Showing posts from September 27, 2015

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.