Showing posts from March, 2016

Trudeau to discuss horror scenario during U.S. trip: terrorists using nuclear weapons

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[This 'horror' story came out on exactly the same day the Trudeau government said it intends to do precisely nothing about nuclear weapons globally: "Dion said in a speech earlier this month that the current global security environment is simply not conducive to a ban on nuclear weapons because some states just won't relinquish them." See: Canada Must Push For Nuclear Free World, Despite Stephane Dion's Reticence: Activists. *RON*]

By Alexander Panetta, Canadian Press / The Province, 29 March 2016

WASHINGTON — Justin Trudeau will be among the world leaders gathering to contemplate the spine-tingling scenario of terrorists getting hold of nuclear weapons.

The prime minister will be in Washington this week at the last of the nuclear-safety summits organized by President Barack Obama.

The leaders will close out the two-day event with a session that discusses a hypothetical nuclear-terrorism scenario.

But that conversation will…

The enormous carbon footprint of food that we never even eat

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[One quarter of the food produced on earth is wasted, accounting for 7% of total global carbon emissions. *RON*]

By Chelsea Harvey, Washington Post, 28 March 2016
Discussions about how to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions frequently center on clean energy, more efficient transportation and sustainable agriculture. But research suggests that if we really want to pay attention to our carbon footprints, we should also be focusing on another, less-talked-about issue: the amount of food we waste each day.

Food waste is already a hot topic in its own right. But with mounting concerns about our ability to feed the world’s growing population (expected to exceed 9 billion by 2050), cutting down on food waste is a big concern for experts in global food security. Wasted food is a major problem worldwide: In a 2011 report, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated that, in 2007, about 1.6 billion tons of food were wasted. For compa…

The Food Industrial Complex

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[All the profit - and so, all the political clout - is in junk food. *RON*]

By Alex Mayyasi, Priceonomics, 24 March 2016

In 2011, during a debate over the nutritional guidelines for school lunches, Congress decided that pizza counts as a vegetable. And not for the first time.

The American government first proposed that an unhealthy food—if it contains trace amounts of a healthy ingredient—could count as a vegetable in 1981. Looking for ways to cut the school lunch budget, the Reagan Administration suggested that cafeterias include ingredients in condiments like pickle relish and ketchup toward nutritional requirements.

This was not good politics. Democrats and the press had a field day saying that Reagan had just classified ketchup as a vegetable. “This is one of the most ridiculous regulations I ever heard of,” Democratic Senator John Heinz, owner of Heinz, told the press, “and I suppose I need not add that I know something about ketchup and reli…

World watches Britain’s ‘living wage’ experiment

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[Following Seattle, Britain starts dramatically raising their minimum wage this week. It will rise to about $16.70 Canadian. Canada's highest minimum wage is in Nunavut, at $13. The highest provincial wage is $11.40 in Ontario (BC is $10.45). *RON*]

By Sarah O’Connor, Financial Times, 28 March 2016

“I feel as though I have died and gone to heaven,” said Britain’s skills minister in a recent speech, as he prepares to preside over the fastest rise in the minimum wage in the country’s history.

The new policy, which starts on Friday, will see the wages for low-paid workers rise four times faster than average earnings this year.

The world will be watching. Governments in many developed countries are turning to minimum wage policies as they try to deal with inequality and anaemic wage growth.

The stagnation in wages in recent years has been blamed on the rise of global competition, the decline in collective bargaining, a slowdown in productivity growth…

Turkish troops 'are KILLING refugees' as they try to cross border from Syria: Father and child are among 16 migrants 'shot dead in the past four months'

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[Refugees fleeing war in Syria are being shot dead by Turkish border forces. At least 16 migrants, including three children, killed in the past four months. A man and his child were killed in one incident and two refugees in another. Smuggler: Refugees who cross border will now either be killed or captured. *RON*]
By Katie Strick Daily Mail and Sam Tonkin MailOnline, 31 March 2016

Refugees fleeing Syria’s civil war are being shot dead by Turkish border forces, it was reported last night.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 16 migrants, including three children, had been killed in the past four months as they tried to cross into Turkey.

The true number is believed to be higher, according to a Syrian police officer and a Syrian smuggler who lives in Turkey, but it is impossible to say exactly how many because the bodies of those who fell on the Syrian side of the border were dragged back to be buried in the war zone.

Shoot to kill: Refugees fl…

How Austerity Has Crippled The European Economy – In Numbers

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[An unequivocal failure. The overall eurozone GDP is still below the 2008 peak and has performed below target for 3 years. Growth was only 1.6% in early 2016. Industrial production is down 10% from pre-crisis levels. One study shows that austerity reduced GDP by 7.7% from 2011-13. General unemployment is up from 7 to 10.5% while youth unemployment is up from 15 to 21.5%. "In early 2016, nearly one-quarter of EU citizens (24.6 per cent) are regarded as being at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion." All while the debt-to-GDP ratio continued to climb from 79.3% in 2009 to 93% in early 2016. *RON*]

By Thomas Fazi, Social Europe, 31 March 2016

Europe’s post-crisis response – consisting of a combination of fiscal austerity, neoliberal structural reforms and expansionary monetary policies – has unambiguously failed. In early 2016 – eight years after the outbreak of the financial crisis – the eurozone’s overall real GDP was still below the pre-…

“What We Have is Capture of the Regulators’ Minds, A Much More Sophisticated Form of Capture Than Putting Money in Their Pockets”

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[I'm not sure when I'll get time to read it, but I just bought his book Cornered. On corporate concentration: how every major industry and marketplace in America came to be controlled by a single, monolithic player. "Our political economy is run by a compact elite that is able to fuse the power of our public government with the power of private corporate governments in ways that enable members of the elite not merely to offload their risk onto us but also to determine with almost complete freedom who wins, who loses, and who pays." *RON*]

Posted by Asher Schechter, ProMarket, 26 March 2016

On September 21, 1999, a devastating 7.6-magnitude earthquake hit Taiwan, killing close to 2,500 people and displacing more than 100,000. The earthquake also affected the PC industry: as Taiwan was home to factories that manufactured most of the world’s motherboards and semiconductors, many firms were cut off from their supplies due to local …

Citing Humanitarian Nightmare, Aid Agencies Are Pulling From Europe's Refugee Prisons

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[The new deal between the EU and Turkey has transformed refugee "hotspots" into detention centers. They're forcing Kurds into Turkey, along with Afghanis and Iraqis who, by Turkish law, will be forcibly deported back to their home countries. *RON*]
By Sarah LazareAlterNet, 25 March 2016
“We will not allow our assistance to be instrumentalized for a mass expulsion operation,” declared Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) official Marie Elisabeth Ingres this week, joining the chorus of major humanitarian institutions pulling their operations from Greek island refugee “hotpots” that have been transformed into nightmarish prisons. “[W]e refuse to be part of a system that has no regard for the humanitarian or protection needs of asylum seekers and migrants.”

As ever-increasing numbers of war and poverty survivors reach Greek islands, the land masses have become ground zero for a newly escalated European Union crackdown, which decrees: “All ne…

$1tn could be wasted on 'unneeded' new coal plants, report warns

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[Investment in 1,500 new coal plants around the world, mainly in China, India, Indonesia and Vietnam, could be wasted if action on climate change and pollution prevent them from being used, "but there’s more at stake here than money," said Ted Nace, director of CoalSwarm. "In terms of climate safety, the clock is ticking on the transition to clean energy." See also: These 2 charts show why investing in coal power is a waste of $1 trillion. *RON*]

Damian Carrington, The Guardian, 30 March 2016

Almost $1tn of investment in new coal-fired power stations could be wasted if growing concerns about climate change and air pollution leave the plants unused, according to a new report.

About 1,500 new coal plants are in construction or planning stages around the world but electricity generation from the fossil fuel has fallen in recent years, the detailed report from the Sierra Club, Greenpeace and CoalSwarm found. In China, existing pla…

An open letter to Minister McKenna on lack of due diligence with Woodfibre LNG approval

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[Democracy or corporatocracy? Feds say they consulted. "How so? By giving us less than a week’s notice that we have yet another public comment period to go through with 21 days to review a highly questionable document compiled by the CEAA on upstream greenhouse gas emissions? And then giving the project your official approval before staff at the CEAA could even upload all 1,300 comments to the website, let alone read them, or validate the scientific concerns we have raised about the CEAA’s dodgy greenhouse gas assessment. This is not meaningful public consultation." *RON*]
Tracey Saxby, Vancouver Observer, 28 March 2016

I cannot adequately express my anger, disappointment, and despair upon learning that you have given the green light for the proposed Woodfibre LNG project in Howe Sound, BC.

The West Coast is a long way from Ottawa, so perhaps you don't fully understand how the communities around Howe Sound have been fighting to stop…

De Blasio sees links between terror, income inequality

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[This is, quite literally, bleedingly obvious, but at least someone is saying it. "Unfortunately, there’s always some fertile field when people feel there is no hope, society is not for them and the economy doesn’t offer them a pathway." *RON*]

By Matthew Chayes, Newsday, 29 March 2016
Income inequality fuels terrorism, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday, pointing to recent attacks in Belgium, Pakistan and elsewhere as evidence that the world needs to confront the gap between rich and poor.

Addressing mayors and other leaders from around the globe, de Blasio said security is hard to achieve without narrowing a widening income gap.

“I think we can safely say that in many nations of the world, lack of opportunity and a sense of doors being closed, unfortunately, has led to an environment where many people, particularly young people, have felt disaffected, have drifted toward extremist ideologies and sometimes toward violence,” de Blasio said…

Fracking linked to 90 per cent of seismic activity in B.C. & Alberta: Study

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["...between 90 and 95 per cent of seismic activity Magnitude 3 or larger in the last five years was caused by oil and gas activity, with most of it linked to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking." *RON*]
By Dan Fumano, The Province, 29 March 2016

Scientists from the federal government, regulatory agencies and Canadian universities have unearthed a deeper understanding of the link between fracking and earthquakes in a major oil-and-gas-producing region of Western Canada.

A new report, set to be published in the journal of the Seismological Society of America, examines an area straddling the B.C.-Alberta border and finds that between 90 and 95 per cent of seismic activity Magnitude 3 or larger in the last five years was caused by oil and gas activity, with most of it linked to hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”

“The biggest implication of this study is that we can no longer deny the link between induced earthquakes and hydraulic fracturi…

Rome’s Police spokesman: Saudi embassy helped Erdoğan’s son to escape the police custody; using a forged Saudi passport and disguised as an Arab diplomat

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[Smuggled out ahead of money laundering charges. Such a nice man, and with such a nice family and such nice connections! *RON*]

 AWD News, 7 March 2016

According to Rai News 24, Italian police spokesman Lt. Colonel Domenico Grimaldi accused the Saudi legation in Rome of facilitating the escape of Bilal Erdoğan who was detained for money laundering allegations. Bilal Erdoğan’s short detention in Rome and later escape are the latest in a series of scandals hitting President Erdoğan’s family.

Canada Must Push For Nuclear Free World, Despite Stephane Dion's Reticence: Activists

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[Dion says it's a waste of time for Canada to take a position against nuclear weapons since a number of countries simply won't give them up. In what way is this a reason for Canada to not take a principled public position on the matter? *RON*]

By Mike Blanchfield, Canadian Press / Huffington Post, 29 March 2016

OTTAWA — Anti-nuclear campaigners who want Canada to push for a global ban on nuclear weapons are concerned that Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion is showing a definite lack of enthusiasm for that goal.

Dion said in a speech earlier this month that the current global security environment is simply not conducive to a ban on nuclear weapons because some states just won't relinquish them.

Cesar Jaramillo, executive director of the peace group Project Ploughshares, says there's never a perfect time to push for such a ban and the time to start is now.

Nuclear disarmament and security will be front and centre later this wee…

Chrystia Freeland's 'Public' TPP Consultations Are Anything But

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[The Liberals differ imperceptibly from the Conservatives where trade agreements are concerned; no sign of Sunny Days here. *RON*]
Sujata Dey Council of Canadians / Huffington Post, 29 March 2016

On the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), International Trade minister Chrystia Freeland has claimed to be in “listening mode." And she says no decision has been made yet. It is widely reported that she is touring the country to hear Canadians on the TPP.

In February, at Question Period in the House of Commons, she said, “Mr. Speaker, on the TPP, we are doing exactly what we promised we would do during the election campaign. We told Canadians that we would take the time to listen to Canadians and to consult widely on this deal. I myself have been part of more than 50 consultations, and our whole-of-government approach has included more than 200.”

But it is not clear whom she is actually consulting. From our experience, it has been the usual blue-chip ind…

BREAKING: The Biggest Legal Attack On Unions In Decades Is Dead

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[More positive spin-off from the now evenly split Supreme Court of the US. *RON*]

By Ian Millhiser, Think Progress, 29 March 2016
When the Supreme Court met last January to hear an aggressive attempt to defund public sector unions, the news looked grim for organized workers. All five of the Court’s conservatives seemed ready to accept the plaintiffs’ legal arguments, a result that would have potentially had catastrophic financial consequences for many unions.

Then Justice Antonin Scalia died, and the anti-union litigants lost the fifth vote they needed to prevail.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court announced the widely expected consequence of Scalia’s encounter with his own mortality. In a single-sentence order, the Supreme Court announced that the judgment of a lower court rejecting this effort to defund public sector unions “is affirmed by an equally divided court.” Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association is dead. A four-decade-old opinion prote…

The Strange Case of a Nazi Who Became an Israeli Hitman

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[A fascinating, albeit creepy, tale of the giant case of Stockholm Syndrome which is the Mossad. Otto Skorzeny, one of the Mossad’s most valuable assets, was a former lieutenant colonel in Nazi Germany’s Waffen-SS and one of Adolf Hitler’s favorites. *RON*]

The Forward, Dan Raviv, Yossi Melman, Haaretz, 27 March 2016

On September 11, 1962, a German scientist vanished. The basic facts were simple: Heinz Krug had been at his office, and he never came home.

The only other salient detail known to police in Munich was that Krug commuted to Cairo frequently. He was one of dozens of Nazi rocket experts who had been hired by Egypt to develop advanced weapons for that country.

HaBoker, a now defunct Israeli newspaper, surprisingly claimed to have the explanation: The Egyptians kidnapped Krug to prevent him from doing business with Israel.

But that somewhat clumsy leak was an attempt by Israel to divert investigators from digging too deeply into the case …

Russia's campaign in Syria leads to arms sale windfall

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[And the military-industrial complex marches on. Russian weapons exports expected to receive $6bn-$7bn boost as result of ‘marketing effect’ of bombing campaign in Syria. Meanwhile, as Russia makes billions off arms sales because of Syria, Moe is busy shooting off Curly's foot on behalf of dueling American services: CIA-armed militias are shooting at Pentagon-armed ones in Syria. *RON*]

Alec Luhn, The Guardian, 29 March 2016 The demonstration of Russian military might during Vladimir Putin’s air campaign in Syria has increased interest from arms buyers and could result in several billion dollars in new sales, analysts and media have said. US secretary of state John Kerry’s meeting with the Russian president in Moscow last week suggested that Russia has forced the west to takes its political interests into account. But its arms exports, which totalled $15bn (£10.5bn) in 2015, have historically trailed only those of the US, also stand to benefi…

Do billionaires fleeing Canadian taxes deserve public subsidies for their Alberta franchises?

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[Tarsands tycoon N. Murray Edwards runs away to England searching for lower than the already-low Alberta taxes, but still wants Alberta taxpayers to foot the bill for a new stadium for his hockey team. *RON*]
By David J. Climenhaga,, 27 March 2016

Twitter commentator Dave Beninger raised an interesting point yesterday: If tarsands tycoon N. Murray Edwards is going to bug off to England because he finds the taxes in low-tax Alberta 3 per cent too high, should his fellow Alberta taxpayers be asked to pony up for a new arena for his Calgary Flames professional hockey team?

This was a question a Postmedia scribe reporting on the revelation Edwards has apparently decamped from Wild Rose Country for England's green and pleasant land didn't ask anyone -- least of all Edwards, who is evidently not the sort of billionaire who responds to calls and emails from the grubby press.

Republicans Want Guns In Schools But Not At Their National Convention

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["Are you kidding?" says conventioneer, "We're insane! It would be a bloodbath!" *RON*]

By Judd LeGum, Think Progress, 27 March 2016
In response to an epidemic of gun violence in America, Republicans reject any effort to control gun use. The solution, instead, is more guns.

“The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” the expression goes. It’s available as a t-shirt from the NRA.

Wolf Richter: World Trade Collapses in Dollars, Languishes in Volume

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[Nearly eight years now of quantitative easing and even negative interest rates - and it's obviously not working as world trade continues in doldrums that are worse than 2008: "world trade dropped 3.8% in January from December and is down 12.1% from January a year ago." *RON*]
By Wolf Richter, Wolf Street, posted on Naked Capitalism by Yves Smith, 27 March 2016

The Merchandise World Trade Monitor by the CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis, a division of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, tracks global imports and exports in two measures: by volume and by unit price in US dollars. And the just released data for January was a doozie beneath the lackluster surface.

The World Trade Monitor for January, as measured in seasonally adjusted volume, declined 0.4% from December and was up a measly 1.1% from January a year ago. While the sub-index for import volumes rose 3% from a year ago, export volumes fell 0.7%. This sort o…

Leadnow launches campaign to push Premier Christy Clark to replace Fazil Mihlar

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[Christy Clark appoints a right-wing climate change denier to be our new deputy minister overseeing climate change. *RON*]

by Charlie Smith, Georgia Straight, 24 March 2016

This week, Premier Christy Clark surprised many observers by appointing Fazil Mihlar as the new deputy minister overseeing climate leadership.

Mihlar is best known as a long-time Vancouver Sun opinion page editor, editorial writer, and associate editor.

But what has rankled the citizens' group Leadnow is that in the 1990s, Mihlar was employed by a Vancouver-based free-market think tank, the Fraser Institute. It has downplayed the seriousness of human-induced climate change.

Leadnow has even launched an online letter-writing campaign calling upon the premier to remove Mihlar from office and "make BC a climate leader again".

"A former director of a climate-change denying, Koch-funded think tank is in charge of drafting BC's climate plan," Leadnow charges …

Why Either Trump’s and Cruz’s Tax Plans Would Be the Largest Redistributions to the Rich in American History

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["Trump and Cruz pretend to be opposed to the Republican establishment, but when it comes to taxes they’re seeking exactly what that Republican establishment wants." *RON*]

Robert Reich, / Salon, 24 March 2016

This originally appeared on Robert Reich's blog.

The tax cuts for the rich proposed by the two leading Republican candidates for the presidency – Donald Trump and Ted Cruz – are larger, as a proportion of the government budget and the total economy, than any tax cuts ever before proposed in history.

Trump and Cruz pretend to be opposed to the Republican establishment, but when it comes to taxes they’re seeking exactly what that Republican establishment wants.

Here are 5 things you need to know about their tax plans:

Japan’s elderly turn to life of crime to ease cost of living

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[They're committing petty crimes, hoping to be jailed for free food, housing and health care: "Even the theft of a Y200 sandwich can earn a two-year prison sentence, say academics, at an Y8.4m cost to the state.". *RON*]
Leo Lewis, Financial Times / CNBC News, 27 March 2016

Japan's prison system is being driven to budgetary crisis by demographics, a welfare shortfall and a new, pernicious breed of villain: the recidivist retiree. And the silver-haired crooks, say academics, are desperate to be behind bars.

Crime figures show that about 35 per cent of shoplifting offences are committed by people over 60. Within that age bracket, 40 per cent of repeat offenders have committed the same crime more than six times.

There is good reason, concludes a report, to suspect that the shoplifting crime wave in particular represents an attempt by those convicted to end up in prison — an institution that offers free food, accommodation and health…

A $15 Minimum Wage May Soon Be Reality In California

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[Wage erosion has been a key way in which the middle class has lost out economically over the last quarter century. By way of contrast, I calculate that the minimum wage in BC (in constant 2016 dollars) was $10.51 in 2001 when the Liberals were elected and is currently $10.45). *RON*]

By Adrienne Mahsa Varkiani, Think Progress, 27 March 2016

A statewide $15 minimum wage will soon be reality in California, thanks to a deal made between state legislators and labor unions.

According to the Los Angeles Times, which spoke with sources close to the negotiations and first reported the story, under the deal, the current $10 per hour minimum wage will be increased by 50 cents in 2017 and again in 2018. The minimum wage would then be increased by $1.00 a year until 2022. Businesses with less than 25 employees, however, would have until 2023 to give workers a $15 hourly minimum wage. In the case of an economic downturn, the state governor would be able to …

Police Find And Detonate Explosive Device At Trump Supporter’s Home After He Threatened Muslims

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[If the race and religion of the perpetrator and intended victims were reversed, would the sentence for such terrorism be only 90 days? *RON*]

By Justin Salhani, Think Progress,  26 March 2016
William Celli, a 55-year-old man from California, will spend 90 days in jail after being caught in possession of an explosive device and threatening to kill Muslims. Celli took a plea deal that places him on probation for a further three years and bans him from operating an active Facebook profile.

Celli was arrested on Dec. 20, 2015 after yelling “I’m going to kill you all” outside the Islamic Society of West Contra Costa County in Richmond, California. Police later found and detonated an explosive device at Celli’s residence after receiving tips that he was constructing homemade explosives.

Celli had taken to social media in the past to express his admiration of Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump. “Donald trumps on again I’m happy leaders oka…

Bernie Sanders crushes Hillary Clinton in Alaska, Washington and Hawaii

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[Senator sees strong support in western states to record series of strong caucus victories – but he remains the Democratic underdog in the national race. See also: Sanders Campaign Blasts $350K Dinner with Clooneys as 'Obscene': "It's a sum that would require an employee making the federal minimum wage to work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for more than 5 years." *RON*]

Ben Jacobs and Chris McGreal, The Guardian, 27 March 2016

Bernie Sanders won overwhelming victories in Washington state, Alaska and Hawaii on Saturday, narrowing Hillary Clinton’s still significant lead in the race for delegates to win the Democratic nomination for president.

Sanders defeated Clinton in Washington’s caucuses 73% to 27% and 81% to 16% in Alaska’s. In Hawaii, which was called at 3.54am Sunday ET, he won by 71%-29% with 88% reporting.

“We knew from day one we were going to have a hard time politically in the deep south – that is a conservativ…

How the World's Biggest Polluters are Two Trade Deals Away from Steamrolling Climate Protections

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["45 of the 50 private corporations historically responsible for the most climate-disrupting emissions" would be emboldened to challenge climate protections. *RON*]

By Andrea GermanosCommon Dreams, 24 March 2016

When TransCanada announced at the start of the year that it that it was demanding compensation under North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) rules for the Obama administration's decision to reject the Keystone XL pipeline, many observers saw it as a sign of things to come.

Indeed, critics of two pending trade deals—the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)—have already warned that other corporations could take similarly take advantage of the same mechanism to exert their power before private tribunals, demanding compensation for lost profits while supplanting democracy and trampling on workers' rights and environmental protections.

Now, a new report from the Sierra…

B.C.'s privacy commissioner launches inquiry into phone-monitoring device

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[B.C.'s Privacy Commissioner is investigating the Stingray, a device that allows police to secretly monitor every cell phone in a certain radius. It will be interesting to see whether the police or the constitution win out. See also: Do Vancouver police use Stingray to spy on cellphone data of citizens? They won't say and that's a problem, argues civil liberties group. *RON*] Staff with files from CTV Vancouver’s Tom Popyk, 25 March 2016

Civil liberties groups are bracing for a battle as British Columbia’s privacy commissioner launches an inquiry into a device that allows police to secretly monitor mobile phones.

British Columbia’s privacy commissioner has launched a closed-door inquiry into the public’s right to know about Stingray, a high-tech tool that mimics a cellphone tower and tricks phones in order to scoop up everyone’s data in range, and potentially store it all.

Stingray is part of mass surveillance systems that…

From daredevil to chicken: Scientists find off-switch for risky behavior

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["Firing up specific brain cells—linked to gambling in people—turns rats cautious." This could be put to uses of great benefit to humanity by medicating all the traders on Wall Street. *RON*]

by Beth Mole, Ars Technica, 26 March 2016

Whether you prefer to play it safe or wade into risky business for larger payoffs, your decision process may largely depend on a tiny bundle of cells deep in your noggin.

By tagging and tweaking those cells in the brains of high-rolling rats, researchers were able to turn them from ballsy to cautious decision-makers. More specifically, the rodents switched their preference away from pulling a lever that released a jackpot of sugary treats 25 percent of the time to another lever that served up smaller-sized treats 100 percent of the time.

The finding, published in Nature, backs up previous studies in humans showing that drugs that interfere with those same brain cells can lead to gambling problems. The study a…

US Marines Enter Ground Combat in Iraq to Defend Oil Fields

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[Remember the days when we were fed the "no boots on the ground" line with a straight face? *RON*]
By Jason Ditz,, 23 March 2016

Even as Pentagon officials have sought to emphasize their claims of ISIS being “on the run,” ever more US ground troops are being deployed into Iraq to try to cope with ISIS offensives, with the battle of Makhmur leading to the introduction of US Marines in front-line combat roles.

Subsidized to the End: Not Even Corporate Welfare Can Save Big Coal

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[Remember how the Republicans squawked about Obama's support for Solyndra solar power? Republicans fail to offer Peep #1 about billions in corporate welfare  when the money is used to prop up dirty energy. For another government's take on this see: After 115 Years, Scotland Is Coal-Free. *RON*]

By Ben Jervey, DeSmog Blog, 25 March 2016

This year, two energy companies that have each received billions of dollars in subsidies and financial support from the federal government are going into bankruptcy. You might think, in this post-Solyndra political environment, that conservative commentators and politicians would be lining up at the Fox News studios to call for some heads to roll.

But, no. Even though these companies have benefited from enough federal subsidies to make the Solyndra loan look like pocket change, there's no outrage. Because they are coal companies (not solar), the story isn’t about how the federal government spent decade…

Giant holes found in Siberia could be signs of a ticking climate 'time bomb'

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[They think that melting permafrost is causing explosive blow-outs of methane in Siberia. See also: State Efforts to Stymie Climate Action Drawn from ALEC's National Playbook. *RON*]

Sarah Kramer, Tech Insider / Business Insider, 24 March 2016

When a helicopter pilot spotted the first crater in summer 2014, everyone was baffled.

The 100-foot-wide hole appeared on the Yamal Peninsula seemingly out of nowhere, during a tense season of Russian military action in Ukraine and international sanctions.

And then more appeared. Lacking a better explanation, aliens and underground missiles were floated as possible theories, according The Washington Post.

But the truth is that the holes might come from a threat not even Mulder and Scully are equipped to handle: climate change.

'Gasland' Director Josh Fox Arrested at 'Pancakes Not Pipelines' Protest

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[The film director and activist was busted for pancake-flipping at an anti-pipeline rally. Welcome to the police state. Plainly he should should have brought some of Bundy's Oregon militia men with him - then the police would have stalled for weeks. While we're on about the police state, Watch a Local News Reporter Get Arrested While Requesting Public Records. And again: U.S. Marshals Service Sending SWAT Teams Out to Arrest People for Unpaid Student Loans*RON*]
By Lee ZiescheAlterNet, 24 March 2016

Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Josh Fox (Gasland) and others from the activist group Beyond Extreme Energy were arrested today protesting the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for its role in continuing to permit fossil fuel projects that will greatly accelerate climate change.

Today’s protest draws specific attention to FERC’s role in using eminent domain to condemn and clearcut a wide swathe of maple trees across the Holleran fami…

America to Establishment: Who the hell are you people?

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[When will people begin to openly identify this as the class war that it has long been in reality? Establishment has been defined as Wall Street, D.C., Big Media. Almost universally, the establishment is seen as incestuous and isolated. A similar perspective is offered here: The Republican Civil War Has Begun. *RON*]

By David Lightman, McClatchy, 24 March 2016


The people who spend two bucks for chili at the Courtesy Diner at Laclede Station Road can’t fathom why anyone would pay Hillary Clinton $225,000 to make a speech.

Nor can they understand why the U.S. Senate is taking a 17-day break for Easter after spending much of their time last week fuming over the Supreme Court vacancy. Somehow, people all over America are saying loudly and clearly this election year, Washington and its enablers – the media, the political pros and Wall Street – don’t understand us.

That’s why, all over this slice of middle America, exasperated people got up…

Banks Say No to Funds From Flagship ECB Policy

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[Excellent evidence here, it seems to me, that the EU's monetary policy has simply stopped working. With Canada now building deficits we'll see how long it takes before the other shoe drops and they realize they need to refocus on fiscal policy. Three months before the launch of a revamped lending program, the current platform is seeing poor uptake. *RON*]

By Jon Sindreum, Wall Street Journal, 24 March 2016

As the European Central Bank prepares to deploy new rounds of cheap lending to eurozone banks, the tepid take-up from what’s currently on offer suggests the scheme will provide little relief to the sector.

The seventh round of the ECB’s Targeted Longer-Term Refinancing Operation program was launched Thursday, and saw the program’s lowest take-up since it was began in 2014.

The TLTRO offers cheap liquidity to banks in exchange for them lending to households and companies. In March the ECB said that starting June, it will offer a new brand…

Sanders' Wall St. Speculation Tax Would Raise $300 Billion and Create Millions of Jobs

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[This is exactly why he is so strongly opposed by the mainstream media and the apparatchiks of the Democratic Party - they are the 1% - a more humane society, to them, can only be vilified as representing destructive pie-in-the-sky socialism. *RON*]
By Rose Ann DeMoroHuffington Post / AlterNet, 22 March 2016

New research findings from a team of progressive economists provides documentary evidence that the financial footing for Sen. Bernie Sanders visionary social change agenda is not only plausible, but would create far more socially productive jobs, as well as moving us down the road to the more humane society that is at the heart of the Sanders campaign.

In their push to vilify Sanders, Democratic Party acolytes from the media to academia have fallen in line attacking the economic foundations of his campaign for free public college tuition, Medicare for all, job creation through infrastructure repair, and other critical needs.

But a new report …

Canada and the Aboriginal mental health crisis

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[Suicide and self-inflicted injuries are the leading causes of death among First Nations youth and adults. The mental health of a population does not get this bad unless there is something very sick and insane about the society they are living in. *RON*]

Jillian Kestler-D'Amours, Al Jazeera, 22 Mar 2016

In 2006, 1,172,790 people in Canada identified as AboriginalSuicide and self-inflicted injuries are the leading cause of death for First Nations people under 44The suicide rate for First Nations males aged 15-24 is 126 per 100,000; for First Nations females aged 15-24 it is 35 per 100,000 Suicide rates for Inuit youth are among the highest in the world (Source: Centre for Suicide Prevention)

Toronto, Canada - Donnie McKay keeps his phone close.

A band councillor in Pimicikamak Cree Nation (Cross Lake) in northern Manitoba, McKay never knows when there will be a call to tell him that another person in his community of 8,000 has c…

Support for B.C. LNG industry slipping: poll

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[Only 23% public support for fracking. To mix and mangle some metaphors; having put all her political eggs into one basket, when will Clark realize she needs to stop flogging a dead horse? Answer: never, since her retirement feather bed probably depends on it. *RON*]

By Gordon Hoekstra, Vancouver Sun, 23 March 2016

Support for the B.C. Liberal government’s plan to create a liquefied natural gas (LNG) export industry has slipped since just after the 2013 election, an Insights West poll has found.

In an online survey of 802 adults conducted this month, 43 per cent of British Columbians said they supported the provincial government’s push to expand the development and export of LNG, while 41 per cent were opposed.

That’s a change from a more positive sentiment registered in an August 2013 survey, when 50 per cent supported LNG expansion and only 32 per cent were opposed.

At the same time, the new survey shows British Columbians are increasingly concern…

Fearing crash, bond fund Pimco warns off 'helicopter money'

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[A dire warning from the riotously rich banksters: Whatever you do, don't give money to the 99%; the world as 'we' know it will come crashing down! " could lead to hyperinflation, a debt market sell-off and even a banking crash." *RON*]

By John Geddie, Reuters, 24 March 2016

LONDON (Reuters) - One of the world's biggest bond fund managers has urged central banks not to dole out free cash to citizens saying it could lead to hyperinflation, a debt market sell-off and even a banking crash.

Such schemes, in which central banks effectively finance government budgets, have been likened to helicopter drops of money. The idea has been around for a while but has re-entered policy-speak as many central banks struggle to stoke growth and inflation via other means.

But PIMCO says its research shows that since the late 18th century there have been 56 examples of similar schemes, from France in 1795 to Zimbabwe in 2007, and all hav…

A message to the elite

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[On how the 1% risks unleashing a backlash of extremism in response to their arrogant assumption that they are all we've got and we should feel lucky to have them. *RON*]

Richard Murphy, Tax Research UK, 23 March 2016

The FT has reported that:

Donald Trump’s anti-trade stance has been blasted by a pillar of the corporate establishment in an attack reflecting growing alarm in business over the property mogul’s dominance in the Republican presidential race.

Jim McNerney, a former top executive at Boeing, 3M and General Electric, said on Tuesday that Mr Trump’s hostility to international trade posed a serious threat to US prosperity.

In another article the FT has suggested that three commissioned surveys by economic forecasters all showed that it was likely that Brexit would impose considerable costs on the UK.

The argument is essentially the same in both cases: it is that voting for something not endorsed by the wisdom of an elite will cost a great …

Why I Bought Four Syrian Children Off a Beirut Street

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[On the lives of Syrian women and abandoned children without papers in Lebanon. *RON*]

by Franklin Lamb, Counterpunch, 15 March 2016


I confess to having recently purchased four children near Ramlet el Baida beach from a stressed-out Syrian woman. I am not sure if she was what she said or if she was a member of one of the human trafficking gangs that operate widely these days in Lebanon selling Syrian children or vulnerable adult women. The vendor-woman claimed to have been a neighbor of the four children in Aleppo and that they lost their parents in the war. They appear in the photo above, sitting on this observer’s motorbike a few days after the sale: two five year old twin girls, a boy about one year and several months, and his eight-year old bigger brother.

She and the children had ended up in Lebanon but she explained to me that she was afraid to register with the UNHCR because she is an illegal and has no ID. The woman told me that she …

Why a centrist NDP is not an option

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[One party must actively speak for those who are disenfranchised by the corporatocracy. Corporatocrats "have been exceedingly clever at getting people to believe that lower wages lead to prosperity, and that small government and lower taxes make more sense than widely available, quality public services. Owning the media ensures corporate-sponsored policies become commonplace, while ideas for significant change lack oxygen." *RON*]
By Duncan Cameron,, 22 March 2016

Prominent CBC commentator Chantal Hebert thinks dumping Tom Mulcair for being too centrist would be a mistake.

When the NDP did win elections provincially, it won running from the centre, and the federal NDP would be no different, she wrote in a recent Toronto Star column. She advised that in a succession race, a centrist would win out over someone who wanted the party to go hard left.

A Military Leviathan Has Emerged as the United States' 51st and Most Powerful State

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["One question that this election season has raised: What if our post-democratic military is driven by an autocrat who insists that it must obey his whims in the cause of 'making America great again'? Come 2017, we may find out." *RON*]
By William J. Astore, Truthout / TomDispatch, 22 March 2016

In the decades since the draft ended in 1973, a strange new military has emerged in the United States. Think of it, if you will, as a post-democratic force that prides itself on its warrior ethos rather than the old-fashioned citizen-soldier ideal. As such, it's a military increasingly divorced from the people, with a way of life ever more foreign to most Americans (adulatory as they may feel toward its troops). Abroad, it's now regularly put to purposes foreign to any traditional idea of national defense. In Washington, it has become a force unto itself, following its own priorities, pursuing its own agendas, increasingly unacc…

The Finnish Model

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[Helsinki prepares to give every citizen €800 per month and shut down its welfare bureaucracy. *RON*]
Guy Sorman, City Journal, 18 March 2016 

Career politicians have become incredibly boring. This helps to explain the appearance of rebel parties in every Western democracy. These new splinter groups include the Ciudadanos in Spain, the National Front in France, the Tea Party in the United States, and the Independents in Catalonia and Scotland. Voters have grown tired of accepting the same old tunes, whistled from both Left and Right. Constantly recycled policies and programs offer no solutions to difficult, long-term, and often intergenerational problems, such as unemployment among the unqualified youth, or the excessive dependence of certain groups on the welfare state. The same goes for the debate over immigration. One side demonizes globalization; the other decries nationalism.

Kansas Bill Would Pay Students A $2,500 Bounty To Hunt For Trans People In Bathrooms

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[I would say that the increased polarization in politics is turning people into animals, except animals wouldn't do this. *RON*]

By Zack Ford, Think Progress, 22 March 2016

With only two weeks left in the Kansas legislation session, state lawmakers have introduced a pair of bills that would prohibit transgender students from using restrooms that match their gender. The “Student Physical Privacy Act” would apply not only to public schools, but all public universities in the state as well, guaranteeing that anyone who saw someone transgender in the bathroom could sue their school for $2,500 for every time that it happened.

The complementary bills (SB 513 and HB 2737) declare in no uncertain terms that transgender students are going to harm other students just by using the same facility alongside them. “Allowing students to use restrooms, locker rooms and showers that are reserved for students of a different sex will create potential embarrassm…