel” for the island state as it moves to 100 percent renewable electricity. Ige said investment in infrastructure for LNG — or any fossil fuel — was misplaced, and he expressed doubt that there would be any monetary benefits to LNG proposals.

“LNG is a fossil fuel. LNG is imported. And any time or money spent on LNG is time and money not spent on renewable energy,” Ige told the audience at the Asia Pacific Resilience Innovation Summit and Expo in Honolulu on Monday night.

The governor’s remarks are especially significant because Florida-based NextEra Energy is trying to purchase Hawaii’s major utilities. NextEra is an electric utility that also produces natural gas, which ma…

Many Psychology Findings Not as Strong as Claimed, Study Says

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[It has long been known, and decried, that there is a bias toward publishing 'positive' findings - that is, papers with no statistically significant results tend not to get published. Yet, these 'negative' findings are just as important for advancing knowledge. *RON*]

By Benedict Carey, New York Times, 27 Augusut 2015
The past several years have been bruising ones for the credibility of the social sciences. A star social psychologist was caught fabricating data, leading to more than 50 retracted papers. A top journal published a study supporting the existence of ESP that was widely criticized. The journal Science pulled a political science paperon the effect of gay canvassers on voters’ behavior because of concerns about faked data.

Now, a painstaking yearslong effort to reproduce 100 studies published in three leading psychology journals has found that more than half of the findings did not hold up when retested. The analysis was …

Katrina may be a metaphor to some, but it’s still a reality to New Orleans

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[Ten years after Katrina. "For so many African Americans, watching people on New Orleans’s rooftops waving desperately for help at helicopter crews flying overhead, there were profound questions. Was this our country? If Americans can be stranded, left half-starved and then merely contained, then what does citizenship mean?" Also interesting: After Katrina, Disgraced Former FEMA Director Continued Disaster Aid. It Didn’t Go Well. *RON*]
By Janell Ross, Washington Post, 27 August 2015

NEW ORLEANS —Come first to the corner of Flood and North Galvez streets, Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans.

Here, where the unauthorized Lower Ninth tour groups almost never come to gawk and the planning experts rarely do, it’s just silent enough to take it all in. This is not the stretch where Brad Pitt’s charitable organization has rebuilt a series of elevated, solar-panel-equipped homes. This isn’t the site of a big new school. This isn’t the place that Pre…

Józef Wesołowski, defendant in Vatican's first child abuse trial, dies

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[The original NYT articles detailing the open secret of Wesolowski's pedophilia in the Domincan Republic were shocking to read. On the one hand, Pope Francis was brave in - at last - bringing someone senior in the hierarchy to trial for child abuse. On the other hand this only came after huge delays and Wesolowski was extradited to the Vatican for trial, rather than face justice in DR where his victims were. The former ambassador was due to go on trial last month, but the hearing was postponed after he was taken ill. *RON*]
Stephanie Kirchgaessner and Rosie Scammell, The Guardian, 28 August 2015
The former Vatican ambassador Józef Wesołowski has died before he was due to go on trial for paedophilia, dealing a significant blow to Pope Francis’s efforts to tackle child sex abuse within the Catholic church.

Wesołowski was found dead at his Vatican residence early on Friday morning, the Holy See said in a statement. He was discovered by a Francisc…

Is Someone Politicizing Intelligence on ISIS?

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["...officials in U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) have been 'improperly reworking' their conclusions in order to present a picture of optimism and progress.... Administration supporters are whitewashing intelligence rather than face the fact that the administration’s strategy is failing.... [Politicization] skews current intelligence reports and inhibits later reassessment. [It] also poison relations between policymakers and intelligence agencies for years after the fact, as happened after a major intelligence-policy breakdown during the Vietnam War." *RON*]
Guest post by Joshua Rovner, politicalviolenceataglance, 28 August 2015

This week the New York Times reported on complaints that the military is altering intelligence estimates in the war against ISIS. According to the Times, civilian analysts in the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) claim that officials in U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) have been “improperly reworking” thei…

How the rich got richer and you got the shaft

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[What if it's all about the income inequality? The Great Recession and the Great Depression have many similarities. *RON*]
Michael Wilson, Vancouver Observer, 27 August 2015

Economists have been scratching their heads for some time now, asking themselves why the economy has been so weak for so long. They've come up with all sorts of theories to explanation the situation: Automation, globalization,fiscal policy, secular stagnation, financialization, etc.

But what if the answer is much simpler than that? What if the biggest problem is income inequality?

Imagine you have a perfectly functioning economy. The working-class would make enough to generate sufficient consumer demand and keep the economy operating at 100 per cent. In addition, their incomes would grow along with the economy.

In this scenario, the wealthy would also make enough to provide sufficient investment capital to satisfy the needs of businesses, as well as the stock and bond ma…

Harper's Claim About Growing Economy Contains 'A Lot Of Baloney'

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["From May 2014 to May 2015, the energy sector has indeed shrunk by 6.9 per cent, according to Statcan. But durable manufacturing industries scaled back their activity by 4.8 per cent, and industrial production fell by four per cent during that period, too.... The bigger question is what is the state of the economy? The economy is weak." *RON*]
By Mike Blanchfield, Canadian Press / Huffington Post, 28 August 2015

OTTAWA — "We all know what has happened there — the massive fall in global energy prices. But, you know, 80 per cent of the economy is actually growing." — Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
When asked to explain why he thinks Canada is not currently in a recession, Stephen Harper blamed the falling price of oil, China's declining growth and the European Union's debt crisis. And he said that Canada's situation — its banking and financial sector — was otherwise basically solid.

How accurate is his assertion t…

Living Downstream of B.C.’s Gold Rush: Alaska’s Fishermen Fear End of ‘Last Wild Frontier’

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["There’s no such thing as a benign tailings pond." "My business is taking the risk and there’s no upside for us." *RON*]

By Judith Lavoie, DeSmog Blog, 26 August 2015

No fish in the car, warned the rental car attendant at Juneau airport, with the weary tone of someone who had cleaned too many fish guts out of returned vehicles. It was a warning underlined by signs in hotels pleading with guests not to clean fish in the hotel bathrooms.

Fishing is in the DNA of Southeast Alaskans, not only as a sport and common way of filling the freezer, but also as a driver of the state economy. So it is not surprising that the perceived threat presented by a rush of mine applications on the B.C. side of the borderhas brought together diverse groups who want B.C. to give Alaska an equal seat at the decision-making table and to have the issue referred for review to the International Joint Commission.

“I can’t conceive of not being able to fish …

Why it’s never ‘the right time’ to discuss gun control

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[I had bookmarked this one for inclusion here, then promptly forgot about it! One mass shooting per day in the US in 2015. *RON*]

By Christopher Ingraham, Washington Post, 27 July 2015
Last Friday, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal was in no mood to talk gun control in the wake of the Lafayette theater shooting. "There will be an absolute appropriate time for us to talk about policies and politics," he said. But it wasn't then.

He didn't want to talk about it a month earlier, either, in the aftermath of the Charleston church shootings. "Now’s not the time," he said, criticizing President Obama for "trying to score cheap political points" for bringing up gun control in a speech.

But it's not just Bobby Jindal. In recent years, politicians and commentators from across the political spectrum have responded to mass shootings with an invocation of the phrase "now is not the time," or a close variant. The Oba…

Oil price fall hits Canada’s big banks

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[Mr. Bankster has a sad: "We're only going to make a zillion bucks, not the ga-zillion we deserve!" sobs deprived CEO shown below:
Yet, see also: TD Bank’s profit rises to $2.266B on Canadian, wholesale banking growth, and Royal Bank of Canada raises dividend 3% as profit rises on record-high Canadian banking earnings. Though, while we're at it, it's also true that: Oil Industry Needs Half a Trillion Dollars to Endure Price Slump. Where do you suppose this money will come from? Hint: hang on to your wallet. *RON*]
Ben McLannahan, Financial Times, 27 August 2015

Canada’s biggest banks have warned of more troubles to come from the fall in the oil price, as they reported surges in bad loans and chilling effects on consumer demand in the world’s 11th-largest economy.

So far the big lenders such as Royal Bank of Canada and Toronto-Dominion Bank have kept a lid on writedowns by assuming a recovery in the price of crude, while borr…

China can ride out this crisis. But we’re on course for another crash

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[While it's true that China's market mess contributed to the global shocks we're seeing, there's also a growing acknowledgement that this is an effect of general flaws in the neoliberal policy approach, including enforced austerity, that is being taken in both the developed and the developing world. See also: The antidote to economic anxiety is better government. *RON*]
Seumas Milne, The Guardian, 27 August 2015
Market mayhem is the product of the aftershocks of 2008. No wonder calls for alternatives are growing

It may not yet be the moment to get in supplies of tinned food. That was what Gordon Brown’s former adviser during the 2008 crash, Damian McBride, suggested on Monday as stock markets crashed from Shanghai to New York and $1tn was wiped off the value of shares in one day. But seven years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers brought down the global financial system and plunged half the world into a slump, it’s scarcely alar…

Canadian agency deciding Shell’s offshore drilling includes ex-Shell official

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[More Tory-fed regulatory capture. News of Harper-appointed official follows on Environment Minister granting Shell up to 21 days to stop underwater oil spills. "In contrast the United States requires Shell to have capping equipment on-site in Alaska within 24 hours.... Federal environmental reviews of the sort conducted for Shell’s drilling plans now happen with shortened timelines and drastically restricted public participation, and only for projects determined by the federal government. The Harper government has cut 40 percent of the budget of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and fired hundreds of scientists who contributed to environmental reviews." *RON*]
Martin LukacsTim Groves, The Guardian, 27 August 2015

The agency tasked with giving approval for Shell’s deep-water drilling off Canada’s east coast includes a Tory-appointed official who worked for Shell for decades, it has emerged.

Shell’s billion-dollar plans for e…

Ukraine crisis: Creditors to 'write off' 20% of debt

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[Become a poster-boy for US and EU anti-Putinism = 20% debt write-off. Lip back to Mighty Merkel & Company about austerity = too bad buddy. But it's not all "ideological," right? *RON*]

BBC News, 27 August 2015

The Ukrainian government says it has reached a debt restructuring deal with its creditors including a write-off of up to $3.8bn (£2.5bn; €3.4bn).

Finance Minister Natalia Yaresko said Ukraine's sovereign debt, estimated at $19bn, would be cut by 20% and the repayment period extended.

Ukraine's economic woes have spiralled since conflict erupted with pro-Russia rebels in the east in April 2014.

Hopes have risen of a peace deal amid continued fighting this week.

Whales Are Mysteriously Dying in the Pacific Northwest

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[But, of course, this has nothing to do with climate change. *RON*]

By Charles P. Pierce, Esquire, 25 August 2015

​While we're all busy talking about anchor-babies, and watching the stock market behave like a feather in a wind tunnel, whales are dying in the northeast corner of the Pacific Ocean and nobody knows why in the hell this is happening. Although there are some guesses that aren't going to make the folks at the Heartland Institute very happy.

(And the caption on the picture is correct. It is helpful for scientific purposes to get to the body of the dead whale before the bears arrive. We see, "mysterious environmental catastrophe." The bears see, "Old Country Buffet.")​
Since May 2015, 11 fin whales, 14 humpback whales, one gray whale, and four unidentified cetaceans have stranded around the islands of the western Gulf of Alaska and the southern shoreline of the Alaska Peninsula. To date, this brings the large…

How companies make millions off lead-poisoned, poor blacks

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[Unbelievably venal and despicable. *RON*]

By Terrence McCoy, Washington Post, 25 August 2015

BALTIMORE — The letter arrived in April, a mishmash of strange numbers and words. This at first did not alarm Rose. Most letters are that way for her — frustrating puzzles she can’t solve. Rose, who can scarcely read or write, calls herself a “lead kid.” Her childhood home, where lead paint chips blanketed her bedsheets like snowflakes, “affected me really bad,” she says. “In everything I do.”

She says she can’t work a professional job. She can’t live alone. And, she says, she surely couldn’t understand this letter.

So on that April day, the 20-year-old says, she asked her mom to give it a look. Her mother glanced at the words, then back at her daughter. “What does this mean all of your payments were sold to a third party?” her mother recalls saying.

The distraught woman said the letter, written by her insurance company, referred to Rose’s lead checks. …

World trade suffers biggest fall in 6 years

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[Could we be at a turning point for globalization? "There’s an adjustment going on in the global economy and trade is a place where that adjustment becomes pretty visible." *RON*]

Shawn Donnan, Financial Times, 25 August 2015

The figures showing a contraction in global trade fuel a debate over whether globalisation has peaked

World trade recorded its biggest contraction since the financial crisis in the first half of this year, according to figures that will fuel a debate over whether globalisation has peaked.

The volume of global trade fell 0.5 per cent in the three months to June compared with the first quarter, the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis, keepers of the World Trade Monitor, said on Tuesday.

Economists there also revised down their result for the first quarter to a 1.5 per cent contraction, making the first half of 2015 the worst recorded since the 2009 collapse in global trade that followed the crisis.


Dozens of dead migrants found in truck on road leading from Hungary: Austrian police

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[Building razor-wire walls will not work; it will create horrors such as this. And, in a terrible (non-)coincidence: Bodies of 50 migrants found during rescue of boat off Libya - video*RON*]

Ronald Zak, Associated Press / Globe & Mail, 27 August 2015

Police on Thursday discovered the partially decomposed bodies of dozens of migrants piled up in a truck parked on the shoulder of an Austrian highway leading from the Hungarian border.

Police official Hans Peter Doskozil said the truck had Hungarian license plates. The state of the bodies made establishing the identity and exact number of dead migrants difficult, but the total number could rise to 50, said Doskozil, chief of Burgenland police.

He said the truck was apparently abandoned Wednesday and its back door was left open, exposing the bodies to police.

Police ordered reporters converging on the scene about 40 kilometres southeast of Vienna, to move away from the vehicle, a white refriger…

Hispanics Really, Really Hate Donald Trump

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[This basically says that Trump could sink the Republicans if he stays with them or if he leaves them. Of course, all that means is they would wind up with another President Clinton (though Sanders is actually ahead of her in the polls at this moment). *RON*]

—By Kevin Drum, Mother Jones, 25 August 2015

Gallup posted a pretty dramatic chart today. It shows net favorability among Hispanics for the Republican presidential candidates, and for 16 of them it ranges from +11 (Jeb Bush) to -7 (Ted Cruz).

Why It's Getting to Be Damn Near Impossible to Know What Food Is Actually Healthy

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[Pseudoscience and the corporatocracy. Short version: corporate lies and regulatory capture. Corporate funding is producing oceans of questionable information when it comes to health. *RON*]

By Marty KaplanAlterNet, 25 August 2015

You might think an outfit calling itself an academy would be, you know, academic. But as Jon Stewart put it, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is as much an academy as the “Pasteurized Prepared Cheese Product” called Kraft Singles is cheese.

The last time the academy was in the news, it was for taking an undisclosed amount of money from Kraft in exchange for giving Kraft permission to put the academy’s “Kids Eat Right” logo on Kraft Singles. When nailed for this, the academy denied that this amounted to putting a stamp of approval on Singles. What it really was, they claimed, was an ad for the academy’s Kids Eat Right initiative. If this were true, it would be the first time in the history of the world that an…

Ken Burns Sets Confederate Flag Lovers Straight: It’s About ‘Slavery Slavery Slavery’

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[Burns recommended that Americans read South Carolina’s Articles of Secession to get the real story on why the states went to war against each other. *RON*]
By David EdwardsRaw Story / AlterNet, 24 August 2015

Historian Ken Burns reminded supporters of the Confederacy on Sunday that the Civil War had been primarily about slavery, and not states’ rights as many conservatives have claimed.

“You know, when the Constitutional Convention happened, there was a man named John J. Chapman, who said slavery was like a sleeping serpent,” Burns told CBS host John Dickerson. “It lay coiled under the table during the deliberations; thereafter, slavery was on everyone’s mind, if not always on his tongue.”

“You know, we’ve grown up as country with a lot of powerful symbols of the Civil War in popular culture that would be ‘Birth of a Nation,’ D.W. Griffiths’ classic, and ‘Gone with the Wind,’ of course,” he explained. “And in that, it postulates, among other thi…

Republicans Aren't Fooled by Scientists

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By Tom Tomorrow, The Nation, 26 August 2015.

MSF says it treated Syrians 'exposed to chemical agent'

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[Doctors Without Borders says medics treated four patients in Aleppo whose symptoms point to exposure to chemical agents. You can't tell who did it, since both ISIS and Assad have been accused of using chemical weapons. The comments on the original article are as rabidly psychotic as you'd expect them to be. *RON*]

Al Jazeera, 25 Aug 2015

An international medical organisation has said its doctors treated four patients last week in the Syrian city of Aleppo who were exhibiting symptoms of exposure to chemical agents.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said on Tuesday that the patients were all from one family - two parents, a three-year-old girl and a five-day-old baby girl.

In a statement on Tuesday, MSF said the four family members had arrived at one of its hospital one hour after an attack occurred on August 21.

The organisation said the patients were suffering from respiratory difficulties, inflamed skin, red eyes and conjunctivitis.

Bernie Sanders’s Success in Attracting Small Donors Tests Importance of ‘Super PACs’

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[Sanders is separated from all the other candidates by an old-fashioned thing called 'democracy.' *RON*]

By Eric Lichtblau, New York Times, 25 August 2015

WASHINGTON — Donna Mae Litowitz, a Miami Beach retiree, likes Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont so much that three months ago she sent his presidential campaign $10,000. His campaign sent back all but $2,700 because it was more than he was allowed to take under federal election law, but she wishes he had kept it all.

“I like what Sanders stands for, and he says what needs to be said,” said Ms. Litowitz, who gave money in 2008 to Senator Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. “And I don’t like Hillary Clinton.”

In an election dominated by million-dollar donations to “super PACs,” Ms. Litowitz qualifies in Mr. Sanders’s insurgent campaign as a big donor. Unlike almost all of the other major Democratic and Republican candidates this year, Mr. Sanders has refused to accept support from super P…

Koch Industries Draws on Big Tobacco for New PR Hires

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["Trust us, we're experts." *RON*]
By Jessica Mason, PR Watch / Truthout, 25 August 2015

David Koch may once have called Koch Industries "the biggest company you've never heard of," but facing increasing scrutiny - as the Koch brothers' plan to inject nearly a billion dollars in into the 2016 election cycle through their "Freedom Partners" dark money operation - the company seems to be on a spin doctor hiring spree.

The privately-held corporation now has hired a cadre of PR flacks with experience defending toxic clients like the tobacco industry as the Kochs struggle to refashion their public image.

Starting last year, the Kochs' PR blitz has included a $20 million ad campaign called "We Are Koch" featuring Koch employees and bucolic landscapes, which touts the company's "American values." One of its ads was famously mocked by Jon Stewart.

The Koch …

Conservative Myth DESTROYED: Seattle Restaurants Post Largest Monthly Job Gain Ever

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[Conservative media claim Seattle’s $15/hour minimum wage is hurting business. The latest evidence proves they couldn’t be more wrong. See also 10 reasons to raise the minimum wage (with charts) and The minimum wage: myths and facts. *RON*]
James Woods, US Uncut, 25 August 2015
In 2014, Seattle became the first major metropolitan city in America to begin increasing their minimum wage to $15 an hour, and instantly became the litmus test for the rest of the country. While labor unions and working class Americans applauded the decision, conservative politicians and supporters of trickle down economic theory began a campaign of “doom and gloom” reporting that such a drastic increase would destroy the Seattle economy.

Major news outlets such as Fortune, Forbes, and Fox News were quick to jump on short-term employment and economic data to proclaim that higher wages were leading to business closures and increased unemployment, while ignoring seasonal tren…

Banks Get Credit for Helping the Poor — By Financing Their Evictions?

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[On the many shady practices used by banksters to wiggle around the stipulations of the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, and how the regulatory system does little to nothing to prevent this. *RON*]
David Dayen, First Look/Intercept, 24 August 2015

In 1977, Congress wanted to make sure commercial banks fulfilled their commitment to serve all communities in America, regardless of income level. “A public charter conveys numerous economic benefits,” said William Proxmire, then head of the Senate Banking Committee, “and in return it is legitimate for public policy and regulatory practice to require some public purpose.”
Under the Community Reinvestment Act, banks are periodically examined for how well they provide lending and investment to low- and moderate-income (LMI) neighborhoods where they take deposits. Since its enactment, 97 percent of all banks examined have received a “Satisfactory” or “Outstanding” grade, according to the Congressional Re…