Showing posts from January, 2016

Hillary Clinton Gets $13 Million From Health Industry, Now Says Single-Payer Will "Never, Ever Come To Pass"

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[Share this one with your friends. *RON*]
By David Sirota, International Business Times, 30 January 2016

Closing out her Iowa campaign, Hillary Clinton on Friday declared that the Medicare-for-all proposal pushed by her Democratic primary opponent and many liberalgroups will “never, ever come to pass.” The statement came weeks after a new poll showed most Americans support the idea. Her declaration was a reversal of her position two decades ago — which came before she received millions of dollars of campaign cash from the health industry.

Clinton’s comments, which were made during anappearance at Grand View University in Iowa, were aimed at Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who has long championed the kind of government administered health care system used by many major industrialized nations. Of Sanders’ proposal, Clinton said on Friday: "People who have health emergencies can't wait for us to have a theoretical debate about some better i…

The Big-Oil Bailouts Begin

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[Here it comes: the hundred-billion-dollar question. The IMF and World Bank have dispatched a team to "Azerbaijan to negotiate a possible $4 billion emergency loan package." The Brazilian "government has refused to rule out bailing out Petrobras." "The government of Mexico just announced that it quietly injected 50 billion pesos ($2.7 billion) of public funds into the coffers of state-owned oil company Pemex." Et cetera. See also: Oil price crash: Saudis told to embrace austerity as debt defaults loom*RON*]
By Don Quijones, Wolf Street, 30 January 2016

Despite a bounce this week, low oil prices continue to sow fear, uncertainty, and mayhem across the emerging market complex. On Wednesday, it was leaked that the IMF and World Bank would dispatch a team to oil and gas-dependent Azerbaijan to negotiate a possible $4 billion emergency loan package in what threatens to become the first of a series of global bailouts st…

Uncomfortable Question for Ted Cruz on Obamacare Silences the Room

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[Mr. Cruz said 'millions of Americans' had lost their jobs and their doctors as a result of the law, and that many had 'seen their premiums skyrocket.' ... 'My question is, what are you going to replace it with?' Mr. Valde said. *RON*]
By Matt Flegenheimer, New York Times, 30 January 2016.
HUBBARD, Iowa — Senator Ted Cruz is often asked about doing away with President Obama’s health care law. He is rarely pressed by voters on what will replace it.

But at a middle school cafeteria here, a man, Mike Valde, presented him with a tragic tale. His brother-in-law Mark was a barber — “a small-business man,” he said. He had never had a paid vacation day. He received health insurance at last because of the Affordable Care Act. He began to feel sick and went to a doctor.

“He had never been to a doctor for years,” Mr. Valde, 63, of Coralville, Iowa, said. “Multiple tumors behind his heart, his liver, his pancreas. And they said, ‘We’re…

10,000 refugee children are missing, says Europol

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[The EU’s criminal intelligence agency warns pan-European gangs are targeting minors for sex work and slavery. *RON*]
Mark Townsend, The Guardian, 31 January 2016
At least 10,000 unaccompanied child refugees have disappeared after arriving in Europe, according to the EU’s criminal intelligence agency. Many are feared to have fallen into the hands of organised trafficking syndicates.

In the first attempt by law enforcement agencies to quantify one of the most worrying aspects of the migrant crisis, Europol’s chief of staff told the Observerthat thousands of vulnerable minors had vanished after registering with state authorities.

Brian Donald said 5,000 children had disappeared in Italy alone, while another 1,000 were unaccounted for in Sweden. He warned that a sophisticated pan-European “criminal infrastructure” was now targeting refugees. “It’s not unreasonable to say that we’re looking at 10,000-plus children. Not all of them will be criminally ex…

Tories lobbying to protect Google’s £30bn island tax haven

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["The mask has finally slipped." Naked corporatocracy. Opposition figures react angrily to news that government has objected to EU’s proposed blacklisting of Bermuda as 'unhelpful.' *RON*]
Daniel Boffey, The Guardian, 31 January 2016
Britain has been privately lobbying the EU to remove from an official blacklist the tax haven through which Google funnels billions of pounds of profits, the Observer can reveal.

Treasury ministers have told the European commission that they are “strongly opposed” to proposed sanctions against Bermuda, a favoured shelter for Google’s profits and one of 30 tax jurisdictions in Brussels’ sights.

The disclosure is made in a memorandum circulated among Tory MEPs in Brussels that describes potential “countermeasures” against blacklisted tax havens as “unhelpful”.

Google is expected to announce on Monday that it has amassed £30bn of profits from non-US sales in Bermuda, where companies are not liable to pay …

Europe’s immigration bind: how to act morally while heeding the will of its people

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[Part of the problem is that politicians have become accustomed to governing by polls and actively avoid articulating well thought-out positions of their own. I agree with this author that gaining support for an equitable and workable migration policy will take time, eloquence and courage. In other words, we need real statesmen and stateswomen, not more Donald Trumps. See also: Germany's Merkel now says refugees must return home once war is over. *RON*]
Kenan Malik, The Guardian, 31 January 2016
Europe faces a migrant crisis, but not the one we imagine. The dilemma it faces is this: on the one hand, any moral and workable immigration policy will not, at least for the moment, possess a democratic mandate; on the other, any policy that has popular support is likely to be immoral and unworkable.

This dilemma exists not because European populations are particularly drawn to immoral or unworkable policies but because of the way that the immigration…

Reforming Bill C-51 Can't Wait Another Year

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[Where will we be in another year? "Goodale has said that reforms on C-51 won't likely be introduced until the fall at the earliest. Sadly, in the meantime, Canadians' rights are being violated everyday C-51 remains in place." *RON*]
Laura Tribe, Huffington Post, 30 January 2016

It's been one year. Saturday marked exactly 365 days since the former Conservative government introduced Bill C-51, with its controversial spy powers that experts warn are shredding our basic constitutional rights.

So, where do things stand now? After intense debate, C-51 was pushed through Parliament and is now law, but its many opponents are making progress.

Over the past few weeks, we have seen positive signs from the new federal government, as it has finally promised to meet calls for public consultation from Canadians, civil society and experts.

Ralph Goodale, Canada's minister of public safety, has said that consultations will be extended to t…

Seeds of Peace: Ayman Odeh’s unlikely crusade.

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[A sad piece, sent to me by my friend Harry. As Harry notes, it illustrates how the Israelis treat Arab Israelis with the same condescension and contempt as the Germans treated Jews in the decades leading up to the Holocaust. *RON*]

By David Remnick, New Yorker, 25 January 2016 Issue

What is required of a saint is a radiant reflection of the holy and a capacity for miracles. What is required of a political saint is an intimate familiarity with the interrogation room. Ayman Odeh, the foremost leader of Israel’s Palestinian citizens, has read deeply in the lives of the political saints—Martin Luther King, Jr., especially—and he is not shy about suggesting comparisons, if only as a matter of aspiration. The Shin Bet, the Israeli internal intelligence agency, first pulled him in for questioning when he was a kaffiyeh-wearing teen-ager in the thick of an uprising. He is now a middle-aged politician in a suit, a legislator preaching the coexistence of…

Has The Gig Economy Reached A Tipping Point?

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[Mister Market has the hiccoughs. *RON*]

By Lauren C. Williams, Think Progress, 20 January 2016
Uber announced this week that it was slashing prices by 15 percent in New York City to entice more riders to use the service. The move will drop the average fare from $8 to $7, but hopefully attract enough business to boost drivers’ pay.

But while Uber’s price-cutting is partly an attempt to undercut its top competitor, Lyft, it could be a sign the market is struggling to find the right balance between paying workers fairly and making sure there are enough of them to meet demand.

In a perfect world, contract workers would meet consumer demand head-on with the perfect number of drivers or personal shoppers available for every request, while getting the same pay and benefits as full-time staff. In reality, contractors who once gravitated to the flexibility and the extra money that comes from working for a company like Uber have become disenchanted with the…

France considers recognition of a Palestinian state

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[I hope this works out well. The cynical part of me, realizing that France is one of the world's biggest arms dealers, thinks that Palestine will be a much better customer if it is formally a nation state. *RON*]
The Associated Press, Al Arabiya, 30 January 2016
France will recognize a Palestinian state if its efforts to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks at an international conference fail, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Friday.

He told French diplomats that the conference will aim to bring together the two parties and their American, European and Arab partners in order “to make happen a two-state solution.”

If this attempt faces a deadlock, Fabuis said, France will have to recognize a Palestinian state.

France’s Socialist government supports the idea of two states, but had previously argued that it was too early for outright recognition of a Palestinian state.

Fabius’ announcement comes as the Palestinians, buoyed by the successful I…

Swiss say $4bn may be missing from Malaysia state fund

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[No concept of what a modern democracy means. The poor fool didn't understand that all he had to do was pass legislation enabling Super-PACS. Investigators believe funds earmarked for social development projects could have been stolen as scandal deepens. *RON*]

Agencies, Al Jazeera, 30 January 2016

Swiss prosecutors have asked Malaysian authorities for help investigating the possible disappearance of about $4bn from a state-owned company at the centre of a corruption scandal.

Investigators believe the funds - earmarked for economic and social development projects - may have been stolen.

"A small portion" of the cash was transferred into Swiss accounts held by former Malaysian officials as well as current and former officials from the United Arab Emirates, the Swiss attorney general's office said in a statement on Friday.

"To date, however, the Malaysian companies concerned have made no comment on the losses they are believ…

Canada Just Announced A Major Pipeline Reform

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[At this juncture I don't see this story in the major Canadian news outlets. When it does appear I suppose it will come as a series of "guest pieces" all declaring that the sky has fallen. It's exciting that, initially, the indications were that this new criterion would not be applied retroactively to already proposed projects. *RON*]

By Katie Valentine, Think Progress, 28 January 2016
Oil and gas pipelines now have a new hurdle to clear before they’re approved in Canada.

Pipelines and natural gas export terminals proposed in the country will now be subject to a climate test, which will seek to determine how the project will impact greenhouse gas emissions, Canadian officials announced Wednesday. That test will take into account the “upstream” impacts of a project — meaning the emissions from the extraction of the oil or gas that the pipeline would carry or the gas the terminal would store — as well as the emissions created from …

How America’s Gun Manufacturers Are Quietly Getting Richer Off Taxpayers

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[Political bluster flowed after Sandy Hook — and so did millions of dollars in subsidies. And do not forget that, although this article focuses on Republicans, before she started attacking Bernie Sanders on guns, Hillary was Annie Oakley. *RON*]

By Josh Harkinson, Moyers & Company, 29 January 2016

This post originally appeared at Mother Jones.

In January 2013, a month after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the state of New York passed gun control legislation that included a ban on the retail sale of assault weapons. Soon after, Remington Outdoor Company, the maker of the Bushmaster assault rifle used in the massacre, announced it would lay off workers at its 200-year-old factory in Ilion and move production to Huntsville, Alabama. Then CEO George Kollitides explained in a letter to New York officials that the move was brought on by “state policies affecting use of our products.”

The gun lobby crowed about political payback: “W…

Sanders surge panics Washington establishment

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[Plutocracy or democracy? The Hillary-Wall Street-Washington-Corporate Media Axis is in full panic mode over Bernie's success, and prepared to fight as dirty as a rabid raccoon. *RON*]

By Brent Budowsky, The Hill, 28 January 2016

Virtually the entire Washington and Wall Street establishments are now in a state of panic about the possibility of a Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) victory in the Iowa Democratic caucus next Monday.

The Sanders revolution of young people, which includes a growing number of young women, independent workers in some labor unions that refuse to go along with the establishment, and liberal populists and idealists of all varieties, is now within striking distance of stunning the political world with upset victories in the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary.

In response, the virtual bedlam that has been behind the scenes in the Washington establishment in recent weeks is now coming into the open. It is a sight to behold!

In th…

100% of Donors to 'Black Americans for a Better Future' SuperPAC Are White Conservative Men Who Love Ted Cruz

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[Who's behind the nominally African-American Super PAC? "...all their donors are conservative white men and 96% of the money comes from one man, Ted Cruz-loving billionaire Robert Mercer himself." Meanwhile: Fox News Caught Ted Cruz Lying Again. *RON*]

By Adam JohnsonAlterNet, 28 January 2016

Jon Schwarz at The Intercept helped uncover a rather amusing FEC filing composed of Ted Cruz-loving billionaire Robert Mercer: he founded an ostensibly African-American Super PAC that has literally no African-American donors. New SEC filings from a Super PAC "Black Americans for a Better Future” reveal that all their donors are conservative white men and 96% of the money comes from one man, Mr. Mercer himself.

You can see from the chart below, Black Americans for a Better Future is whiter than the Oscars:

What you need to know about the Bank of Japan and negative interest rates

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[It's not quite what it sounds like. It means that if banks sit on more money than the reserve required by regulators (instead of loaning it to people for productive uses), they will have to pay for the privilege. It's actually a good idea for stimulating the economy. The banksters, it goes without saying, hate it and have declared the beginning of the end of the world. *RON*]

By William Watts, Market Watch, 30 January 2016

The Bank of Japan brought the thunder Friday, shocking investors and economists after it pushed a key interest rate into negative territory in its latest attempt to reinflate the country’s economy.

Here’s what you need to know about negative rates and the Bank of Japan:
The rate cut

The Bank of Japan announced it had cut the rate on excess reserves to minus 0.1%, meaning institutions will have to pay the central bank for the privilege of parking reserves that exceed those required by regulators. The rate on most exist…

Will the 2016 Primaries Be Electronically Rigged?

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[The article has a somewhat breathless, paranoid tone - but they provide a great deal of data. Also, follow the link they provide to the extremely interesting article demonstrating that "Over many decades, US elections have been quietly outsourced to a small group of private voting machine companies, some with extreme partisan ties and criminal records." *RON*]

By Victoria Collier and Ben Ptashnik, Truthout, 28 January 2016
"You've heard the old adage 'follow the money.' I follow the vote, and wherever the vote becomes an electron and touches a computer, that's an opportunity for a malicious actor potentially to ... make bad things happen." — Steve Stigall, CIA cyber-security expert, in remarks to the US Election Assistance Commission Primary election rigging in the coming weeks and months is all but assured if American voters and candidates don't take steps to prevent it now. Evidence that US voting system…

Long Before Helping Flint, Michigan Officials Were Shipping Clean Water to Their Own Workers

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[This, according to newly released emails that "blow a hole in the governor's timeline for when they knew or started to have concerns about Flint water. They were helping state employees while telling everyone else that there was nothing to worry about." *RON*]

—By Julia Lurie, Mother Jones, 28 January 2016

According to newly discovered emails, Michigan officials were trucking clean water to a state building in Flint in January 2015, long before they acknowledged to residents that the city had a contamination problem.
One of the emails, which were obtained by the group Progress Michigan, was sent from the state Department of Technology, Management, and Budget. It reads, "While the City of Flint states that corrective actions are not necessary, DTMB is in the process of providing a water cooler on each occupied floor, positioned near the water fountain, so you can choose which water to drink. The coolers will arrive today and wi…

Trudeau's Handling Of The Saudi Arms Deal Will Define His Legacy

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["The fact remains that the government has not once explained how the Saudi deal satisfies the human rights safeguards of the existing export control regime." An official statement from Foreign Affairs stated: "Should we become aware of reports that would be relevant to Canada's export control regime, the government can consider whether existing permits should be suspended or cancelled." "Yet there are at least a dozen existing relevant reports." *RON*]
Cesar Jaramillo, Huffington Post, 28 January 2016

In an apparent and welcome reversal, Ottawa seems to be reconsidering its position on the $15-billion contract for Canadian-made military equipment with Saudi Arabia -- one of the worst human rights violators in the world.

Only days after Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion seemed to signal the irreversibility of the contract, declaring emphatically that "what is done is done," an official statement from…

Goodbye longstanding Canadian cultural policy, hello TPP regulations

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[Do take a look at the series on the Trouble with the TPP if you want more information on this truly terrible so-called trade deal. "Why did Canada depart from longstanding cultural policy in the TPP? I asked Global Affairs Canada for answers several times over the past week, but did not receive a response" *RON*]
By Michael Geist,, 28 January 2016

Problems? Oh, the Trans-Pacific Partnership has a few! Read about them all in the new series The Trouble with the TPP.

Culture and the TPP has yet to garner much attention, but that is a mistake. The TPP departs from longstanding Canadian policy by not containing a full cultural exception and creates unprecedented restrictions on policies to support the creation of Canadian content. The Canadian position on trade and culture has been consistent for decades with successive governments requiring a full exemption for the cultural industries. The exemption, which is found in ag…

Riverview real estate job is posted: MLA questions gov’t intentions

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[Why, on a matter as large and important as the Riverview grounds, is it considered acceptable for neither the Minister responsible nor the CEO for BC Housing to be available for comment? *RON*]

Gary McKenna, Tri City News, 28 January 2016

Consultations may still be underway for the future of the Riverview Hospital lands but that’s not stopping BC Housing from hiring a project co-ordinator to “manage the real estate development activities” for the 244-acre site.

According to the job description posted on BC Housing’s website last month and again on on Jan. 23, the successful applicant will provide expertise on the development of multi-unit residential social housing, supportive housing and affordable rental housing.

The closing date for applications is Feb. 14 — two days after the deadline for public feedback on a draft plan for the site entitled A Vision for Renewing Riverview.

And the posting has a local NDP MLA asking questions.

“I …

NDP to release new energy royalty framework at week's end -- brace yourself for Apocalypse Friday!

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[Zee poop is about to hit zee fan. I suspect we'll see what Climenhaga predicts: a framework that will allow royalties to increase when oil prices rise again. There will, of course, be some who are more than ready to go to war over even this. *RON*]
By David J. Climenhaga,, 28 January 2016

Brace yourself for a storm of hostility from many of the usual suspects on Friday when Premier Rachel Notley finally releases the province's new royalty framework, based on the report and recommendations of the Royalty Review Advisory Panel headed by Dave Mowat, CEO of Crown-owned ATB Financial.

The panel was announced last June by Energy Minister Margaret McCuaig-Boyd, not quite two months after the election of a New Democratic Party majority government, in fulfillment of an election promise.

Since then, the Wildrose Opposition led by Brian Jean has fought a bitter rear-guard action against the idea of any change to Alberta's royalty str…

Portugal's Government Hangs Tough on Ending Austerity

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[The pressure is on the Mediterranean governments, and they are caught between Berlin and their own voters. See also: Portugal workers stage strike for quicker end to austerity. *RON*]

By Barry Hatton, Associated Press / ABC News, 29 January 2016

Portugal's prime minister said Friday he will seek to accommodate European authorities' concerns about his government's spending plan for this year, but won't give up his promise to end austerity in the country.

Antonio Costa told Parliament his government will be "constructive" in talks with the European Commission. At the same time he said he will "stay faithful" to his recent election pledge of switching the government's focus from debt reduction to economic growth and job creation.

European authorities want Portugal to keep cutting spending. The aim is to reduce the debt burden that forced Portugal to ask for a 78 billion-euro ($85 billion) bailout in 2011. In ret…

It’s not just Flint: Poor communities across the country live with ‘extreme’ polluters

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[Major polluters pitch their tents in poor communities of colour, where they are most likely to get away with it. *RON*]

By Chris Mooney, Washington Post, 27 January 2016
As national attention focuses on Flint, Mich. — where lead-contaminated water flowed for over a year to a relatively poor, minority community — new research suggests that across the U.S., communities like these are more likely to be exposed to some of the most intense pollution.

In a new paper just out in the open-access journal Environmental Research Letters, sociologist Mary Collins of the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry and two colleagues from the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center and the University of Maryland examined what they term “hyper-polluters”: Industrial facilities that, based on EPA data, generate disproportionately large amounts of air pollution. Then, they cross-referenced the location of these facilities with…

Chairman of Uber Military: Tech companies should cooperate with intelligence agencies on encrypted data

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[I cannot believe there is such a thing as Uber Military to begin with. This is what happens when you hire the former head of the CIA, kids. *RON*]

By Paul Carr, Pando, 27 January 2016
Robert Gates is best known as the former Secretary of Defense and head of the CIA.

More recently, though, he has been enjoying a second career inside the tech industry, joining Uber as the Chairman of their not-at-all-sinister sounding “Uber Military” program.

It was an interesting move — a former political heavyweight joining a tech company. But, as Sarah writes on Pando today, not an unprecedented one.

Still, if Gates’ comments at a recent Politico event are any indication, he still has some way to go before he has fully embraced Uber’s — uh — values.

Is Bank of America on Life Support?

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["This is not because of any changes with respect to the company's business strategy. It's because no changes have been made." *RON*]
By Roger ArnoldReal Money, 26 January 2016

If the current economic trajectory for global recession holds, and I think it will, one of the victims is going to be Bank of America (BAC). And it probably won't survive.

This is not because of any changes with respect to the company's business strategy. It's because no changes have been made.

Since the Lehman-era crisis, Bank of America has been dealing with legacy issues, buying loan business by offering much lower interest rates to institutional borrowers on commercial and industrial (C&I) loans than the other money centers, and reducing costs by firing people.

That's not a business strategy, though. That's just hunkering down and trying to outwait the economy and business environment with the expectation of "this too will p…

Paul Allen megayacht destroyed most of Caribbean coral reef, officials say

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[Guillotine watch. Paul Allen was a co-founder of Microsoft. MV Tatoosh, Paul Allen’s 303-foot yacht, has destroyed about 80 percent of a protected coral reef — 14,000 square feet — in the Cayman Islands, according to officials there. *RON*]

By Matt Bonesteel, Washington Post / Seattle Times, 27 January 2016
One of Paul Allen’s big yachts has destroyed a high percentage of a protected coral reef in the Caribbean, according to officials in the Cayman Islands.

Yacht & Boating World reported that the Caymans’ Department of Environment has accused Allen, the Microsoft co-founder and owner of the Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trail Blazers, of having caused serious damage to the protected coral reef in the West Bay replenishing zone.

After an inspection by local divers to assess the damage, officials have found that Allen’s 303-foot yacht MV Tatoosh wrecked a high percentage of the coral, which is essential for marine life.

The World’s Favorite New Tax Haven Is the United States

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[Moving money out of the usual offshore secrecy havens and into the U.S. is a brisk new business. "How ironic—no, how perverse—that the USA, which has been so sanctimonious in its condemnation of Swiss banks, has become the banking secrecy jurisdiction du jour." *RON*]

Jesse Drucker, Bloomberg Businessweek, 26 January 2016

Last September, at a law firm overlooking San Francisco Bay, Andrew Penney, a managing director at Rothschild & Co., gave a talk on how the world’s wealthy elite can avoid paying taxes.

His message was clear: You can help your clients move their fortunes to the United States, free of taxes and hidden from their governments.

Some are calling it the new Switzerland.

Office of Financial Research Warns of Corporate Debt Defaults, Particularly Related to Energy Loans, as Stability Risk

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[A lot of investment counselors, now that their customers are complaining nervously about stocks, are being told, "That's okay, I've moved you heavily into bonds." This is especially nerve-wracking for the retired elderly, who don't necessarily have the time needed to buy low and sell high. See also: The $29 Trillion Corporate Debt Hangover That Could Spark a Recession. *RON*]
By Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism, 28 January 2016

We’ve warned for some time that the debt loads on fracking companies were substantial, and had accounted for a high percentage of new lending in the US over the last five years. We also warned that the fall in energy prices, which was widely ballyhooed as a boon for the economy, would not only hit energy companies, but would have knock-on effects by lower revenues and employment in oil/shale boom towns, employment cuts at oilfield service providers, and a downturn in real estate prices in affected commu…

Fiscal Cost of Refugees in Europe

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[Data from Sweden shows that, even with generous support for refugees, the costs are not high. "If these figures are scaled up to 2015, current redistribution to refugees (excluding 2015 arrivals) is estimated to be 1.35% of GDP." *RON*]
by Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism, 28 January 2016

Yves here. We featured an earlier post which pointed out that the results of modeling the cost/benefits of allowing migration depend, not surprisingly, on the assumptions made. This study is useful in that it is empirical, using Swedish data, when Sweden has good information and also generous social support programs. This analysis concludes the “costs” are low, based on the conventional view that deficits must be financed. One could just as well argue that managing immigration well gives political cover for deficit spending that is useful in a world with underemployment and a deflationary undertow.

By Joakim Ruist, Research Fellow, University of Gothenburg.…

Clay Used By B.C. First Nations Is Killing 'Untreatable' Bacteria: UBC Research

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[Bacteria that are "essentially untreatable with antibiotics... were successfully killed with the Kisameet clay in recent lab tests." *RON*]
By Rhianna Schmunk, Huffington Post, 27 January 2016
Clay that's long been used by B.C. First Nations for healing purposes is killing bacteria that other drugs can't beat, according to researchers from the University of British Columbia.

The mud, found in Kisameet Bay about 400 kilometres north of Vancouver, has been used by the Heiltsuk First Nation to treat conditions including arthritis, colitis, skin irritations and burns for centuries.
UBC researchers Julian Davies and Shekooh Behroozian teamed up to test the clay against strains of ESKAPE bacteria — potentially deadly pathogens that are responsible for the majority of hospital infections in the U.S.

The bacteria are also "essentially untreatable" with antibiotics, said Davies in a media release. But 16 strains from Vancouver ho…

Canada's Federal Deficit To Total $50 Billion In Next Two Years, And That Might Be Good News

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[Canada’s debt-to-GDP ratio is 31 per cent, compared to 70 per cent among OECD countries, on average: "If the government wasn't spending years strengthening our nation's balance sheet to use it as a weapon against downside economic risks as is the case today, then what was the point of it all?" *RON*]
By Daniel Tencer, Huffington Post, 27 January 2016
$25 billion in deficits forecast for each of next two yearsImpact of oil crash on government finances ‘could prove long lasting’Larger deficit would be welcomed by some economists The federal government’s forecasts for economic growth are far too optimistic, and Ottawa faces $50 billion in deficits over the next two years, says a report from National Bank Financial.

The government’s 2016 forecast for nominal GDP -- which largely determines how much tax revenue it will take in -- is more than double what the country is likely to see, economists Krishen Rangasamy and Warren Lovely wrot…

Top Canada watchdog worried about pesticide linked to bee deaths

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[Regulatory capture and the corporatocracy. "The federal health ministry's agency responsible for pesticide regulation can grant a five-year provisional license to some products to give manufacturers time to provide more information. Environment Commissioner Julie Gelfand said nine products had been remained conditionally registered for more than a decade, even though the agency had not gathered the data it required. Eight of the nine belong to the neonicotinoids class" *RON*]
By David Ljunggren, Reuters, 26 January 2016

Canada's official environmental watchdog on Tuesday expressed concern that authorities were allowing the long-term use of pesticides linked to bee deaths despite not having enough information about the products.

The federal health ministry's agency responsible for pesticide regulation can grant a five-year provisional license to some products to give manufacturers time to provide more information.


Uganda: When Democracy Doesn’t Count

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["...the United States provides aid and sells weapons far more often to autocratic regimes than to democracies; even China partners with democracies more than America does. This pattern is particularly clear in sub-Saharan Africa." *RON*]
Helen Epstein, New York Review of Books, 25 January 2016
In 1940, Franklin Roosevelt told Americans that, by arming Britain against the Nazis, we’d serve as an “arsenal for democracy.” But during the cold war, the opposite was often true, and apparently still is. According to two recent studies, the United States provides aid and sells weapons far more often to autocratic regimes than to democracies; even China partners with democracies more than America does. This pattern is particularly clear in sub-Saharan Africa. For a brief period after the cold war, America used foreign aid and other measures to pressure many countries to democratize; some, like Ghana, Tanzania and Zambia, now hold more or less c…

10 Months of the U.S.-Backed War on Yemen

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[The usual arrant nonsense from the US government. The general public clearly has its head firmly planted up its own wazoo. "The Saudis aren’t committed to calming down sectarian divisions in the region. They are deliberately stoking them, and the U.S. is foolishly helping them to do it." *RON*]
By Daniel Larison, The American Conservative, 25 January 2016

As if to show how meaningless the administration’s “concern” about Yemeni civilian casualties is, John Kerry was in Saudi Arabia this weekend to affirm U.S. support for the relationship with Riyadh and its Gulf allies and their unnecessary war on Yemen:

US Secretary of State John Kerry has reiterated Washington’s support for Saudi Arabia’s ongoing war on Yemen, which has so far claimed the lives of at least 8,000 people.

This is hardly the first time that Kerry has endorsed the Saudi-led coalition’s war, but it’s a useful reminder that the U.S. fully supports the intervention and has bee…

“You’ve Got to Cozy Up”: More Politicians Admitting That Money Controls Politics

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[Old now, but I just ran across it, and it's a good collection of quotes! *RON*]

Jon Schwarz, The Intercept, 18 August 2015
Three weeks ago I posted a collection of quotes from politicians acknowledging the obvious reality that money has a huge impact on what they do, and asked anyone with more examples to send them to me.

You really came through. Here are 15 more great examples, with credit to the people who suggested them.

Please keep them coming; I’m looking specifically for working politicians who describe a tight linkage between money and political outcomes. And I’d still love to speak directly to current or former politicians who have an opinion about this.

I’ll continue to add all of them to the original post, so you can bookmark that for the complete collection.

The Fearful World of Network News in 2015

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["...few stories unrelated to terrorism or to the Middle East (or both) have attracted attention.…Europe received prominent coverage. However, the three biggest European stories (Charlie Hebdo, the refugee crisis, the Paris concert massacre) can be portrayed as spillovers from Mideast tensions. All three of these major European storylines fit neatly into fearful narratives made by domestic politicians." *RON*]
By Jim Lobe, IPS News, 26 January 2016
WASHINGTON, Jan 26 2016 (IPS) - If your view of world events outside the U.S. was shaped in substantial part by watching the evening news shows on the three major U.S. networks last year, you’d probably want to stay home.

Terrorism and the bloody wars of the Middle East dominated the network news coverage of the world outside our borders last year, according to the latest annual summary of the authoritative Tyndall Report, which was released just last week. Domestically, it was pretty scary, t…

Ministers making millions as property values surge

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["Advanced Education Minister Andrew Wilkinson’s home rose $578,000 to $3.7 million, while International Trade Minister Teresa Wat’s two homes rose $365,000 to $1.8 million. Premier Christy Clark’s property rose $160,000 to $1.73 million. None of those ministers returned calls for this story. The total wealth the B.C. cabinet declared in real estate is $27.8 million." *RON*]

Jon Woodward, CTV News, 25 January 2016

Surging real estate values added $2.3 million to B.C. cabinet ministers’ personal wealth this year alone, as the government says coming measures to ease housing affordability won’t include any that lower prices.

One minister saw her four properties jump $765,000, more than five times a minister’s salary. Another saw gains on a portfolio of eight homes. On average, ministers made $103,000 – more than an MLA’s salary, according to a review of public records by CTV News.

It’s natural for those ministers to welcome their own wealth …

Canada doing less to reduce income inequality than it has for 30 years

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[All bad news. Our after-tax GINI coefficient has been rising, which shows that our tax policies are increasing income inequality. Redistribution is lower than in the OECD and the Nordic nations and has been dropping since 1994. Our level of tax revenues to GDP is the lowest it has been since 1980. Our level of cash transfers to GDP is now lower than or nearly the same as that of the US and well below the members of the OECD. *RON*]
By Edgardo Sepulveda,, 26 January 2016

One consequence of Canada becoming a low taxation country is that we are now doing less to reduce income inequality than at any time since the mid-1980s. This note analyses Canada's taxation and transfers system from a historical and international perspective, focussing on how changes in Canada's fiscal redistribution over the last two decades have increased after tax income inequality.

Figure 1 presents "market" and "after tax" income Gini co…

Christy Clark's LNG Comments 'Paternalistic' And 'Mindless': First Nations Leaders

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[Keep her in the courts; it's the only thing she understands. She's always on the look-out for a content-free rhetorical angle on things. See also: B.C. LNG minister says 'we're not afraid' of federal environmental tests ("Coleman said B.C. passed legislation that requires LNG operations to meet emissions benchmarks or face penalties. But environmental groups say B.C. won't meet its targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions one-third below 2007 levels by 2020"). *RON*]
By Dirk Meissner, Canadian Press / Huffington Post, 26 January 2016
VANCOUVER— Premier Christy Clark had sharp words Monday for what she calls the "forces of No'' in British Columbia who mount resistance efforts to government initiatives purely out of a fear of change.

First Nations leaders quickly shot back at the premier, labelling her comments "paternalistic'' and "mindless.''

Clark made the statements during a…

U.S. & Allies Make bin Laden Admirer a Negotiator in Syria Peace Talks

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[There can be no clearer illustration of the fact that the so-called 'moderates' that the US is allying itself with against ISIS in Syria are simply terrorists of a slightly different stripe. "Apparently, anything to get rid of Russia's ally Assad is okay with Western leaders." *RON*]
by Eric Zuesse, Washington's Blog, 25 January 2016

On January 25th, which was the date when peace talks on Syria were to start, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry insisted that the organization founded by Osama bin Laden admirer, Zahran Alloush, represent the anti-Assad forces in the upcoming Syrian peace talks, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov very reluctantly accepted.

Alloush had founded and led the jihadist organization, Jaysh al-Islam. Wikipedia says “Jaysh al-Islam ex-leader Zahran Alloush gave a speech on the merits of Hajj in 2013 and praised Usama bin Laden, addressing him by the honorific ‘Sheikh’ and the honorific ‘rahima…