Showing posts from July, 2016

Trump Said He Would Bring Jobs Back To The Country. He Just Quietly Hired 78 Foreign Workers.

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[There's a lot out there just now on the general insanity of right-wing economics. Here's how the job creators are fixing things: Microsoft profit rises into the cloud combined with Microsoft to cut 2,850 more jobs. And, in case you think things are better in Canada: Conservative MP: God wants conservatives to abolish all taxes forever. *RON*]
By Esther Yu-Hsi Lee, Think Progress, 28 July 2016
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has repeatedly vowed to bring jobs back to the country and force American companies to hire more domestic workers. Just don’t expect him to apply that to his own business: instead he is bringing 78 foreign workers to work two of his properties in Florida.

Earlier this month, Trump filed temporary visa applications for 78 positions for servers, housekeepers, and cooks to staff his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach and the Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, citing an inability to find Americans who can fill …

Despite Objections, Pentagon Takes Step Toward Buying New Nuclear Weapons

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[Well this is creepy. Particularly when it comes less than two weeks after this UK story: MPs vote to renew Trident weapons system. I haven't seen anyone out there connecting the dots between these stories. Add this to the saber-rattling concerning Putin and the abysmal alternatives for the next president. The favorite go-to in the neoliberal playbook once they realize they have screwed things up royally has always been to start another war. *RON*]
By Marcus Weisgerber, Defense One, 29 July 2016

The U.S. Air Force has asked defense firms to bid to supply new ICBMs and controversial nuclear cruise missiles.

The U.S. Air Force took a first step toward buying controversial new nuclear weapons Friday, asking defense companies to submit bids to design and build cruise missiles and ICBMs.

The move comes amid the highest tension with Russia since the end of the Cold War and flies in the face of senators who have called on the Obama administration t…

The Seattle Minimum Wage Experiment: Mixed Results So Far

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[These results are preliminary, but pretty typical. The business community has seizures, screams "Armageddon!" and promises the world will end. The actual results are pretty innocuous. Wages went up (naturally), very low wage jobs decreased (naturally), the number of permanent jobs decreased slightly (but dropped more in areas that didn't have the wage increase), and there was no change in the number of business closures (Cassandra-like prophecies of the business community to the contrary). *RON*]

Kevin Drum, Mother Jones, 29 July 2016

I've mentioned before—only half jokingly—that I'm happy to see other people experiment with a $15 minimum wage. It's the best of all worlds: it provides us with test beds to see what happens, but if it's a disaster it won't affect me personally.

Seattle was one of the first to do this, and as a first step they raised their minimum wage to $11 about 18 months ago. It's probably st…

US Government Mucks up Money-Laundering in Real Estate, Puts Luxury Housing Bubbles at Risk

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[This article says that, in the US, rich foreign home buyers paying in cash are often hiding behind shell companies as a means of money laundering the proceeds of crime. The closest I could some to seeing if this happens in Vancouver was an article noting that the BC government was trying to stop people from buying homes through shell companies. But they said this was to prevent tax evasion, not for money laundering. Does anyone know if this law was ever passed here? I couldn't find out. *RON*]
by Wolf Richter, Wolf Street, 27 July 2016

Manhattan and Miami already get mauled. Now expanding to San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Southern California, even Texas!

Cash sales of homes – mostly the domain of foreign and affluent buyers – fell to 32% of total home sales in April, down 2.8 percentage points from a year ago, according to a new report from CoreLogic. For the first four months, cash sales dropped to 34%, the lowest since 2008.

In Florida, the n…

Christy Clark skipped human rights vote for a secret fundraiser, but went to the photo op anyway

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[The title says it all. Smile while you can. See also: 5 jobs paying less money than what Christy Clark gets for going to BC Liberal fundraisers (including teachers and residential care workers). *RON*]
Press Progress, 28 July 2016
Did BC Premier Christy Clark try to take credit for something she didn't actually do?

On Monday, Clark bailed on voting for an important bill recognizing "gender identity or expression" in the province's Human Rights Code.

Where did she go? According to the premier's office, Clark missed the vote because she had to go to Vancouver for a secret BC Liberal fundraiser.

But if you want more details, you're out of luck – the BC Liberals won't say where the fundraiser took place or who Clark was hitting up for money, telling reporters they'll need to wait until next year to find out:
BC Liberal Party says info on @christyclarkbc fundraiser she attended instead of transgender vote to be released…

Trudeau Just Broke His Promise to Canada's First Nations

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[Click here to email Trudeau to Stop Site C. See also: Trudeau’s strange non-battle with fossil fuels (and Site C rubber stamp), and Site C Project Far From Clean and Green, Finds New UBC Report. *RON*]
By Emma Gilchrist, DeSmog Blog, 29 July 2016
Justin Trudeau’s government has quietly issued its first batch of permits for the Site C dam — allowing construction to move forward on the $8.8 billion BC Hydro project despite ongoing legal challenges by two First Nations.

The federal-provincial review panel’s report on Site C found the 1,100 megawatt dam will result in significant andirreversible adverse impacts on Treaty 8 First Nations.

Caleb Behn, who is from West Moberly First Nation, one of the nations taking the federal government to court, says Trudeau has broken his promise.

“It’s 19th century technology being permitted with 19th century thinking and I expected more from the Trudeau government,” he said. “These permits were our last best hope to…

Trudeau continues Harper assault on human rights

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[Behrens argues quite effectively that Trudeau is Canada's attractive, selfie-taking, Sunny Ways version of Hillary Clinton - The Lesser Evil. *RON*]
By Matthew Behrens, 29 July 2016

There's something about Justin Trudeau and his PR-spinning Liberal Team that reminds me of the Tennessee Williams character Harvey "Big Daddy" Pollitt from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Pollitt famously uttered the line:
"What's that smell in this room? Didn't you notice it, Brick? Didn't you notice a powerful and obnoxious odour of mendacity in this room?... There ain't nothin' more powerful than the odour of mendacity... You can smell it. It smells like death." Mendacity, for those without instant dictionary access, is a code word for behaviour that is disingenuous, two-faced, deceitful, hypocritical. In other words, a term that more and more Canadians will soon be applying to Mr. Trudeau, whose PR perfume will not be able …

Oil prices remain near April lows on ongoing oversupply

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[Bizarre. Do oil company executives simply live in Cloud-Cuckooland? They feel they can ignore with impunity the most fundamental law of the market system: supply and demand. Perhaps they believe they can become the next too big to fail industry? Ditto: Oil Rally Hopes Crushed As Inventories Hit All-Time High. *RON*]

By Henning Gloystein, Reuters / Business Insider, 28 July 2016

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Oil prices on Friday remained around April lows as slowing economic growth threatened to worsen ongoing oversupply of crude and refined products.

International Brent crude oil futures were trading at $42.78 at 0127 GMT (09:27 p.m. EDT), up 8 cents from their previous close. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude was at $41.16, up 2 cents.

Brent hit its lowest since April in the previous session, at $42.56, while WTI hit a fresh low of $40.95 per barrel early on Friday, and both crude benchmarks are now down around 20 percent since their last peak …

How Much Do Shady Financial Practices Cost You, Exactly?

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[" get a figure somewhere between 13 trillion and 23 trillion dollars. That comes out to between $40,000 and $70,000 for every man, woman and child in the U.S. from roughly 1990 to 2005... We actually pay five dollars for every extra dollar that ends up in the pockets of bankers" *RON*]

By Lynn Parramore, Institute for New Economic Thinking, 22 July 2016

America’s financial system is broken for all but a few at the top — that much is plain. The rest sense that we are stuck on the minus end of some great financial formula, but given the complexity and size of Big Finance, it’s hard to pin down exactly why it happens and how it all adds up.

Enter economist Gerald Epstein of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He has dived in and crunched the numbers, and the results are eye-popping. Epstein and his colleague Juan Antonio Montecino look at exactly how families, taxpayers and businesses get ripped off by dubious financial activ…

Canada Already Has An Interprovincial Trade Agreement: Our Constitution

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[Free Markets Über Alles! Except when not. Funny how seriously our premiers take our constitution and our free market talk except when it interferes with business interests. *RON*]
Howard Anglin, Huffington Post, 27 July 2016

Even before Canada's Premiers departed Whitehorse on Friday, media coverage was applauding a "ground-breaking" and "historic" agreement on internal trade within Canada.

Not so fast.

The official statement announcing a new "Canadian Free Trade Agreement" (CFTA) is only 191 words long and omits any of those pesky details where the devil is reputed to lurk. Already the whiff of sulphur can be detected in talk of "exception" to protect "local interests." Truly historic moments rarely come with caveats.

One key omission was immediately evident. When it comes to alcohol, the agreement will establish "a working group on alcoholic beverages, which will explore opportunities to i…

There's No Business Like the Arms Business

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[Selling weapons that create terrorists, boosting demand for weapons on both sides. And, from the "Liar, liar, pants on fire" department, see also: F-35 Jets: Liberals Pay $33M To Stay In Program, Despite Pledge Not To Buy Planes. *RON*]
By William D. Hartung, TomDispatch /. Truthout, 26 July 2016

When American firms dominate a global market worth more than $70 billion a year, you'd expect to hear about it. Not so with the global arms trade. It's good for one or two stories a year in the mainstream media, usually when the annual statistics on the state of the business come out.

It's not that no one writes about aspects of the arms trade. There are occasional pieces that, for example, take note of the impact of U.S. weapons transfers, including cluster bombs, to Saudi Arabia, or of the disastrous dispensation of weaponry to U.S. allies in Syria, or of foreign sales of the costly, controversial F-35 combat aircraft. And once…

1966: U.K. Bares Steps to Austerity

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[When they used the word "austerity" fifty years ago, notice that this meant freezes on rents, prices and dividends along with wages, and that it did not include government service cut-backs. *RON*]

By International Herald Tribune, 30 July 1966, re-posted by the New York Times, 29 July 2016.

LONDON — The Labour government today [July 29] proposed wage-price controls that will, in effect, give Britain a siege economy for up to a year, despite the risk of union revolt. Wages, prices, rents and dividends will be frozen under legislation that the government hopes Parliament will enact by mid-August.

There is no precedent in peacetime for these rigorous controls, and the measures more than fulfil forecasts of draconian steps to end Britain’s sterling crisis. Wage raises granted to some 6 million workers — about a quarter of the labor force — will be held back as a part of a program that will: 1) Freeze wages at the July 20 level until the end …

The Effects of Government-Issued Money: Road to Hyperinflation or Cure for Debt Deflation?

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[So, here is the article my friend Richard sent to me, the last one in today's series, describing a very simple alternative approach that is being tried out by the Japanese government. The banksters, however, will poop blood if such proposals gain any widespread traction. See also: Helicopter Money: Why Some Economists Are Talking About Dropping Money From the Sky. *RON*]
By Ellen Brown, The Web of Debt Blog / Truthout, 27 July 2016
Fifteen years after embarking on its largely ineffective quantitative easing program, Japan appears poised to try the form recommended by Ben Bernanke in his notorious "helicopter money" speech in 2002. The Japanese test case could finally resolve a longstanding dispute between monetarists and money reformers over the economic effects of government-issued money.

When then-Fed Governor Ben Bernanke gave his famous helicopter money speech to the Japanese in 2002, he was talking about something quite diffe…

Silicon Valley Elites Get Home Loans With No Money Down

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[Here's the fifth article in this series related to the effects of neoliberal economic policy. And what happens to the very rich during this seemingly permanent economic downturn? Why, the banks give them a 24-hour turn-around for approval on no-down-payment mortgages on multi-million dollar homes at 1.1% interest. See also: Nike CEO’s Pay Almost Triples to $47.6 Million With Stock Award. *RON*]

Heather Perlberg & Prashant Gopal, Bloomberg, 27 July 2016

Lenders are courting tech workers in the most expensive marketWorries by some about fueling another bubble, and inequality It turns out that even the well-off need help in a housing market as crazy as the one in the San Francisco Bay area, and lenders are elbowing each other in a rush to provide it.

They’re courting Silicon Valley workers with tailored loans, guaranteed 24-hour approval and financial-planning services. Social Finance Inc. has deals with Google and other top technology compa…
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[But does all this economic doom and gloom affect everyone equally? Not by a long-shot. The easy-money policies of neoliberal governments have provided banks and corporations with essentially free money. But the push to get consumers to continue to spend, spend, spend (remember: following 9/11 George Bush literally told Americans to "go to the malls") has cost average Joes their homes and, in some cases, their lives. *RON*]

By Stacy Cowley, New York Times, 28 July 2016
For the first time in nearly 40 years, federal regulators are preparing to significantly strengthen the rules that govern debt collection in an effort to clamp down on collectors who hound consumers for debts they may not even owe.

Under the proposed regulations, which will undergo a lengthy review process, debt collection companies will have to more fully document the debt they are trying to collect, make it clear how a consumer can dispute the debt, and observe state sta…

United Stag-Nations – the decayed decade for GDP per head

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[And, since the previous posting looked only at the UK, the third article in the series looks at the net effect of neoliberal economic policy on a more global basis: the economy has flat-lined, we're screwed. *RON*]

Jeremy Smith, Prime Economics, 27 July 2016

When looking at how economies are doing, we tend to look mainly at the trend in GDP. But in terms of economic well-being, a clearer (though still imperfect) indicator is GDP per head of population – how the economy is doing relative to changes in population.

This chart is easy to interpret: It says we're screwed

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[The second article in the series shows the net effect of neoliberal economic policy: no jobs, no investment, we're screwed. *RON*]
Jim Edwards, Business Insider, 28 July 2016

This is the worst chart we've seen so far about the coming Brexit recession:

UK gross domestic product grew a higher-than-expected 2.2% in the second quarter, as announced Wednesday, but that number reflects the economy before the June 23 referendum on the UK's European Union membership. The lines above are from a more recent survey of chief financial officers at companies. It shows that 80% of CFOs think they will not be hiring in the next year and will not increase capital expenditure over the same period.

They are turning off the money taps, in other words.

Do “Unconventional” Monetary Policies Work?

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[So, here is a series of articles this morning, on the effects of neoliberal economic policy, prompted by a piece forwarded to me by my friend Richard. The first one identifies problems with Quantitative Easing which, along with austerity policies, are two of the main neoliberal interventions intended to promote recovery from the recession. *RON*]

By Philip Arestis, Posted on Naked Capitalism, 28 July 2016 by Yves Smith

By Philip Arestis, Professor of Economics at the University of the Basque Country, Spain and Malcolm Sawyer, Professor of Economics, University of Leeds. Originally published at Triple Crisis

The “unorthodox” Quantitative Easing (QE) monetary measures, along with another “unorthodox” monetary policy, namely negative interest rates, have been implemented by a number of countries in the years following the global financial crisis. This is as a result of the normal policy monetary instrument, the rate of interest, being reduced to n…

Spills happening at a rate of about 2 per day in Saskatchewan: researcher

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[Two per day; hard to grasp. And this, in the province that is even more rapaciously tied to oil than Alberta. "While Eaton questions whether a spill can ever effectively be cleaned up, in the case of many of the spills in this province, industry fails to even go through the motions." And, now that the story has finally hit the national news: Canadian premier 'not satisfied' with Husky spill response. *RON*]

By Danny Kerslake, CBC News, 27 July 2016

Related Stories
Sask. govt. notified 14 hours after Husky discovered oil spill, incident report shows
Water restrictions continue in Prince Albert, Sask., after Husky Energy oil spill

A researcher says spills are happening at a rate of about two per day in Saskatchewan's oil industry.

University of Regina researcher Emily Eaton runs an independent website that tracks oil impact. Eaton said that there have been 8,000 spills in Saskatchewan since 2006 (about 17 per cent involved Hu…

How to Hack an Election

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[An older but interesting story I just came across. I suppose it isn't surprising election rigging keeps up with IT advances. *RON*]
By Jordan Robertson, Michael Riley & Andrew Willis, Bloomberg, 31 March 2016

Andrés Sepúlveda rigged elections throughout Latin America for almost a decade. He tells his story for the first time.

It was just before midnight when Enrique Peña Nieto declared victory as the newly elected president of Mexico. Peña Nieto was a lawyer and a millionaire, from a family of mayors and governors. His wife was a telenovela star. He beamed as he was showered with red, green, and white confetti at the Mexico City headquarters of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which had ruled for more than 70 years before being forced out in 2000. Returning the party to power on that night in July 2012, Peña Nieto vowed to tame drug violence, fight corruption, and open a more transparent era in Mexican politics.

Two thousa…

A Political Turning Point for Native Americans

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[An interesting pair of articles on Aboriginal people running for US public office. "Who will be Indian Country’s Obama? Look to the states. Her name will be Paulette, Peggy, or Denise." See also: Native Candidates Make a Historic Push for Congress. *RON*]
Mark Trahant, Yes! Magazine, 26 July 2016

This is the first of a two-part series on this political turning point for Native Americans. Read Part 2 here.

Joe Garry was president of the National Congress of American Indians in an era when tribal rights were under assault from Congress. House Concurrent Resolution 108, passed in August 1953, declared that the federal government should “terminate” its responsibilities toward Native Americans, essentially breaking promises made through solemn treaties.

The threat was real. In a period of 30 years, more than a hundred tribes were disbanded and the tribal governments dissolved. The result was huge losses of land and natural resources in Oregon,…

Highest-paid CEOs run worst-performing companies, research finds

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[Research firm finds businesses led by lower-paid CEOs earn greater shareholder return. "The highest paid had the worst performance by a significant margin. It just argues for the equity portion of CEO pay to be more conservative." *RON*]
Peter Yeung, The Independent, 27 July 2016

The highest-paid CEOs tend to run some of the worst-performing companies, according to new research.

The study, carried out by corporate research firm MSCI, found that for every $100 (£76) invested in companies with the highest-paid CEOs would have grown to $265 (£202) over 10 years.

But the same amount invested in the companies with the lowest-paid CEOs would have grown to $367 (£279) over a decade.

Titled 'Are CEOs paid for performance? Evaluating the Effectiveness of Equity Incentives', the report looked at the salaries of 800 CEOs at 429 large and medium-sized US companies between 2005 and 2014 and compared it with the total shareholder return of the …

CMHC says list of housing markets deemed overvalued is growing

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[Hamilton joins Vancouver, Toronto and others on market assessment list released Wednesday. This graphic was from a similar news story:

See also: Top Vancouver realtor rapped for trying to avoid new 15% property transfer tax. *RON*]
CBC News, 27 July 2016
Hamilton has joined Vancouver, Toronto, Saskatoon and Quebec City on Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.'s list of markets it considers to be strongly overvalued.

The findings are included in CMHC's market assessment released Wednesday.

Mass Killings May Have Created Contagion, Feeding on Itself

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[The idea of the pseudo-terrorist, whose motives remain unclear even to himself, strikes me as probably true. Contagion, likewise, is certainly true in the case of suicide clusters. *RON*]

By Benedict Carey, New York Times, 26 July 2016

The horrifying rash of massacres during this violent summer suggests that public, widely covered rampage killings have led to a kind of contagion, prompting a small number of people with strong personal grievances and scant political ideology to mine previous attacks for both methods and potential targets to express their lethal anger and despair.

The Iranian-German who killed nine people at a Munich mall was reportedly obsessed with mass killings, particularly the attack by a Norwegian that killed 77 people in 2011. The Tunisian who killed 84 people at a Bastille Day celebration in Nice, France, also researched previous attacks, including the mass killing in Orlando, Fla. The Orlando gunman had reportedly resear…

It’s Official: Clark’s LNG ‘Plan’ Was a Fantasy

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[The latest developments in Hawaii should put end to faith in job and prosperity promises. *RON*]
By Dermod Travis,, 22 Jul 2016
It seems like only yesterday that British Columbians were being told that the province was on the cusp of LNG riches. In fact, it almost was.

Last October, Finance Minister Mike de Jong predicted: “We are poised to see the final steps taken. Every step of the way, there have been detractors and naysayers and people who have dismissed the opportunities.”

Those final steps hit a speed bump last Friday when the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission nixed NextEra Energy’s proposed $4.3 billion purchase of Hawaiian Electric Industries.

The decision effectively scuttled a 20-year agreement for Fortis to sell LNG to Hawaiian Electric that had been announced eight weeks earlier with all the customary fanfare.

Natural Gas Minister Rich Coleman boasted that the announcement “showcases British Columbia’s capacity to supply cle…

Consumer confidence fell less than expected

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[Neoliberal economic policies are not working. But they're certainly doing a great job of managing our expectations. Now we're at the point where we're supposed to be excited about announcements that the economy "is not doing quite as badly as we thought!" The Canadian version of this pathetic attitude is: At least 40 percent of Canada oil spill recovered: officials. Oh, joy! Of course that brilliant news comes after this: Pipeline oil leak detected 14 hours before Saskatchewan government notified. See also: Worried about the oil spill threatening north Saskatchewan's drinking water? It's just one of 18,000. *RON*]

Elena Holodny, Business Insider, 26 July 2016

The Conference Board's consumer confidence index fell to 97.3 in July, which was a lesser drop than expected.

Economists had forecast that the index slipped to 96 this month, after improving to 98.

The index had leveled off after steady gains in the past f…

George Osborne’s austerity choked off the recovery: Brexit is his legacy

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["The former chancellor’s reputation lies in tatters after six years of punishing the poor and rewarding the rich prompted the referendum revolt." This is gaining ground as an interpretation of the Brexit vote. See also: Brexit, Austerity and the Future of the European Union, and Nicola Sturgeon: Brexit was caused by years of austerity. *RON*]

Aditya Chakrabortty, The Guardian, 15 July 2016

By March 2015, George Osborne was pulling together his final budget before the general election. The austerity chancellor had already hacked billions from health, education and social security; now he planned to slash billions more. But he had prepared one massive give-away: the complete abolition of taxes on savings, worth well over £1bn in lost revenue.

It was costly, at a time when the government was cutting to the bone. It was unjust, throwing millions at the richest, who needed it least. And it was a kick in the teeth to all those whose lives had…

OSFI tells some banks to test for sharp drops in Vancouver, Toronto housing markets

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[The financial institution watchdog says the banks should stress test for 40-50% drop in housing prices. See also: The basic reason why there just isn’t enough decent housing for the poor. *RON*]

CBC News, 26 July 2016
Related Stories
Regulator tells Canadian banks to pay more attention to their mortgage loans
Banking regulator to hike amount of capital lenders must hold against mortgages
Top bank regulator warns of housing risks

Some of Canada's banks must stress test their ability to withstand a 50 per cent drop in housing prices in Metro Vancouver area and a 40 per cent drop in the Greater Toronto Area, the country's banking regulator says.

The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions also said Tuesday that the banks must all test for a 30 per cent downturn in valuations for all other areas of the country.

Australia PM calls for investigation into juvenile 'torture'

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[When something like this happens to Australians the government takes fast action. When something like this happens, the Aussie government studies its fingernails: Refugee camp company in Australia 'liable for crimes against humanity'. *RON*]
BBC News, 26 July 2016.

Australia's prime minister has called a royal commission after a TV investigation showed prison guards assaulting boys in juvenile detention.

The Four Corners programme showed footage of teenage offenders stripped naked, assaulted and tear gassed.

One of the boys was hooded and cuffed to a mechanical restraint chair wearing a "spit hood".

The Northern Territory's Attorney General John Elferink has been stripped of his corrections portfolio.

The report raised questions about an institutionalised culture of abuse at corrections centres in the Northern Territory, an administrative district that covers a large part of Australia's north.
'Shocked and appalled&#…

Prosecutors drop charges in Freddie Gray case

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[There's something wrong with the world. *RON*]

The Associated Press, CTV News, 27 July 2016
Prosecutors have dropped the remaining charges against Baltimore police officers in the death of Freddie Gray, bringing an end to the case without a conviction.

Grey was a black man who was critically injured in the back of a police van in April 2015.

Prosecutors' decision Wednesday comes after a judge had already acquitted three of the six officers charged in the case, including the van driver and another officer who was the highest-ranking of the group.

A fourth officer had his case heard by a jury, who deadlocked and the judge declared a mistrial.

Prosecutors had said Gray was illegally arrested after he ran away from a bike patrol officer and the officers failed to buckle Gray into a seat belt or call a medic when he indicated he wanted to go to a hospital.

The death added fuel to the growing Black Lives Matter movement and caused turmoil in Baltim…

How Nonviolent Resistance Works: Factors for Successful Peacebuilding in Samaniego, Colombia

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[See also everything ever written by Gene Sharp and the web site for the Einstein Institution. *RON*]
By Cécile Mouly, María Belén Garrido & Annette Idler, politicalviolenceataglance, 25 July 2016
Colombia is getting closer to ending the longest internal armed conflict in the Western Hemisphere. The government is likely to sign a peace agreement with Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the largest guerrillas in the country, and has announced the beginning of peace talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN), the second largest insurgent group. In remote municipalities like Samaniego in southwestern Colombia, the war has been harsh for the local population. And yet, in hundreds of places like this one, removed from the media’s spotlight, civilians have not given up: instead they have engaged in nonviolent initiatives to confront violence and overcome their marginalization.

What You Need to Know About the World's Water Wars

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[It's good to see the rest of the world catching up with Canada's Maude Barlow (see her Blue GoldBlue Covenant, and Blue Future) in recognizing the scope and severity of this problem. Underground water is being pumped so aggressively around the globe that land is sinking, civil wars are being waged, and agriculture is being transformed. See also: What Happens to the U.S. Midwest When the Water's Gone? and Wildlife Dying En Masse as South American River Runs Dry. *RON*]

By Laura Parker, National Geographic, 14 July 2016

Beijing is sinking. In some neighborhoods, the ground is giving way at a rate of four inches a year as water in the giant aquifer below it is pumped.

The groundwater has been so depleted that China’s capital city, home to more than 20 million people, could face serious disruptions in its rail system, roadways, and building foundations, an international team of scientists concluded earlier this year. Beijing, despite ta…

Responding to Housing Bill

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[The housing fiasco in Vancouver keeps going from bad to worse. The problem: the government colludes with rent-capturing house flippers to split the profits. Andrew Weaver is, as usual, exactly right: we need a complete housing plan, not one or two random, publicity-grabbing changes. See also: Mysterious wheeler-dealer is at centre of a web of B.C. real estate deals, and Metro Vancouver father blames housing market for 'working poor' lifestyle, and for more information and action steps: Keep fighting for affordable housing in Vancouver. *RON*]
By Mat Wright, Andrew Weaver Web Site, 25 July 2016

Media Statement: July 25th, 2016
Weaver Responds to Housing Bill
For Immediate Release

Victoria B.C. – “Despite legislation tabled today by the BC Liberals, there is still no comprehensive plan when it comes to the affordability crisis facing British Columbians,” said Andrew Weaver, Leader of the B.C. Green Party and MLA for Oak Bay – Gordon Head. “We …

Fraser Institute: capitalism may create less equality than tin-pot dictatorships

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[The logic of the Fraser Institute. Capitalist systems create more inequality than dictatorships (never mind that this is because everyone is poor under dictators). Therefore inequality is good for you - consider the alternative! *RON*]
By Press Progress, 21 July 2016
Maybe tyranny isn't so bad after all!

In the Fraser Institute's latest adventure into the fun and exciting world of comparing apples to oranges, the right-wing think tank discovers that some countries with dictators and/or widespread corruption haveless inequality than some countries operating under laissez-faire capitalism.

So, the Fraser Institute wonders: maybe inequality isn't such a bad thing after all?

"When deciding how much any society should worry about inequality," says Fraser Institute executive vice-president Jason Clemens, "citizens should first understand the way income and wealth are earned."

And to explore this mystery in greater detail, t…

Hunger strike continues as Goodale refuses to meet with immigration detainees

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[This runs counter to international law, even the US does not do this, and it is a vestige of Harperism that Trudeau has decided not to change. *RON*]

By Sophia Reuss,, 25 July 2016

Over 50 immigration detainees -- all black and brown men -- have continued their hunger strike for a second week to demand a meeting with Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and protest indefinite detention of migrants. The detainees have not eaten anything, only had water, for 14 days.

Despite calls from community organizations, lawyers, activists, and health professionals, Goodale shows no signs of agreeing to meet with the strikers.

Protestors confronted Immigration Minister John McCallum in Toronto last week and Colonialism No More - Solidarity Camp Regina protested his appearance at the University of Regina and eventually spoke with the minister.

In Ottawa last Thursday, nearly 20 people gathered outside of the Headquarters of Public Safety Canada to dema…

Panama Papers Reveal Wide Use of Shell Companies by African Officials

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[Where is the capital of Zimbabwe? Panama City. This should come as no surprise to anyone. Let's hear about more North Americans from these files, please. *RON*]

By Scott Shane, New York Times, 25 July 2016

WASHINGTON — Entrepreneurs and corrupt officials across Africa have used shell companies to hide profits from the sale of natural resources and the bribes paid to gain access to them, according to records leaked from a Panamanian law firm.

Owners of the hidden companies include, from Nigeria alone, three oilministers, several senior employees of the national oil company and two former state governors who were convicted of laundering ill-gotten money from the oil industry, new reports about Africa based on the Panama Papers show. The owners of diamond mines in Sierra Leone and safari companies in Kenya and Zimbabwe also created shell companies.

Some of the assets cycled through the shell companies were used to buy yachts, private jets, Man…

Peru's dirty gold

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[The majority of the world's gold mining companies are headquartered in Canada. They are some of the slimiest corporations in the world. This routinely gets reported on in places like The Guardian or Al Jazeera, but never in the mainstream Canadian news. *RON*]

Source: Al Jazeera, 24 Jul 2016

The Amazon rainforest is home to 10 percent of the world's known species, and its ancient trees remove millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide per year from the atmosphere. Its pristine forests, however, are increasingly under threat.

The soil underneath some of the rainforests is laced with gold, and each year, thousands of kilometres of the Amazon rainforest are devastated by illegal gold mining.

Dirty gold is gold that was extracted at a cost to people and the planet that is unacceptable ... I think we are going to have to assume that most of the gold that is newly mined and sold in US jewellery stores is irresponsibly produced because we don't …

Sanders Delegates Push DNC To Create Commission to Reform Anti-Democratic Superdelegates and Caucus Process

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[They voted all these proposals down in a single afternoon, so how do you think the results of a "commission" are going to turn out? *RON*]
By Steven RosenfeldAlterNet, 23 July 2016

After a contentious afternoon in which the Democratic National Convention's Rules Committee voted down a series of proposals from the Sanders delegation to reform the most glaring anti-democratic features of the party's primary and caucus process, negotiators met in secret for several hours and forged an agreement to create a reform commission to change those rules for future elections.

"Let me call us America's party," said Texas Congresswomen Sheila Jackson, who rose to support the proposal after opposing the Sanders camp's amendments only hours before. "And America's party, the Democratic Party, links arms with our brothers and sisters from Senator Sanders, and the journey that they made and their supporters, and the jo…

50 Shockingly Extreme Right-Wing Proposals in the 2016 Republican Party Platform

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[Worth knowing. Topically, this is pretty much a list of what has been posted about (in opposition) on this web site over time. What Trump, a GOP Congress and GOP-appointed Supreme Court would do to America. *RON*]
By Steven RosenfeldAlterNet, 18 July 2016

The Republican Party platform is a wish list for what Republicans in Congress and Donald Trump would like to impose on America. What’s surprising is that it goes further to the right than what’s even been heard on the campaign trail from Trump as he has promised to build a wall along the Mexican border and embrace the religious right’s long-held tenets opposing abortion, LGBT rights and more.

The GOP 2016 platform would make Christianity the official American religion, English the official American language, replace sex education with abstinence-only advice for teenagers, privatize almost all areas of federal services, cut taxes and regulations for the rich and titans of industry, and impose a…

The Italian Region Where Co-ops Produce a Third of Its GDP

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[There are so many things North Americans say can't be done that are being done as a matter of course in other parts of the world. *RON*]
By John Duda, YES! Magazine, 23 July 2016
Picture a day like this: You wake up and head to your job at a small company you own and manage together with your fellow workers, doing high-tech, advanced manufacturing that's too specialized for bigger factories. For lunch, you swing by a restaurant owned by another worker cooperative, this one a national-scale firm that serves millions of customers each year. Back at work, you've got a meeting with a local agricultural co-op that's contracted your company to help design some more efficient processing material for the food they produce and export across the world. Afterward, you meet up with your partner, who works in a social cooperative jointly owned by caregivers and the elders who live and receive care there. The two of you swing by the local gro…

Robert Reich: Does Hillary Get It?

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[Betteridge's Law of Headlines. If the headline ends in a question mark the answer is "No." See the preceding story. *RON*]
By Robert / AlterNet, 24 July 2016

Does Hillary Clinton understand that the biggest divide in American politics is no longer between the right and the left, but between the anti-establishment and the establishment?

I worry she doesn’t – at least not yet.

A Democratic operative I’ve known since the Bill Clinton administration told me “now that she’s won the nomination, Hillary is moving to the middle. She’s going after moderate swing voters.”

Presumably that’s why she tapped Tim Kaine to be her vice president. Kaine is as vanilla middle as you can get.

In fairness, Hillary is only doing what she knows best. Moving to the putative center is what Bill Clinton did after the Democrats lost the House and Senate in 1994 – signing legislation on welfare reform, crime, trade, and financial deregulat…

BREAKING: Hillary Clinton Brings Disgraced DNC Chair Onto Her Campaign

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[Donald Trump is everything that's wrong with our culture and Hillary is everything that's wrong with our government. She's either completely tone-deaf or believes she's Marie Antoinette. See also: Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigns from the DNC. *RON*]
Nathan Wellman, US Uncut, 24 July 2016

Mere hours after Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned as chair of the DNC, Hillary Clinton has already given her a high ranking position in her campaign.

Schultz resigned after Wikileaks released emails that showed her team showed a clear bias for Clinton over Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primaries, with DNC CFO Brad Marshall going so far as to suggest attacking his faith in Bible belt states Kentucky and West Virginia.

In an official statement, Clinton praised Wasserman Schultz without mentioning the email scandal, commending her “hard work and leadership.” Wasserman Schultz’s new job will be to act as honorary chairman of the Clinton campaig…

Leaked Docs Reveal DNC Determined to Undermine Sanders Campaign

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[Needless to say, this blows out of the water any contention by the supposedly neutral Democratic National Committee that they have not favoured Hillary over Bernie. A trove of emails, released by WikiLeaks, reveal how higher-ups in Democratic National Committee sought to boost Clinton's campaign. *RON*]

By Andrea GermanosCommon Dreams, 22 July 2016

WikiLeaks on Friday published roughly 20,000 leaked emails from the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

The whistleblowing organization describes the trove, which includes over 8,000 attachments, as "part one of our new Hillary Leaks series," and is just the latest in a series of document dumps that show the DNC—which, as the The Intercept notes, "isn't supposed to favor one Democratic candidate over another until they receive a nomination"—seeking to bolster the candidacy of the former secretary of state and working against that of rival Bernie Sanders.

It is unclear at …

Syria: Civilians at Risk as Aleppo Siege Tightens

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[On the one hand the West continues to terrorize and kill Muslim civilians; on the other, in response to their response of Muslim terrorism, it declares states of emergency that threaten the human rights of all Westerners. See also the clip for the movie "Our brand is crisis" and Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. *RON*]

Reuters, Human Rights Watch, 22 July 2016
© 2016 Reuters (New York) – The Syrian government and allied forces should urgently allow access to aid to besieged eastern Aleppo.

Residents of eastern Aleppo and aid workers told Human Rights Watch by phone that as the Syrian government siege has tightened since July 11, 2016, food prices have soared and medical supplies have decreased to alarming levels.

“Syrian government forces are repeating the terrible siege tactics in densely populated eastern Aleppo that devastated civilian populations in other towns in Syria,” said Nadim Houry, deputy…