Showing posts from September, 2015

How Much of Big Pharma's Massive Profits Are Used to Influence Politicians?

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[We have so little public information and reporting on the specifics of campaign contributions in Canada! Yet Harper is so heartily behind TPP, which will make a fortune for pharmaceutical companies, that one cannot help but suspect the political support there must be strong. *RON*]

By Mike Ludwig, Truthout, 30 September 2015

Whenever it's called out for charging too much for drugs or outright price gouging, the pharmaceutical industry's standard defense is to assure the public that its profits will be used to develop even better drugs in the future. Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli clung to that defense in late September when asked to explain his sudden decision to hike the price of a longstanding anti-parasitic drug by more than $700, prompting a collective eye roll among medical experts and an outraged public.
In reality, a good chunk of pharmaceutical "research and development" comes from the subsidized labs at univ…

UK and Saudi Arabia 'in secret deal' over human rights council place

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["Riyadh has sanctioned more than a hundred beheadings so far this year – more, it is claimed, than Islamic State." Leaked documents suggest vote-trading deal was conducted to enable nations to secure a seat at UN’s influential body. *RON*]
Owen Bowcott, The Guardian, 29 September 2015
Britain conducted secret vote-trading deals with Saudi Arabia to ensure both states were elected to the UN human rights council (UNHRC), according to leaked diplomatic cables.

The elevation of the Saudi kingdom to one of the UN’s most influential bodies in 2013 prompted fresh international criticism of its human rights record.

This week, a new diplomatic row has erupted over a Shia activist, Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, who faces death by crucifixion after being convicted at the age of 17 of joining an anti-government demonstration.

Riyadh has sanctioned more than a hundred beheadings so far this year – more, it is claimed, than Islamic State.

No long-term future in tar sands, says Alberta's premier

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[Rachel Notley, drawing a clear line in the sand, supports a switch to clean energy to help Canada’s biggest oil-producing province move beyond fossil fuels within a century. I guess she just fell off Christy Clark's Christmas card list. *RON*]
Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian, 30 September 2015
The leader of Canada’s biggest oil-producing province has declared she sees no long-term future in fossil fuels, predicting Alberta would wean itself off dirty energy within a century.

In an early reveal of her forthcoming new energy policy, Alberta’s Rachel Notley said she would fight climate change by cleaning up the tar sands, shutting down coal-fired power plants, and converting to wind and solar power.

Notley also forecast an eventual future beyond fossil fuels – a dramatic change for Alberta - and a track that has put her on a collision course with Canada’s conservative prime minister, Stephen Harper.

The Alberta leader is due to unveil the new pol…

Princess Michael of Kent puts animals in their place

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[Yes, the royalty is such a grand institution and a great tradition. I can't understand why anyone would not want to spend endless sums of taxpayer money to maintain that Jewel in the Crown mentality. The royal who lived rent-free in a palace for 23 years says animals don’t have rights – after all, they don’t vote or pay taxes. But it’s not the first time she’s shared a controversial opinion … *RON*]

The Guardian, 30 September 2015 [Evidently this kind of piece gets submitted anonymously!]

Name: Princess Michael of Kent.

Age: 70.

Appearance: A slightly more clueless Cruella de Vil.

This is definitely going to be a member of the royal family saying something stupid, isn’t it? Oh boy, you have no idea.

Amazing. Hit me with it. OK, brace yourself. “I’m a great animal lover and I’m involved in a lot of conservation, but animals don’t have rights. They don’t have bank accounts. They don’t vote.”

Elizabeth Warren lobbying query leads Brookings Institution fellow to quit

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[No one else would step up to do this; thank goodness Warren is around. "Warren said the lack of disclosure raises 'significant questions about the impartiality of the study and its conclusions.'" The Massachusetts senator accused Robert Litan of failing to fully disclose industry funding for a study criticizing a government plan to regulate brokerages. Please note, also, that Litan is a former top official in the Clinton administration! *RON*]

Reuters, The Guardian, 30 September 2015

The Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren has prompted the resignation of a high-profile Brookings Institution fellow after accusing him of failing to fully disclose industry funding tied to a study that criticized the US Labor Department’s plan to regulate brokerages.

Tuesday’s resignation of Robert Litan came just one day after Warren, a Democrat, sent Brookings’ president a letter demanding to know more about the thinktank’s policies on financia…

Russia carries out air strikes in Syria

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[This can only heighten tensions and escalate violence. Now Russia will be an ISIS target, and the "holy battle" language being used by the Russian Orthodox Church returns us to the era of the Crusades. Russian bombs target positions, vehicles and warehouses that Moscow believes belong to ISIL, defence minister says. *RON*]

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies, 30 Sep 2015
Russian military jets have carried out airstrikes in Syria for the first time, the defence ministry has said.

The airstrikes targeted positions, vehicles and warehouses that Russia believes belong to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group, ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told Russian news agencies.

US Secretary of State John Kerry complained to his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov after the airstrikes.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said Kerry told Lavrov that the Russian move "runs counter to their stated efforts of deconfliction an…

Debate on bulk water exports to U.S. resurfaces despite recent droughts in Canada

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[The conservative, corporatocratic perspective is that anything that can be made into a commodity should be made into a commodity, period, end of story. The psychopathic, suicidal short-sightedness of it is maddening. *RON*]
By Emma Lui,, 29 September 2015

Recent articles in the Globe and Mail, Yahoo News and the Vancouver Sun signal that the debates on bulk water exports are resurfacing; and not only because of NDP leader Thomas Mulcair's comments as environment minister in Quebec.

The article in the Globe and Mail states, "..the country's most valuable resource of all -- water -- is the least discussed and most misunderstood. Even acknowledging water's potential economic value has become taboo for politicians and policy-makers... The notion of exporting water is a political no-go zone. Ottawa and most provinces have banned bulk exports."

In 2012, the federal government passed Bill C-…

Trending: Harper is a stealer of dreams, Blue Rodeo protest song says

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[Canadian entertainers Blue Rodeo, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, Donald Sutherland, and Rachael McAdams have all joined in protesting the Harper government. *RON*]

By News Staff,, 29 September 2015

Popular Canadian band Blue Rodeo is jumping into the federal election campaign with a modern day protest song against Conservative Leader Stephen Harper.

The song Stealin’ All My Dreams attacks the Conservatives over many different issues from their economic and environmental record to Aboriginal rights and government scandals.

“Blue Rodeo does not always speak with one voice,” singer-songwriter and guitarist Jim Cuddy says on the band’s website. “However we feel collectively that the current administration in Canada has taken us down the wrong path.”

“We do not seem to be the compassionate and environmentally conscious nation we once were. As respectful as we are of the variety of opinions held by our audience, we felt it was time to speak up an…

General Electric to shift engine plant to Canada, creating 350 jobs

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[A Harper specialty: privatized profit, socialized losses. GE's customers were getting government-backed loans from the US to buy GE product. Congress cut this off, so GE is moving some operations to Canada, where "the red carpet has been rolled out to us" and Export Development Canada says it "will support sales from the new engine plant." *RON*]

Richard Blackwell, The Globe and Mail, 28 September 2015

General Electric Co. is planning to build a state-of the art $265-million (U.S.) engine plant in Canada, as it shifts more business out of the United States following the collapse of U.S. government-sponsored export financing.
The global conglomerate said Monday it will close down its operation that makes gas-powered engines in Waukesha, Wis., and construct a plant in Canada, creating 350 new jobs here. The site of the plant has not yet been chosen.

This is the second expansion the company has announced in Canada in the past …

On Knee-Jerk Reactions to Health Care


Abbott says he would have won the election in first radio interview

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BBC World News, 29 September 2015

Ousted Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott says he is confident he would have led his Liberal party to victory, if not replaced by Malcolm Turnbull.

Mr Abbott was unseated by Prime Minister Turnbull after losing a party room ballot by 54 votes to 44.

During his first radio interview after being overthrown, Mr Abbott said he could pull off a come-from-behind win like the UK's Cameron government.

He said lagging polls do not always translate to ineffective government.

"You can be not especially popular in these personal approval ratings and at the same time lead a very effective political operation," Mr Abbott told 2GB radio in Sydney.

99ers and 51ers: Two numbers that could decide an election

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[One type of politician tries to please the one person who dislikes him. The other ignores the dissenting minority. The latter describes Stephen Harper and George W. Bush. Harper knows all he has to do is to continue to be divisive and play to his base. As the author says, "Here, we might cue the discussion about dumping our first-past-the-post electoral system in favour of proportional representation." *RON*]

Evan Solomon, Macleans, 29 September 2015

The final debate week of the campaign is supposed to shake off this whole “deadlock” narrative and, if you’re into counting the number of angels dancing on the head of a pin, you can find polls that reveal bits of separation. The NDP is dipping in Quebec, the Conservatives are rebounding in Ontario and the Liberals are inching upward there, too. Okay. I’m watching this too closely; I admit to getting into the daily polls the way Al Pacino dunked his face in a mountain of white powder at th…

Harper sets a target: 700,000 new homeowners by 2020

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[A report prepared in June for the Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage Professionals notes that "Each year in Canada, about 620,000 households move into dwellings they have purchased." So, in what way is "a target of creating 700,000 new homeowners by 2020" in any way meaningful? The rest of what he says is, therefore, pure hot air. Click here to see the report. *RON*]
Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press / CTV News, 29 September 2015

Stephen Harper says Canada's rate of home ownership will increase through lower taxes, economic growth and new well-paying jobs.

VAUGHAN, Ont. -- The Conservatives are setting a target of creating 700,000 new homeowners by 2020.

Party leader Stephen Harper says a combination of previous tax breaks and new promises makes that a realistic goal.

They include commitments made on this campaign to expand the home buyers' plan, establish a permanent home renovation tax credit and measures t…

John Boehner Finally Gives Ted Cruz And Conservatives The Tongue Lashing They Deserve

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[Watch the interview by clicking here. Too true: "Now, the inmates run the asylum and it’s too late for Boehner to do anything about the lunacy that is about to be set loose upon the people’s house." *RON*]

By Stephen D Foster Jr, Addicting Info, 27 September 2015

After years of taking sh*t from the far-right crazies in his party, House Speaker John Boehner took aim at Ted Cruz and hardcore conservatives on Sunday for acting like “false prophets.”

Only a couple days after announcing his intention to resign as House Speaker at the end of October, Boehner demonstrated that he now feels free to say how he really feels about the right-wing conservatives of the Republican Party.

Since 2010, Boehner has been repeatedly battered by Tea Party conservatives for making any effort to reach consensus with President Obama and his Democratic counterparts in the House and Senate.

Such hardcore opposition has made legislating impossible as conservative ins…

Judging Harpernomics

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["We asked three economists to judge Stephen Harper on his handling of the economy." It's most fun to read Ian Lee's (conservative) critique of Jim Stanford's (progressive) interpretation of the Harper record. Lee basically complains that Stanford compares apples with oranges then proceeds to compare bananas with cranberries, arguing that the contemporary international record conclusively demonstrates that Canada is one of the brightest children in an extraordinarily dull class. By the way, even though he constantly refers to himself as one, Stephen Harper is not an economist. *RON*], 26 September 2015


Economist at Unifor

Conservatives traditionally claim they are the best economic managers, and they are playing that card again in the current federal campaign. This time, however, it is proving less effective. Opinion polls now indicate no clear difference between the Conservatives and their opponents o…

Chemical exposure linked to rising diabetes, obesity risk

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[Via my friend Harry. Human health under the corporatocracy. There is mounting evidence that very commonly used endocrine-disrupting chemicals, such as as bisphenol A (food can linings and cash register receipts) and phthalates (soft plastics and make-up) increase the risk for diabetes, obesity and hormone-related cancers (e.g., of the prostate and breast). But, in an environment where governments and corporations live a cozy co-existence there is little funding available to pursue such research. *RON*]

Medical X-Press, 28 September 2015

Emerging evidence ties endocrine-disrupting chemical exposure to two of the biggest public health threats facing society - diabetes and obesity, according to the executive summary of an upcoming Scientific Statement issued today by the Endocrine Society.

The statement's release comes as Society experts are addressing a global meeting, the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM4), in Geneva, Swi…

India Bangalore lake of toxic snowy froth

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[It's reported here that the lake has actually caught fire on two separate occasions. *RON*]

BBC News, 28 September 2015

Is it snowing in India's tropical southern city of Bangalore?

The picture above would certainly make you think so.

Unfortunately, the reality is quite different: what looks like snow is actually harmful snow-white froth that floats up from the city's largest lake and spills over into neighbouring areas.

Over the years, the 9,000-acre Bellandur lake in India's technology capital has been polluted by chemicals and sewage.

IT professional Debasish Ghosh has been taking pictures of the lake of "harmful snowy froth" for months now. Here is a selection of his pictures.

FBI resists calls to reform voluntary reporting system for police killings

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[Here's a thought: let's allow criminals to voluntarily report their crimes. Director James Comey said FBI ‘plans to collect more data about shootings’ while retaining controversial self-reporting method for police departments. *RON*]
Jon Swaine and Oliver Laughland, The Guardian, 28 September 2015
The FBI will continue to resist pressure from legislators and activists for the creation of a fully comprehensive count of all killings by American police officers, the bureau’s director signalled on Monday.

Writing as the FBI released its annual crime statistics, James Comey said an existing voluntary system, under which police departments around the country choose whether or not to submit data on homicides by their officers, will carry on.

Comey said the FBI would try to collect more information – but gave no specific details about how this would be done.

Shell abandons Alaska Arctic drilling

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[A bit of good news, but of course it's only because they didn't find anything up there. (Image via Greenpeace.)

Terry Macalister, The Guardian, 28 September 2015
Shell has abandoned its controversial drilling operations in the Alaskan Arctic in the face of mounting opposition in what jubilant environmentalists described as “an unmitigated defeat” for big oil.

The Anglo-Dutch company had repeatedly stressed the enormous hydrocarbon potential of the far north region in public, but in private began to admit it had been surprised by the popular opposition it faced.

Obama, Putin spar over Assad's role in Syria's future

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[On balance I have to agree with Obama: how could things be allowed to simply return to the status quo ante after 250,000 deaths and a global tidal wave of refugees? On the other hand, where are the specifics about how a democratically elected government will be ensured, as opposed to there being an ISIS takeover? How long of a transition are we talking about? Listening to Putin complain about Obama ignoring the UN is pretty hilarious, though. *RON*]
By Julie Pace and Vladimir Isachenkov, Associated Press / Denver Post, 28 September 2015

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin sharply disagreed Monday over the chaos in Syria, with Obama urging a political transition to replace the Syrian president but Putin warning it would be a mistake to abandon the current government.

Obama and Putin's dueling speeches at the United Nations General Assembly summit served as a public preview of their private m…

Poll suggests growing tolerance on key social issues

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[Just a few interesting tidbits on the state of public opinion in Canada. A new poll by Forum Research finds more tolerance on social issues such as marijuana legalization and assisted suicide. *RON*]

By: Donovan Vincent, The Star, 28 September 2015
Has Canada become more tolerant on hot-button issues?

That’s what the results of a new Forum Research survey seem to suggest.

The poll of 1,557 randomly selected adults found a majority believe assisted suicide should be made legal and want marijuana legalized. Nearly half, meanwhile, support the idea of legalizing prostitution.

Here’s how respondents feel about these and other controversial issues:

Labour can cut deficit without austerity, John McDonnell pledges

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["Shadow chancellor John McDonnell lays out plans to cut deficit by targeting corporate tax avoidance and increasing taxes on rich." A hard thing to do in any substantial way now that our economy is so effectively globalized. Let's hope this is not the full depth of the advice they've received from Piketty et al. *RON*]

Patrick Wintour, The Guardian, 28 September 2015
John McDonnell has promised that the deficit can be cut without austerity or spending cuts that are loaded on middle-income earners and the poor.

In his first conference speech as shadow chancellor, McDonnell won a warm reception when he said austerity was a political choice and not a necessity. He insisted Labour’s plan to “balance the books will be aggressive”, and appeared to indicate the bulk of the funds will come from higher growth, ending corporate tax evasion and reducing corporate welfare.

Promising an adult debate rather than silly slogans that demeaned the …

Tories promise up to $700 million for Surrey light rail

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["Announcement expected in Surrey Monday morning." Listen to my voice and relax deeply: There was no fear-mongering ISIS attack ad! There was no fear-mongering ISIS attack ad! There was no fear-mongering ISIS attack ad! There was no fear-mongering ISIS attack ad! There was no fear-mongering ISIS attack ad! There was no fear-mongering ISIS attack ad!... *RON*]

By Peter O'Neil and Joanne Lee-Young, Vancouver Sun, 28 September 2015

VANCOUVER -- The Conservatives promised Monday to provide up to $700 million towards the $2.1-billion Surrey light rapid transit proposal.

The announcement was made in Surrey former Surrey mayor Dianne Watts, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s star candidate in South Surrey-White Rock, and by James Moore, the B.C. regional minister who is retiring from politics.

Harper planned to announce his party’s commitment earlier this month, but that was derailed when the shocking photograph of a drowned Syrian boy on a bea…

7 takeaways from the Catalonia election

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[Goodbye Madrid: Catalans vote for an ‘adios’ to Spain within 18 months. *RON*]

By Jan Marot, Politico, 28 September 2015

BARCELONA — Only hours after the polls closed in Catalonia on September 27, it is clear that we are feeling the rumble of tectonic change. This promises to rock not just Spain, but to throw the European Union into a state of ferment at a time when Brussels has, to put it mildly, much too much on its plate already.

Here are seven takeaways from the vote in Catalonia

1 This is a vote for secession from Spain

Catalonians have made a clear choice in their regional elections. With a level of participation so historically huge that they even ran out of ballots, 77.4 percent of the electorate voted. This is a record in democratic, post-Franco Spain. The secessionist coalition “Together for Yes” — Junts Pel Si —obtained 39.6 percent of the vote and thus 62 seats in the Catalan regional parliament. Together with the pro-independence l…

Catalan separatists predicted to win absolute majority in regional elections

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[Junts pel Sí and CUP parties, which are expected to win up to 79 seats in 135-seat parliament, have promised to declare independence unilaterally. This would mean the withdrawal from Spain of one of its major economic engines and one of the largest Mediterranean ports. *RON*]

Ashifa Kassam, The Guardian, 27 September 2015

Separatists were poised to win control of Catalonia’s regional government on Sunday, after exit polls suggested a result that could plunge Spain into a political crisis by forcing Madrid to confront an openly secessionist government at the helm of one of its wealthiest regions.

In an election that saw a record-breaking voter turnout, an exit poll by the Catalan broadcaster TV3 suggested that the nationalist coalition Junts pel Sí (Together for Yes) was on track to win 63 to 66 seats, leaving them just shy of the 68 seats needed for an absolute majority in the 135-seat parliament.

The far-left pro-independence Popular Unity Cand…

Divestment efforts starting to hit coal and oil firms

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[The worm is, inescapably, turning. "...some 436 institutions in 43 countries representing $2.6-trillion (U.S.) in assets have committed to divest from fossil fuel companies. That’s up from 181 institutions representing just $50-billion in assets who had made that commitment last year." *RON*]

Shawn McCarthy, Globe and Mail, 25 September 2015
Pension funds and other institutional investors are growing wary of an increasing “carbon risk” faced by coal and oil companies which confront a divestment movement that has gone mainstream and an uncertain future of climate-related regulations.

Investors managing some $2.6-trillion (U.S.) in assets have signalled their intention to shift focus away from fossil fuels, a report released at a United Nations climate session this week states. And resource companies will likely face more bad news later this fall when the international Financial Stability Board, under the leadership of Bank of England Gov…

China pledges $2bn for developing world

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[Big deal. The US sends over $3 billion in military aid to Israel alone every year, amounting to nearly $100 billion to date. *RON*]

BBC News, 27 September 2015

Chinese President Xi Jinping has pledged to establish a $2bn (£1.3bn) fund to assist developing countries and to significantly increase investment.

Addressing a UN summit on development goals, Mr Xi said investment would reach $12bn over the next 15 years.

He also said China would cancel debts to the world's least developed nations, including small island nations.

Beijing, he added, would assist in 600 overseas projects in the next five years and offer more scholarships.

'End poverty' - and 16 more UN Global Goals

From Radio to Porn, British Spies Track Web Users’ Online Identities

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[On the non-existence of privacy rights. An important new piece on the extent of GCHQ spying on ordinary British citizens based on newly-released Snowden documents. The lack of requirements for authorization and the scantness of the oversight is shocking. *RON*]

Ryan Gallagher, The Intercept, 25 September 2015
THERE WAS A SIMPLE AIM at the heart of the top-secret program: Record the website browsing habits of “every visible user on the Internet.”

Before long, billions of digital records about ordinary people’s online activities were being stored every day. Among them were details cataloging visits to porn, social media and news websites, search engines, chat forums, and blogs.

The mass surveillance operation — code-named KARMA POLICE — was launched by British spies about seven years ago without any public debate or scrutiny. It was just one part of a giant global Internet spying apparatus built by the United Kingdom’s electronic eavesdropping agenc…

Martin Shkreli’s Free-Market Fetish: How the Drug Profiteer’s Pathetic Excuses Reveal a Dangerous Ideology

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[The article title seems hyperbolic until you spend a while looking at photos of his smug little face. A poster boy for shameless venality. His price gouging is the logical end of a bankrupt belief system.
By Conor LynchSalon / AlterNet, 26 September 2015

“There’s no doubt — I’m a capitalist, I’m trying to create a big drug company, a successful drug company, a profitable drug company. We’re trying to flourish.”

So said Martin Shkreli, the former hedge fund manager and founder of Turing Pharmaceuticals, who has recently come to be known as “Big Pharma’s Biggest Asshole.” (And, truth be told, he sounds very much like a character out of an Ayn Rand story.) Shkreli is perhaps the most detested man in America at present for boosting the price of a medicine used by some of the most vulnerable people in society — AIDS patients and babies — by over 5,000 percent. According to court documents, he may be more than just unscrupulous.

There have …

1.5 Million American Families Live on $2 a Day — These Authors Spent Years Finding Out Why

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[For their new book, H. Luke Shaefer and Kathryn J. Edin followed the lives of America’s poorest families, and discovered things contrary to common opinion. *RON]
By Marcus Harrison GreenYES! Magazine / AlterNet, 26 September 2015

If she did not make plasma deposits twice a week at a donation center in Tennessee, Jessica Compton and her family would have no income. If not for a carton of spoiled milk, Modonna and Brianna Harris’ refrigerator would be barren. The Harris and Compton families’ stories are just two accounts of devastating poverty documented in sociology professors Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Shaefer’s book, $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America.

The book, released in September, documents the rise of 1.5 million American families, including 3 million children, who subsist on as little as $2 per person per day. It reads like a Dickens novel. Edin and Shaefer spent years immersed in the lives of financially deprived famili…

Canada's more aggressive role in the world not gone unnoticed

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[Canada's foreign policy has changed considerably in 10 years of Conservative rule.  Gone is the idea that Canada, as an honest broker, can use its soft power to influence friends and help solve global conflicts.  Instead, Harper has chosen a more aggressive foreign policy that has largely sidelined international institutions such as the UN.  The government has also promoted a stronger, better equipped military, and has had no qualms about sending Canadian forces into combat. *RON*]

By Derek Stoffel, CBC News, 27 September 2015
In the camps for Syrian refugees, Canada is an ideal destination for those who have escaped the horrors of war.

"I think Canada is a great country," said Amar Aldoura, who fled Damascus nearly two months ago with his wife and baby boy. They stayed for a few weeks in a refugee camp along the Syrian-Turkish border before heading to Istanbul.

Aldoura is pondering his next move. Europe is a more likely destination …

Stiglitz, Piketty to help UK's Labour shape anti-austerity policies

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[It will be interesting to see what the platform looks like - they couldn't get better advice from a progressive economic perspective! *RON*]

Reuters, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 27 September 2015

BRIGHTON, England • Britain's opposition Labour Party said on Sunday it had set up an advisory committee including Nobel Prize-winning U.S. economist Joseph Stiglitz and Frenchman Thomas Piketty to help develop its anti-austerity policies.

The committee will meet quarterly under Labour's finance spokesman, John McDonnell, a hard-left ally of the party's new leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

McDonnell has advocated renationalizing Britain's rail system, curbing the power of the country's six big energy suppliers and stripping responsibility from the Bank of England for setting interest rates, handing it back to the government.

September 26 : International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons

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[This did not even make a ripple in the world media today. *RON*]

Posted By: Rene Wadlow, Global Solution, 26 September 2015

The struggle against the nuclear weapon cult and threats it poses to the international peace, security and development, like all struggles against belief systems which have outlived their times, is going to be long and arduous." --K. Subrahmanyam The United Nations General Assembly has designated September 26 as the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. It is being celebrated this year for the second time to “enhance public awareness and education about the threat posed to humanity by nuclear weapons and the necessity for their total elimination in order to mobilize international efforts toward achieving the common goal of a nuclear-weapon free world."

Achieving global nuclear disarmament--or at least forms of nuclear arms control--is one of the oldest goals of the UN. Nuclear weapon contro…

The Hard-Line Republicans Who Pushed John Boehner Out

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[On the Freedom Caucus and John Boehner's defenestration. American politics moves even farther toward polarization. *RON*]

By Carl Bialik and Aaron Bycoffe, Five Thirty Eight, 25 September 2015
“He’s not going anywhere.” That’s what Kevin Smith, the communications director for the Speaker of the House, said about his boss, John Boehner, in a Time article published Thursday. “If there’s a small crew of members who think that he’s just going to pick up and resign in the middle of his term, they are going to be sadly mistaken,” he said.

But just a day later, a small crew of House members who wanted Boehner gone got their wish. On Friday, Boehner told his fellow House Republicans that he would quit the post at the end of October. He apparently was bowing to pressure from some members of the Freedom Caucus, a group of more than 30 of the most conservative Republicans who wanted Boehner to push harder to defund Planned Parenthood, even if it meant s…

Feds Halted Research Showing Canadians Getting Gouged At The Pumps

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[Have you asked yourself why the price of gas remains so high despite the fact that the price of crude oil bottomed-out a year ago? With good reason. But Harper is suppressing this information during the election, just like he did during the previous election! *RON*]
By Daniel Tencer, Huffington Post, 25 September 2015

Questions are being raised as to why the federal government stopped issuing a bi-weekly report on gas prices, just as that report was showing a large spike in profits made by refiners.

The Fuel Focus Report from Natural Resources Canada had been issued every two weeks for years until the series stopped with the July 24 issue, shortly before Prime Minister Stephen Harper called a federal election in early August.

Natural Resources Canada says they halted this report during the 2011 election as well. But other data sets related to oil and gas continue to be published through the election cycle.

The last published Fuel Focus Report found …

B.C. leaders get on board rail-safety alliance under threat of train derailments

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[Municipalities will obviously bear the brunt of any more Lac Megantic-style disasters, yet they are politically disenfranchised by Ottawa from having any say in what moves through their communities, and how. *RON*]
Tamsyn Burgmann, The Canadian Press / Vancouver Observer, 25 September 2015

VANCOUVER — In the days after a train laden with crude oil exploded and burned in a small Quebec town, killing 47 people, the city of New Westminster, B.C., took inventory of the safeguards for its four railways.

"We realized there really wasn't anything in place," said Coun. Chuck Puchmayr. "A disaster of that nature would be even more devastating than it was in Lac-Megantic."

Puchmayr and other local politicians in British Columbia are banding together with 165 elected leaders from the U.S. Pacific Northwest to pressure federal governments in both countries to overhaul antiquated railway laws.

The American-led Safe Energy Leadership Alli…

31 Federal Swing Ridings Conservatives At Risk Of Losing, Poll Suggests

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[If you look at the original article, there is an interactive graphic that lets you see where these 31 ridings are. If you live in one, it gives you an idea of which candidate stands the best chance of defeating the local Conservative candidate. If you live near one of these areas, you could volunteer to support the candidate with the best chance of defeating the Conservative candidate, or help circulate information within the district on how to vote strategically. *RON*]
By Zi-Ann Lum, Huffington Post, 26 September 2015

Among the 308 federal ridings up for grabs, 31 have been singled out as key battlegrounds — ones the Conservative Party are at risk of losing if an advocacy group’s get-out-the-vote campaign is successful come election day.

Vancouver-based Leadnow commissioned Environics Research to conduct a cross-country survey asking 500-600 respondents in each riding to share their voting intentions.

The group explained its objective is to synth…

Austerity is being used as a cover-story for class war against the poor, Yanis Varoufakis says

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[You need to be kicked out of the system before you're allowed to say things like this. In fact, speaking the truth is what gets you ejected. Economics professor points to tax cuts for the wealthy and service cuts for others. *RON*]

Jon stone, The Independent, 25 September 2015

Austerity and deficit reduction are being used as a cover-story for conducting class war against the poor, an economics professor who served as Greece’s finance minister has said.

Yanis Varoufakis noted simultaneous reductions in taxes on the wealthy and cuts to spending on social security amounted to a redistribution of wealth away from the poor to the rich.

“The problem is that austerity is being used as a narrative to conduct class war,” Mr Varoufakis told the BBC’s Question Time programme.

“To be talking about reducing the state further when effectively what you are doing is reducing taxes like inheritance tax and at the same time you are cutting benefits – that is cl…

Ex-HP CEO Fiorina used job-creating tax breaks to buy back stock — then fired thousands of workers

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[A classic illustration of a Chief Executive not only not investing in job creation, but actually taking resources intended for job creation to buy back shares, thus raising their value while adding no economic value to the corporation, and pocketing a higher bonus because of it. And this one wants to be President of the United States. See also: Global Corporate Cash Piles Exceed $15 Trillion. *RON*]
Tom Boggioni, Raw Story, 24 September 2015

Prior to being fired herself, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina used tax incentives from the federal government, intended to increase research and development and employee hiring, to buy back stock before firing thousands of HP workers.

According to The Daily Beast, Fiorina — whose troubled tenure at HP has come under more scrutiny as she moves up in the polls for the GOP presidential nomination — was not the only high-ranking executive to take advantage of a corporate “tax holiday” and work it to her…

U.S. State Department “Welcomes” News That Saudi Arabia Will Head U.N. Human Rights Panel

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[The foxes are in charge of the henhouse, and the US officially loves it. And why not? After all: "The U.S. loves human-rights-abusing regimes and always has, provided they 'cooperate.' … The only time the U.S. government pretends to care in the slightest about human rights abuses is when they’re carried out by 'countries that don’t cooperate.'" See also the important comments on Yemen. See also: Harper Defends Canada's Military Vehicle Contract With Saudi Arabia*RON*]

Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept, 23 September 2015

Last week’s announcement that Saudi Arabia — easily one of the world’s most brutally repressive regimes — was chosen to head a U.N. Human Rights Council panel provoked indignation around the world. That reaction was triggered for obvious reasons. Not only has Saudi Arabia executed more than 100 people already this year, mostly by beheading (a rate of 1 execution every two days), and not only is it ser…

Radicalisation kit links green activism and 'alternative music' to extremism

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[Booklet aimed at helping teachers identify radicalised students warns they can become motivated by ideologies such as ‘environmental or economic concerns.’ In another story, a key author of the anti-radicalisation kit says it was never meant to be used in schools. *RON*]

Bridie Jabour, The Guardian, 25 September 2015

The Australian government has used an environmental activist who became involved in the “alternative music scene” as an example of violent extremism, in a booklet aimed at helping teachers identify students who are becoming radicalised and linked to terrorism.

The Radicalisation Awareness Kit was launched this week by Michael Keenan, the justice minister and minister assisting the prime minister on counter-terrorism, to help teachers look out for signs of radicalisation in their students.

The booklet warns that people can become motivated to be violent by particular ideologies such as “environmental or economic concerns, or ethnic or …

Manufacturing Neoliberalism: How the Council of Foreign Relations Marketed Global Capitalism

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[Some important and interesting, eye-opening stuff here - I'm going to see if I can download a sample chapter to my e-reader to check it out. *RON*]

by Joan Roelofs, Counterpunch, 22 September 2015

There are conspiracies! Some are secret and others overt. The most important of them usually have a public and a private aspect. Yet even those with plenty of data in the full light of day are secret in one sense: they are barely known by the general public and mostly ignored by those who are supposed to be telling us what is going on and what makes things happen: scholars, journalists, and pundits. Thus the obscurity of the Council on Foreign Relations. It may surface as a tagline for the wise men and women of NPR and PBS forums, but its workings and impact remain largely unexamined.

Wall Street’s Think Tank by historian Laurence Shoup is a much awaited sequel to Imperial Brain Trust (Shoup and William Minter, Monthly Review Press, 1977). This is h…

The CIA’s Torture Defenders

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["An all-star cast teams up to spin their enhanced interrogation regime." From The America Conservative: war crime should not be a partisan issue! *RON*]
By Philip Giraldi, The American Conservative, 23 September 2015

Back in the days when I was a spy there were certain things that one just did not dwell upon. Everyone who worked in the field knew that there were episodes that it would be best not to recall, either because they were embarrassing, possibly unsavory, or even, more rarely, wildly successful though at a price that one would not be willing to pay a second time around. With that kind of baggage, the expectation was that a retired officer would be best advised to live quietly on a couple acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains and take up landscape painting or breeding Labradors and not think about or try to explain the past.

But that was then, and today the new breed of intelligence officers apparently prefers to flaunt the naughty…

Priceless Antiquities are Being Destroyed By Saudis and Americans in Yemen … Like They’re Being Destroyed By ISIS In Syria and Iraq

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[I ran across this link while reading a different story - eye-opening! *RON*]
Posted on September 16, 2015 by WashingtonsBlog

Westerners are rightly horrified by the destruction of priceless antiquities in Syria and Iraq – such as the 2,000 year old Palmyra temple – by the ISIS terrorists.

But did you know that priceless antiquities are also being destroyed in Yemen by the Saudis and their allies?

The Economist reported last week:
The roster of antiquities damaged in the war in Yemen runs long. Missiles fired from the coalition’s planes have obliterated a museum (where the fruits of an American-Yemeni archaeological dig were stored), historic caked-mud high-rise dwellings, 12th century citadels and minarets and other places whose importance to humanity’s heritage has been recognised by the UN. The Great Dam of Marib, a feat of engineering that was undertaken 2,800 years ago, has been struck four times, most recently on August 18th. Antiquities exper…