Showing posts from February, 2016

Hillary Goes to War

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["Hillary the Hawk, as US Senator and Secretary of State, never saw a weapon system she did not support not a US war practice she did not endorse." *RON*]

by Diana Johnstone, Counterpunch, 26 February 2016

When voters elected Bill Clinton president of the United States in 1992, they were also electing his wife. Bill announced the fact himself, but after the failure of her health reform plan, Hillary’s only political success was her excellent performance in the role of a faithful wife who “stands by her man”. Her brave defense of her frivolous husband was widely appreciated, but as a qualification for the highest office in the land, it seems a bit skimpy. Having played a part in wars in the former Yugoslavia might seem more presidential.

During the 2008 Democratic Party primaries, Hillary evoked the foreign policy experience she had gained as First Lady by repeatedly regaling audiences with an exciting account of her trip to the Bosnian c…

Noam Chomsky Wants You to Wake Up From the American Dream: 10 principles of oligarchy

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[If I see where this is playing locally, or is available online, I'll post the information here. You do likewise, okay? *RON*]

By David Swanson, Let's Try Democracy / AlterNet, 27 February 2016

If you've just seen Michael Moore's movie and are wondering how in the world the United States got diverted into the slow lane to hell, go watch Noam Chomsky's movie. If you've just seen Noam Chomsky's movie and are wondering whether the human species is really worth saving, go see Michael Moore's movie. If you haven't seen either of these movies, please tell me that you haven't been watching presidential debates. As either of these movies would be glad to point out to you, that's not how you change anything.

"Filmed over four years, these are his last long-form documentary interviews," Chomsky's film, Requiem for the American Dream, says of him at the start, rather offensively. Why? He seems perfect…

Robert Mugabe eats giant cake at birthday party in drought zone

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[The one and only bright side is that he can't live much longer. Zimbabwean president marks 92nd birthday with $800,000 celebration in area where 75% of staple maize crop failed. *RON*]
Reuters, The Guardian, 28 February 2016

President Robert Mugabe marked his 92nd birthday with a lavish party and a huge cake in a drought-stricken area of Zimbabwe on Saturday.

Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s only leader since its independence from Britain in 1980, claimed no one would starve as a result of a drought which has left 3 million people in need and prompted the declaration of a state of disaster in most rural areas.

But in a characteristic jibe aimed at western countries, he said Zimbabwe would not accept aid if it came with conditions that the country should accept gay rights.

“If aid, as I understand, is to be given on the basis that we accept the principle of gay marriages, then let that aid stay where it is,” Mugabe said during an hour-long speech. “We don’t w…

Aid group urges Europe to halt arms to Saudis bombing Yemen

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[I sent this one to Trudeau via his public email address. See also: Trudeau's Stance On Saudi Arms Deal Unpopular, Poll Suggests, and American Cluster Bombs Are Being Used To Kill And Maim Civilians In Yemen. *RON*]

By Maggie Michael, AP / Washington Post, 26 February 2016

CAIRO (AP) - An international coalition of 100 aid and rights organizations on Friday urged Western countries to stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia for its extensive air campaign against Iran-backed Shiite rebels in Yemen.

The Control Arms Coalition released a report listing 11 countries - including France, Britain, U.S. and Germany - that it says sold arms such as drones, missiles and bombs worth $25 billion to the kingdom in 2015.

The report says the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen amounts to a “gross violations of human rights and possible war crimes.”

The United Nations says the fighting in Yemen has killed more than 6,000 Yemenis since March 2015, and more than 35,000 have…

B.C. Liberals' fail to act with regressive clawback, low disability assistance increase

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[Social Darwinism: the only province in Canada: a) with an AAA credit rating, and b) without a poverty plan. As a nice comparison of the 1% versus the 99%, see also: Canadian Taxpayers Federation gives Premier Christy Clark a cushy ride over her use of private planes ("If you're in the business of data mining to advance right-wing causes, a scandal involving a right-wing premier's use of private planes isn't going to be of much use, is it?"). *RON*]
By Alyse Kotyk,, 26 February 2016

The B.C. Liberals lifted a nine-year freeze on persons with disability (PWD) rates as they released their budget for 2016 on February 16.

The previous monthly rate of $906 has been increased by $77 per month starting Sept. 1 and will affect 100,000 said British Columbia Finance Minister Michael de Jong.

The increase was much needed, however, it was coupled with a clawback in the form of a simultaneous increase to transit subsidy rates, wh…

Racist backlash against refugees is the real crisis in Europe

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["The European coalition of the inhumane – contriving to trap refugees in Greece – cannot go on. A humanitarian evacuation plan is urgently needed." *RON*]

Apostolis Fotiadis, The Guardian, 25 February 2016
A coalition of the inhumane is rising in Europe. A group of political leaders have been meeting this week in Vienna to coordinate how to seal the western Balkan refugee passage. The countries involved, including Macedonia, Croatia and Serbia, don’t want to risk hosting thousands of stranded people in their poor societies. They expect that by intentionally causing a humanitarian disaster in Greece they are going to stop the misery of the world getting in their backyard. Only this week Greece pleaded with Macedonia to reopen its border as 4,000 refugees became stranded.

Meanwhile the four Visegrád countries (the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) who have not been not invited to join these discussions, are also at the forefro…

The neo-colonial booming industry of private mercenaries

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["This is another sign of a saturated system which struggles to find new fields in order to fuel its obsolete machine. While millions of jobs being lost, companies continue to function on the logic of maximizing profits. The result: business on the corpses of devastated countries with thousands killed or displaced." *RON*]

By system failure due to insufficient evolution, failed evolution, 27 February 2016

Those who profit from human misery

In the 15 years since the declaration of a ‘war on terror’ and the invasions of first Afghanistan and then Iraq, the world has witnessed an enormous proliferation of private military and security companies (PMSCs) seeking to profit from instability and conflict. Hundreds of companies have been established in the past few years alone, and there now exists a vast private industry worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Sadly, rather than introducing binding regulation of the industry, the British governmen…

Trump Plays Dumb On David Duke’s History Of White Supremacy. Here’s Proof He’s Lying.

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[There's enough evidence on a daily basis to classify this guy as a sign of the Apocalypse. See also: Donald Trump Wavers on Disavowing David Duke; Jean-Marie Le Pen endorses Trump days after ex-KKK leader urges supportDonald Trump Blames Earpiece for Declining to Disavow David DukeTrump retweets quote attributed to fascist leader MussoliniDonald Trump’s Truly Absurd, Word Salad, Gibberish Health Care PolicyThe First Senator to Endorse Donald Trump Is a Longtime Opponent of Civil Rights. *RON*]

By Caset Quinlan, ThinkProgress, 28 February 2016
Two days after disavowing an endorsement from David Duke, Donald Trump suggested Sunday that he doesn’t know anything about the former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard. But that was not his tune back in 2000.

“I disavow it, OK,” he said on Friday when asked about Duke urging white supremacists to support his campaign.

But in an interview with Jake Tapper on CNN’s State of the Union, Trump declined to …

What a British divorce from the EU would look like

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["While leaving the EU is Britain’s choice, the UK cannot dictate the exit terms." How any break-up is carried out will have a decisive impact on Britain for generations. *RON*]

Alex Barker, Financial Times, 26 February 2016

Just like the end of a long and fraught marriage, before the divorce comes the tricky separation.

If Britain votes to leave the EU, the closing scenes of the 40-year partnership would probably see the UK prime minister sitting in an office, waiting for answers in the dead of night.

Along the corridor of Brussels’ European Council building, the remaining 27 EU leaders would be deliberating and voting on the UK’s exit deal, a pact touching on almost every aspect of modern British life, from the price of milk to the freedom to work elsewhere in Europe. While leaving the EU is Britain’s choice, the UK cannot dictate the exit terms.

“You become very lonely at that point, once you’re out of the decision making,” said Mic…

A Basic Income For Ontario? Province Plans Pilot Project As Part Of Budget

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[The Wynne government is really taking wing after the election of Trudeau. See also Senator Art Eggleton's: It's Time For Canada To Test A Basic Income. The HuffPost primer on basic income, linked to below, is also good. *RON*]
By Daniel Tencer, Huffington Post, 27 February 2016
The government of Ontario is planning to launch a pilot project to test out a guaranteed basic income.

What that pilot project will look like, and what it will cost, is not yet known. In its budget documents, unveiled Thursday, the Liberal government of Premier Kathleen Wynne said it would “work with communities, researchers and other stakeholders in 2016 to determine how best to design and implement a Basic Income pilot.”

Finance Minister Charles Sousa said the province will decide whether to make a basic income permanent on the basis of that pilot project, the Globe and Mail reported.

The idea of replacing numerous government benefits with a single cheque sent to a…

Irish Prime Minister Concedes Defeat as Voters Reject Austerity

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["Voters punished the ruling coalition that imposed harsh austerity with Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams declaring a 'seismic change' in Irish politics." An extremely brief primer: the previous government was a Fine Gael (centre-right)-Labour (centre-left) coalition. Labour, in particular, was shot down in flames in this election, but Fine Gael also lost heavily. The biggest gains were made by Fianna Fáil (centre-right, an historic rival of Fine Gael and largely indistinguishable from them IMHO) and Sinn Feinn (decidedly leftist). It's uncertain whether it is possible to achieve a coalition among this lot (e.g., see Fianna Fáil rules out Fine Gael coalition as Irish election count continues) or if another election is needed. *RON*]
TeleSur, 27 February 2016

Irish prime minister Enda Kenny on Saturday conceded defeat, as early indications from the election showed support for both his Fine Gael party and its junior coalition par…

Panicking Mitch McConnell Says GOP Will Help Hillary Beat Trump If He Wins The Nomination

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[See the New York Times article referenced below if you need reassurance that this isn't a joke. *RON*]
Staff, Addicting Info, 27 February 2016

In the most surreal moment in modern American politics, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told panicking Republicans that the GOP would actively destroy Donald Trump’s election chances if it came to that. That rush of warm air you feel on your face? It’s the wave of radiation from the Republican Party’s nuclear meltdown. We’re witnessing the death of a major political party.

Things are getting truly desperate in conservative camps and the grim acceptance that this isn’t a bad dream and that Trump is almost surely going to win the nomination has begun to set in. It’s led to an odd plan. In a stunning report by the New York Times, Republican sources confirm that party leadership is planning to destroy Trump and give Hillary Clinton the win rather than let him have control of the GOP.

To rally depress…

Yes. Concentrated Wealth and Inequality Crushes Economic Growth

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[More billionaire dollars, slower growth. Full stop. I've only just run across Evonomics, and I'm quite enjoying it. So, I've posted a couple of their older stories from my first peruse. *RON*]
By Steve Roth, Evonomics, 14 December 2015.
Like it or not, if countries want to join the “rich country-club,” they need to redistribute wealth. What has not been studied much — at least partially because the data is hard to come by — is the distribution of wealth within countries, and how that relates to economic growth. Is wealth concentration a symptom of what Peter Turchin has called “elite overproduction”?

My devoted readers will undoubtedly remember my 2008 research into rich countries’ wealth inequality and economic growth. (In case you haven’t heard, wealth inequality utterly dwarfs income inequality.) Here’s the bottom line:

Correlations Between Rich Countries’ Wealth Concentration/Inequality and:
GDP per capita growth
1970 to 2005 (…

What Happens When You Believe in Ayn Rand and Modern Economic Theory

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[The reality (quantitative and qualitative failure) of unfettered self-interest. See also: Neoliberalism is being challenged. *RON*]

By Denise Cummins, Evonomics, 17 February 2016

“Ayn Rand is my hero,” yet another student tells me during office hours. “Her writings freed me. They taught me to rely on no one but myself.”
As I look at the freshly scrubbed and very young face across my desk, I find myself wondering why Rand’s popularity among the young continues to grow. Thirty years after her death, her book sales still number in the hundreds of thousands annually — having tripled since the 2008 economic meltdown. Among her devotees are highly influential celebrities, such as Brad Pitt and Eva Mendes, and politicos, such as current Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz.

The core of Rand’s philosophy — which also constitutes the overarching theme of her novels — is that unfettered self-interest is good and a…

The War of Western Failures: Hopes for Syria Fall with Aleppo

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[An excellent analysis of the war in Syria, via my friend Harry. "The war has long since ceased being solely about Syria. The country has become Ground Zero of global geopolitics, an unholy mixture of Russia's desired return to superpower status, an increasingly authoritarian Turkey, tentative US foreign policy, the Kurdish conflict, the arch-rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia, Islamist terror and the inability of a divided, crisis-ridden EU to do much of anything. The war in Syria has transformed from a civil war into a world war." See also: World Bank Woos Western Corporations to Profit From Labor of Stranded Syrian Refugees. *RON*]

Der Spiegel Staff, 17 February 2016
The siege of Aleppo is a humanitarian catastrophe on a dramatic scale -- and a victory for Russian President Vladimir Putin. He has seized on the Syrian civil war to expose an impotent West and show his own geopolitical muscle. By SPIEGEL Staff

Aleppo has been a …

To Fight Critics, Donald Trump Aims to Instill Fear in 140-Character Doses

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[Trump the cyber-bully. Forwarded to me by my friend Harry, "Imagine him as President." *RON*]

By Alexander Burns and Maggie Haberman, 26 February 2016

Cheri Jacobus, a Republican political strategist, did not think she had done anything out of the ordinary: On a cable television show, she criticizedDonald J. Trump for skipping a debate in Iowa in late January and described him as a “bad debater.”

But then Mr. Trump took to Twitter, repeatedly branding Ms. Jacobus as a disappointed job seeker who had begged to work for his campaign and had been rejected. “We said no and she went hostile,” he wrote. “A real dummy!” Mr. Trump’s campaign manager told the same story on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

Mr. Trump’s Twitter followers, who number about six million, piled on. For days, they replied to his posts with demeaning, often sexually charged insults aimed at Ms. Jacobus, including several with altered, vulgar photographs of her face.

“Cheri is a nutc…

Does Philanthrocapitalism Make the Rich Richer and the Poor Poorer?: Income inequality and philanthropy

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[It's not a new idea; it isn't contributing to higher contributions in developed nations; it isn't more efficient in any clear way; income inequality continues apace; it puts decision-making about the public good in the hands of plutocrats and removes it from the democratic sphere. *RON*]

By Linsey McGoey,,  23 February 2016

The first time Bill Gates met Puff Daddy, the rapper and fashion entrepreneur, the encounter was a tense one.

The meeting took place in New York, where Gates had been hanging out at the back of a bar with Bono and other friends. Puff Daddy approached Gates and his coterie. He stood before Gates and nodded.

‘You are a motherfucker.’

Gates’s eyes darted at the man. It’s doubtful the world’s most generous philanthropist hears comments like this too often.

Diddy continued his train of argument: ‘You are a motherfucker. What you are doing on immunization in Botswana? Motherfucker.’

Gates leaned back in his chai…

Apple Versus the G-Men

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[The FBIs demand for a back door is a dangerous one. *RON*]
H. T. Goranson, Project Syndicate, 24 February 2016

VIRGINIA BEACH – Apple’s refusal to unlock the iPhone linked to the extremist attack in San Bernardino, California, in December has triggered a public battle with the US Justice Department and the FBI – a dispute with far-reaching implications for data privacy worldwide. But the case is not as straightforward as it seems.

Speaking as someone with a long presence in the US intelligence community, I believe that the FBI has already gained access to Syed Rizwan Farook’s iPhone. It is an older Apple model using technology that, in other contexts, has already been compromised.

Here’s another strange thing about the FBI’s demand of Apple: Why would the United States government stoop to a public debate on this issue? The FBI is the country’s most powerful law-enforcement organization, and Apple will ultimately be forced to comply with its request…

Uber and the economic impact of sharing economy platforms

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[Great thinking of the kind that Uber will fight tooth and nail. Consumers enjoy the cheaper taxi services provided by Uber, but the company has proven divisive among taxi drivers. Regulators should allow Uber to operate, but under stricter regulations, to ensure that consumers reap the benefits, and drivers operate on a level playing field. *RON*]

By Georgios Petropoulos,, 22 February 2016

The ‘sharing economy’ matches people who want to share assets online. Rather than buying a power drill that I only need for 15 minutes, for example, I can just rent one from someone else who’s not using theirs. Such efficiency gains may come at cost for the traditional economy. Manufacturers of power drills might see profits shrink due to the drop in demand and may even be driven out of the market.

However the costs and benefits associated with sharing economy platforms depend on the business models in place.

Uber is one of the fastest growing startup…

No Trudeau veto for Site C

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[Here comes the new boss, just like the old boss? Just a couple of days ago we posted a story on how Site C Dam Permits Were Quietly Issued During The Federal Election by the Harper government. There was widespread speculation about how the Trudeau government would respond to this, since First Nations strongly oppose the project and one of his key election promises was to forge a new nation-to-nation relationship with First Nations. Now it appears they will do nothing, despite the fact that the project cannot proceed without further approvals from Ottawa. Clearly, some sort of binding deal was cooked up with Christy Clark. *RON*]

Jonny Wakefield, Alaska Highway News, 24 February 2016

The Liberal government looks unlikely to block the Site C dam, after months of speculation over whether Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would reverse the Conservative government's decision to approve the project.

In the House of Commons this week, Green Party and NDP…

Big Chunk of Trump Voters Think Freeing the Slaves After the Civil War Was a Bad Idea

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[A companion piece to innumerable Trump stories, but particularly: 16% of Trump Supporters in South Carolina Willing to Tell Pollsters They Are Openly White Supremacist. A new poll suggests that nearly 20% of Trump voters long for the Confederacy. See also: Measuring Donald Trump's Supporters for Intolerance and finally White Supremacists Mobilize For Donald Trump. *RON*]

By Robin ScherAlterNet, 24 February 2016
A new set of public opinion survey results reveal the extent to which Trump’s current campaign success is rooted in his supporters' pre-existing religious, social and racial intolerance.

According to data gathered from YouGov and Public Policy Polling, Trump’s conflation of race and religion with current problems facing the United States has proven key to his campaign strategy. In this regard, reported the New York Times, Trump has bridged the conservative divide “uniting parts of the party that have been on opposite sides of r…

Israel’s Putinisation

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[Via my friend Harry, a sad tale. "Ahmad Tibi, a long-standing Arab member of the Knesset, once remarked that 'Israel is democratic towards Jews, and Jewish towards Arabs.' For many years, that soundbite nicely captured the contradictions of 'Jewish democracy': fair elections, press freedom, cantankerous debate and due process for some; land theft, administrative detention, curfews, assassinations and 'muscular interrogations' for others... Israel is increasingly 'Jewish towards Arabs', but it’s also on its way to becoming less and less democratic for Jews... On the Israeli right, a lingering attachment to liberal ideas inherited from Europe is enough to mark you as a 'mole'." *RON*]
By Adam Shatz, London Review of Books, Vol. 38 No. 4 · 18, pp. 11-12, February 2016
Ahmad Tibi, a long-standing Arab member of the Knesset, once remarked that ‘Israel is democratic towards Jews, and Jewish towards Ara…

Austerity-weary Ireland votes in parliamentary polls

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[A mini-collection of articles on rising popular push-back against neoliberal austerity policies. In addition to the ongoing opposition in Spain, Portugal and Italy, see also: SNP MP claims austerity will cause 2nd Scottish independence referendumSaudi pivot to austerity could stoke civil unrest, and Jamaican Opposition Ousts Govt as Voters Reject Austerity. *RON*]

AFP, France24, 26 February 2016

Ireland votes on Friday in a parliamentary election that could see it become the latest eurozone country to face political instability as anger against hardship and austerity weakens the outgoing government.

Polls indicate that the coalition led by Prime Minister Enda Kenny's Fine Gael may struggle to form a majority for a second term due to a potential collapse in support for junior partners Labour, whose centre-left base has been alienated by austerity cuts.

Under the coalition, Ireland became the eurozone's champion of economic growth after…

Key Bombardier C Series order in doubt after Republic filing

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[This is a follow up to a story on Bombardier posted here on 17 Feb. Bombardier shares slid from $4 at year and a half ago to a low of 80 cents. They're now $1.06, but can be expected to drop again. The Republic order (Republic pilots have been reported to make less than baristas) was always considered by insiders to be largely wishful thinking. This company is one of the biggest welfare queens in Canada, and is constantly getting handouts from the feds. *RON*]

Greg Keenan and Nicolas Van Praet, The Globe and Mail, 26 February 2016
Republic Airways Holdings Corp., says it plans to streamline its operations by operating only Embraer E170 regional jets, putting the future of the biggest single order for Bombardier Inc. C Series jets into grave doubt.
The airline holding company was scheduled to be the North American launch customer for the CS300, the larger of two C Series models, with planes that were scheduled to be delivered last year. Republ…

Carbon budget is only half as big as thought

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[Fossil fuel use will have to fall twice as fast as predicted if global warming is to be kept within the 2°C limit agreed internationally as being the point of no return. *RON*]
By Tim Radford, Climate News Network, 25 February 2016. LONDON, 25 February, 2016 – Climate scientists have bad news for governments, energy companies, motorists, passengers and citizens everywhere in the world: to contain global warming to the limits agreed by 195 nations in Paris last December, they will have to cut fossil fuel combustion at an even faster rate than anybody had predicted.

Joeri Rogelj, research scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria, and European and Canadian colleagues propose in Nature Climate Change that all previous estimates of the quantities of carbon dioxide that can be released into the atmosphere before the thermometer rises to potentially catastrophic levels are too generous.

Instead of a range of permissi…

Drugs found in Puget Sound salmon from tainted wastewater

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[From Prozac to caffeine to cholesterol medicine and cocaine, from ibuprofen to bug spray, researchers found an alphabet soup of drugs and other personal-care products in sewage-treatment wastewater and in the tissue of juvenile chinook in Puget Sound. And, in an interesting side-note: "The study was not concerned with drinking water." *RON*]
By Lynda V. Mapes, Seattle Times, 25 February 2016
Puget Sound salmon are on drugs — Prozac, Advil, Benadryl, Lipitor, even cocaine.

Those drugs and dozens of others are showing up in the tissues of juvenile chinook, researchers have found, thanks to tainted wastewater discharge.

The estuary waters near the outfalls of sewage-treatment plants, and effluent sampled at the plants, were cocktails of 81 drugs and personal-care products, with levels detected among the highest in the nation.

The medicine chest of common drugs also included Flonase, Aleve and Tylenol. Paxil, Valium and Zoloft. Tagamet, OxyC…

Study says climate change pushes fish toward poles, threatening food source for poor

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["Natural resources like fish are being pushed around by climate change, and that changes who gets access to them." Also see: Another rare animal washes up on a cold B.C. beach, and Dolphin from tropical waters found dead on Haida Gwaii beach. *RON*]
By Chris Arsenault, Reuters, 24 February 2016

TORONTO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Climate change is pushing fish toward the planet's North and South poles, robbing traditionally poorer countries closer to the Equator of crucial natural resources, U.S. biologists said in a study published on Wednesday.

Key species of fish are migrating away from temperate zones and toward the poles as global temperatures rise, according to a research team from Rutgers University, Princeton University, Yale University and Arizona State University.

The migration patterns of fish, a critical food source for millions of people, are likely to exacerbate inequality between the world's poor and rich, they…

EU to Exxon: TTIP Trade Deal Will Help Your Global Fossil Fuel Expansion

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[Adios to sovereignty, democracy and the environment. In a heavily redacted briefing document, the EU assured ExxonMobil that TTIP "would help remove obstacles to expanding fossil fuel development," and "would ease its concerns about restrictive regulations in developing countries." Wouldn't you love to see the unredacted version? See also: Meet the fossil-fuel loving hedge fund billionaire behind Hillary's surge. *RON*]

By Kyla Mandel, DeSmog Blog UK, 25 February 2016

New documents reveal that the European Commission assured ExxonMobil at the very start of negotiations on the major US-EU free trade deal that the deal would help remove obstacles to expanding fossil fuel development in Africa and South America.

The documents, obtained by the Guardian, show that in October 2013 – just three months into negotiations – trade commissioner Karel de Gucht held an hour-long conversation with Exxon in which he told the oil gia…

Farm report: Montana to lose millions to climate change

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[It's estimated that higher temperatures and drier weather related to climate change will cost Montana agriculture more than $700 million per year in lost spring wheat and grazing lands wrecked through drying out and a change of plant cover over time. *RON*]

By Tom Lutey, Billings Gazette, 26 February 2016

Montana agriculture losses to climate change could total $736 million a year, estimates an economic study prepared for Montana Farmers Union.

Warmer temperatures and drier summers are withering the future of Montana spring wheat, a major cash crop for state farmers, according to the report released Wednesday.

Over time, those changing conditions will cost the state $372 million on labor earnings due to 12,167 jobs lost to declined production. Range land losses due to dry conditions and changing plant life, will cut labor earnings related to cattle production by $364 million, and job losses similar to those for grain.

Coral growth already being affected by acidifying oceans, new research finds

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[A study published in Nature shows that the world's coral reefs grew about 7 percent more before climate change kicked in and oceans began to warm and acidify. The Great Barrier Reef is at particular risk of a large-scale bleaching event in the next few weeks. *RON*]

Peter Hannam, The Sydney Morning Herald, 25 February 2016

The world's coral reefs are already being weakened by climate change with new research claiming to identify for the first time in nature effects of more acidic oceans.

Separately, researchers are predicting the possibility of a major coral bleaching event on the Great Barrier Reef because of unusually warm ocean waters - including in the region where the ocean acidification experiment took place.

The coral study, details of which were published on Thursday in Nature, noted that each year about one-quarter of the additional carbon-dioxide released as a result of human activities is absorbed by the world's oceans, alte…

Mercury Poisoning: Causes, Effects & Fish

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["Human activities like coal burning, gold mining and chloralkali manufacturing plants currently contribute the vast majority of the mercury released into our environment... About 80 to 90 percent of organic mercury in a human body comes from eating fish and shellfish... Negative health effects from methylmercury may include neurological and chromosomal problems, miscarriages or death with large exposures." *RON*]
by Alina Bradford, Live Science, 24 February 2016

Mercury is a naturally occurring chemical, but it can become harmful when it contaminates fresh and seawater areas. Fish and other aquatic animals ingest the mercury, and it is then passed along the food chain until it reaches humans. Mercury in humans may cause a wide range of conditions including neurological and chromosomal problems and birth defects. What is mercury?

Mercury is naturally occurring element in the Earth's crust that is released into the environment with n…

Earth is warming 50x faster than when it comes out of an ice age

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[There is so much environmental news that I thought I'd do an 'environmental day' here today. A major new study includes some scary implications about how rapidly humans are changing the Earth’s climate. *RON*]
Dana Nuccitelli, The Guardian, 24 February 2016

Recently, The Guardian reported on a significant new study published in Nature Climate Change, finding that even if we meet our carbon reduction targets and stay below the 2°C global warming threshold, sea level rise will eventually inundate many major coastal cities around the world.

20% of the world’s population will eventually have to migrate away from coasts swamped by rising oceans. Cities including New York, London, Rio de Janeiro, Cairo, Calcutta, Jakarta and Shanghai would all be submerged.

The authors looked at past climate change events and model simulations of the future. They found a clear, strong relationship between the total amount of carbon pollution humans emit, and…

Liberals to repeal Bill C-24 on citizenship: Immigration Minister

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[In the reality of political-speak, "repeal" = "modify in a largely unspecified manner." We need to see what the new bill says when it comes out. Read the comments to the original article though. Even this is being greeted with an outflow of racial and religious hatred. *RON*]

Michelle Zilio, The Globe and Mail, 24 February 2016

Immigration Minister John McCallum says the government will announce significant changes to the Citizenship Act in the coming days.
Mr. McCallum said Tuesday that the Liberals will soon follow through on their election pledge to repeal the Conservatives’ controversial Bill C-24, which gave the government the power to revoke Canadian citizenship from dual citizens convicted of terrorism, treason or espionage.

Asked when the changes will be unveiled, Mr. McCallum told The Globe and Mail to expect an announcement “in coming days, but not very many days.”

During last year’s election campaign, the Liberal plat…

Egypt: Life Sentence for 3-Year-Old. Error Demonstrates Arbitrary Nature of Crackdown

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["This case exemplifies the banality of repression in Egypt today. Police, prosecutors, and judges aren’t even bothering to check basic facts as they rush to pack defendants off to prison." *RON*]
Human Rights Watch, 23 February 2016

(Beirut) – A life sentence apparently handed down by mistake to a 3-year-old boy on February 16, 2016, exemplifies the arbitrariness of Egyptian courts that are used to punish political opponents of the government.

A Cairo military court presiding over a mass trial of 116 defendants, including Ahmed Mansour Qurni Sharara, 3, delivered the sentence after investigators and prosecutors failed to remove Mansour’s name, even though they knew it was included by mistake, a lawyer for the defense team told Human Rights Watch.

“This case exemplifies the banality of repression in Egypt today,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director. “Police, prosecutors, and judges aren’t even bothering to check basic facts as they…

How Militarized Police Are Turning American Communities Into War Zones, Death by Death

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[The occupying armed force of the class wars. When it comes to people of color, the police make San Francisco "Baghdad by the Bay." *RON*]

By Rebecca GordonTom Dispatch / AlterNet, 23 February 2016

In the photo, five of Beyoncé’s leather-clad, black-bereted dancers raise their fists in a Black Power salute. The woman in the middle holds a hand-lettered sign up for the camera, bearing three words and a number: “Justice 4 Mario Woods.” Behind them, the crowd at Levi's Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers, is getting ready for the second half of Super Bowl 50, but the game’s real fireworks are already over.

The women in the photo had just finished backing Beyoncé’s homage to the Black Panthers and Malcolm X during her incandescent halftime appearance, when two San Francisco Bay Area Black Lives Matter activists managed to grab a few words with them. Rheema Emy Calloway and Ronnisha Johnson asked if they’d make a quick video dema…

PAUL KRUGMAN: Germany turned Europe's problems into a 'morality play'

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["Austerity policies have taken what was fundamentally a story about excessive private capital flows and housing bubbles and turned it into lectures of fiscal responsibility that have ended up doing a lot of damage... All of this austerity has not only not resolved the fiscal problem, it hasn't even moved it in the right direction." *RON*]

Elena Holodny, Business Insider, 25 February 2016

Paul Krugman is going after Germany's austerity policy again.

In a recent interview with Business Insider Deutschland's Brigit Haas, the Nobel Laureate detailed what he believed to be the worst effects policy pursued by Europe's largest economy.

Krugman argued that the ramifications of the policy run "very deep" — but that it's not just a huge cost in terms of lost output and lost jobs.

"Years of terrible economic performance have also done enormous damage to the European project and have basically left Europeans no lon…

Ireland’s Recovery Has Nothing to Do With Austerity

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[Voters headed to the polls in Ireland tomorrow take heed: The Celtic Tiger got its groove back despite — not because of — the EU and IMF’s advice. Notice also that both Brussells and the current Irish government are taking credit for a recovery at least partly (mostly? who knows) fuelled by US tax off-shoring. *RON*]
By Philippe Legrain, Foreign Policy, 24 February 2016

After years of crisis, austerity, and wage cuts, Ireland’s economy grew by 7 percent last year, faster than China’s. With a general election on Feb. 26, the governing coalition has been quick to claim credit for this turnaround, as have policymakers in Berlin and Brussels who celebrate Ireland as the poster child of the harsh medicine they prescribed in the country’s financial assistance program. “See,” they say to Greeks and others, “if you do what you’re told, it works.” But while Ireland’s economic recovery is impressive, it has happened despite the European Union and Internat…

Hillary Clinton Now Says She’ll Only Release Big-Bank Speeches if the Republicans Do

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[This is progressive politics? Hillary said she would release information about her Wall Street speeches if Bernie Sanders did. Bernie did; now she says she will only do so if the Republican candidates release their information. Can you imagine four years of this? Bernie's response: "Hillary Clinton believes Republicans should set the standard for disclosure of her Wall Street speeches. Aren’t we better than that?" *RON*]

Zaid Jilani, The Intercept, 23 February 2016
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton again refused to release transcripts of her paid speeches to big banks, telling a CNN town hall audience Tuesday night that she will only release her transcripts if her Republican opponents release theirs.

“Earlier tonight, I asked Senator Sanders: Will you give your transcripts of speeches?” said host Chris Cuomo. “He said he doesn’t have the bank speeches. If he can find any of the speeches that he did give for money, he…

Democracy warning as Canadian media outlets merge and papers close

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Federal minister convenes talks over increasingly centralised ownership in response to warnings of threat to public interest journalism. "Concentration of ownership in Canada is roughly double that in the United States, according to Dwayne Winseck, a Carleton University professor... 'What sets Canada out as an outlier is the extent of vertical integration,' he said. 'The companies that own the pipes also own the content providers whose messages are flowing over those pipes.'" *RON*]
Staff and agencies, The Guardian, 24 February 2016

Canada’s media crunch has prompted a federal minister to cite concerns for democracy as papers close, newsrooms merge and more of the country’s outlets come under the control of handful of companies.

Canadian newsrooms are shrinking as an oil shock rocks the economy and curtails the appetite of advertisers. The media retreat is touching small-city newspapers thousands of kilometres apart and t…

Christy Clark government takes on staff from Harper's and Alberta's ousted Conservative ranks

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[In case there was any doubt that tbe BC "Liberals" are actually Conservatives. As the wave of Conservative defeat crosses Canada, BC "Liberals" are able to pick up unemployed advisers on the cheap. "Influx from Ottawa and Edmonton could send tricky messages, say experts." *RON*]

By Cassidy Olivier, The Province, 24 February 2016

It appears out-of-work roughnecks from Alberta aren’t the only ones heading west across the Rockies in search of greener pastures.

Judging by a recent string of political appointments, British Columbia is also a hot destination for recently unemployed Stephen Harper Conservatives and staffers from Alberta’s defeated Conservative government.

Since last month, about a dozen Conservative-aligned political staffers have found employment with the B.C. government.

Included in the wave is Nicholas Koolsbergen, Harper’s former director of issues management, who once made headlines for purportedly c…