Showing posts from August, 2016

Fun in the woods was had by all...

[We had a good time romping about in the woods with our neighbours, while staying at their rural trailer camp for a few days! *RON*]

Labor unions and income inequality in America

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["In every state, the top 10 percent of earners gained control over a larger share of the wealth at the same time union membership declined. (See figure below.) There is a causal relationship between the density of union membership and income inequality over the long run. A 1 percent increase in union membership reduces the income share to the top 10 percent by 0.000514 percentage points." See also: 'I'm in a Union—You're Welcome': How Having Strong Labor Unions Helps Everyone Who Works Earn More. *RON*]
David Trilling, Journalist's Resource, 29 August 2016
The issue: Since the Occupy Wall Street movement took over New York’s Zuccotti Park in 2011, income inequality has become a major political issue in the United States. Less often discussed is the role labor unions play in protecting workers’ wages.

In America, according to an estimate from Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, the top 1 percent of earner…

Austerity-Mad Red States Received More Federal Aid

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[Political Hypocrisy 101. Analysis of 2014 budgets finds that states that voted against Obama twice were the greatest beneficiaries of federal money. Welfare queens, Louisiana and Mississippi, receive more than 40% of total state revenue from the federal government. *RON*]
By Lauren McCauleyCommon Dreams, 30 August 2016
Governments of Republican-leaning states are seemingly always banging the drum of austerity: decreasing corporate taxes, slashing spending, and cutting programs. But red states' ideology and their preferences at the voting booth are not reflected in their state budgets, as a new study found that those locales are the greatest beneficiaries of federal money.

According to an analysis by The Hill reporter Reid Wilson of new data (pdf) published by Pew Charitable Trusts on Monday, "the average state that voted against [President Barack] Obama twice relied on federal funding for an average of 33.8 percent of its budget."…

Voters challenge economic orthodoxy on trade, austerity

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["From Brexit to Trump and even at the IMF, neoliberal policies are under attack...  Neoliberalism is hardly ready to gasp its final breath — there are far too many vested interests to sustain it amid widespread economic illiteracy.  But at least it is being recognized for what it is — one of many competing economic theories and one that has been shown to have pernicious and destructive effects. " *RON*]
By Darrell Delamaide, MarketWatch, 31 August 2016
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — When International Monetary Fund economists earlier this summer openly questioned the conditions that the lending agency usually requires with its bailout loans, progressives hailed it as though the wicked witch from “The Wizard of Oz” had doused herself with a bucket of water.

“What does it look like when an ideology dies?” Guardian economics commentator Aditya Chakrabortty asked, referring to the package of orthodox economic tenets known as “neoliberalism.”

An a…

State aid: Ireland gave illegal tax benefits to Apple worth up to €13 billion

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[I imagine this will be quite the tempest in a teapot for a while. With a bit of luck this will represent the beginning of the kind of international cooperation that's needed to put the kibosh on this Gigantor-scale tax evasion. I wouldn't hold your breath for the US Congress or Senate to go along with any quid pro quo, however. *RON*]

European Commission, Brussels, 30 August 2016

The European Commission has concluded that Ireland granted undue tax benefits of up to €13 billion to Apple. This is illegal under EU state aid rules, because it allowed Apple to pay substantially less tax than other businesses. Ireland must now recover the illegal aid.

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: "Member States cannot give tax benefits to selected companies – this is illegal under EU state aid rules. The Commission's investigation concluded that Ireland granted illegal tax benefits to Apple, which enabled it to…

Chinese TV host accuses Canada’s tourism body of pressuring to remove program on First Nations

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[The timing is totally suspect, but tit for tat seems fair to me, if Trudeau elects to mount his high horse. *RON*]

Nathan Van der Klippe, Globe and Mail, 29 August 2016
A high-profile Chinese television personality has accused Canadian tourism promoters of censoring discussion of Canada’s indigenous issues days before the first official visit to China by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

On Friday, online video site iQiyi was scheduled to post an episode ofXiaosong Qi Tan, a weekly Chinese talk show. The episode included an interview with a Canadian First Nations chief and touched on Canada’s human rights record.

But the program was pulled after officials with Destination Canada acted in an “arrogant and powerful manner, threatening to use legal, diplomatic and political means” to halt its broadcast, according to the host, Gao Xiaosong, a well-known Chinese singer, songwriter, director and producer.

He levelled his accusations on Weibo, the Chinese so…

The Death Toll in Yemen Is So High the Red Cross Has Started Donating Morgues to Hospitals

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[Scrap Bill C-51. Saudi Arabia's war on Yemen is killing thousands of innocent civilians and putting millions more at risk of starvation. Meanwhile, Canada prepares to send more weapons to the Saudis. Some US congressmen are trying to block such arms shipments from their own country. Read also about the blockades of food and critical supplies; this is taking as high a toll as direct military action. See also: Bill C-51: A Threat to the Rule of Law? *RON]

Alex Emmons, The Intercept, 25 August 2016

ALMOST A YEAR and a half into Saudi Arabia’s U.S.-backed bombing campaign in Yemen, the humanitarian toll has become so extensive that the International Committee of the Red Cross has taken the unusual step of donating entire morgue units to Yemeni hospitals.

“The hospitals were not able to cope,” said Rima Kamal, a Yemen-based spokesperson for the Red Cross. “You could have more than 20 dead people brought into one hospital on one single day. The mo…

No postings until next Wednesday!

[Tena and I are spending a few days with friends in a pretty rural spot that has no access to wifi - imagine! :-D *RON*]

German security plan tells citizens to stockpile goods in case of attack

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[A mixed bag where European refugees are concerned this week. Despite the precautions described here, Germany has agreed to take in additional migrants from Italy in an effort to revive the EU’s refugee relocation program. On the other hand, Germany has heightened security on the Swiss-German border in an effort to turn back illegal migrants en route from Switzerland. This article chronicles German efforts to create well-functioning ‘arrival cities’ for newcomers. German exports to Iran were also reported to soar in the first half of 2016 as international sanctions were lifted. The greater Paris region has lost an estimated 750 million euros in tourist revenue this year as a result of terror attacks in France. *RON*]
By Kristina Wong, The Hill, 22 August 2016

The German government will tell its citizens to stockpile food and water in case of an attack or catastrophe for the first time since the end of the Cold War, according to reports.

People wi…

Crimean Tatar Activist Confined in Psychiatric Hospital

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[Pre-1989 USSR = Post-1989 Russia. Human Rights Watch also calls on Russia to drop the criminal separatism charges against Umerov and provide him with necessary medical care. *RON*]

Human Rights Watch, 26 August 2016

(Berlin) – A Crimean Tatar activist has been involuntarily confined since August 18, 2016, in a psychiatric hospital, Human Rights Watch said today. The de-facto Russian authorities of Crimea should release the activist, Ilmi Umerov, drop criminal separatism charges against him, and ensure that he receives the medical care he requires.

Umerov, 59, is a former head of the Bakhchisaray district administration in Crimea and a former deputy chairman of Mejlis, the Crimean Tatars’ elected representative body. Since Russian forces occupied Crimea in February 2014, Umerov has been an outspoken critic of the occupation and the Russian administration’s persecution of Crimean Tatars, an ethnic minority who openly opposed Russia’s occupation of …

Site C dam opens up the floodgates for direct-award contracts

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[Election 2017. Another megaproject, another chance to dole out corruption goodies direct-award contracts. Christy "Oh-So-Transparent" Clark refuses to post these online like Alberta does. *RON*]

By Dermod Travis, Georgia Straight, 26 August 2016

Site C dam shaping up as a watershed moment in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's political career
More than 250 Canadian scientists and professors sign letter objecting to Site C dam approval
Wendy Holm: Why all the fuss over the Site C dam?
Trudeau government prepares to embrace UN declaration on indigenous peoples but hasn't revoked Site C permits

In April, the Alaska Highway News filed an access to information request for a list of the direct-award contracts signed during the first stages of Site C dam construction. The list provided to the News at the end of July covers the period from January 1, 2014, to Feb. 29, 2016, and is as interesting for what's in it, as for wha…

U.S. Weapons Sales Are Drenched in Yemeni Blood

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["Saudi Arabia is using billions in U.S. aid to fund their onslaught of innocent civilians in Yemen, but it's not too late for Congress to stop this madness." And "Sunny Ways" Trudeau is also guilty. *RON*]

By Medea BenjaminOtherWords / Foreign Policy in Focus, 24 August 2016.

When Pope Francis visited the U.S. Congress in September 2015, he boldly posed a moral challenge to his American hosts, asking: “Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society?”

“Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money,” he solemnly concluded. “Money that is drenched in blood.”

In this case, it’s innocent Yemeni blood.

During his almost eight years in office, President Obama has approved a jaw-dropping, record-breaking $110 billion in weapons sales to the repressive Saudi regime, all with Congressional backing.

Stephen Harper quits his day job, sets up 'international' consultancy -- brace for trouble!

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[Excellent résumé of his crimes against average Canadians: "The self-righteous austerity talk accompanied by serial deficits, the hollowed out manufacturing sector, the constant climate-change denial, muzzled scientists and statisticians, falling exports, efforts to destroy unions snuck through as private-members' bills, contempt of Parliament, prorogations engineered to avoid democratic non-confidence votes, omnibus bills designed to hide and deceive, defamations of Supreme Court justices, desperately divisive wedge issues (who can forget the niqab, the 'barbaric cultural practices' snitch line?) and perpetual advocacy of war. All that plus a flat economy accompanied by utter failure to persuade anyone on either side of the Medicine Line to build so much as a metre of pipeline, despite making that File No. 1 throughout his tenure." *RON*]
By David J. Climenhaga,, 27 August 2016

Just what Canada and the world need…

How the super-rich are making their homes ‘invisible’

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["Privacy is perhaps the greatest luxury anyone can buy, hence the trend for properties hidden from prying eyes and online searches." Guillotine watch. *RON*]

Kate Allen, Financial Times, 25 August 2016

There is nothing remarkable about 23726 Long Valley Road — except that it does not appear to exist.

Estate agents’ advertisements show that the high-end Californian home — six bedrooms, pizza oven, pool — is situated in a gated community on the edge of Los Angeles. Yet prospective buyers searching online to check out the neighbourhood are wasting their time — none of the area’s 648 homes appear on Google Street View.
There are people who still want kerb appeal but many others don’t want anyone to know where they live All that online maps show of the area are street routes and names — what could perhaps be an outline plan for a future housing development. But anyone looking for a kerbside view of the property will find no evidence of it.

Suddenly Scared of Vancouver’s Commercial Property Bubble?

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[Evidently our massive real estate bubble only goes unrecognized and unreported inside of Canada. *RON*]
by Wolf Richter, Wolf Street, 23 August 2016
The hunt is on for Chinese buyers.

For investors, Vancouver real estate has been a heavenly gift. But now, suddenly, some of the biggest institutional investors, including Canada’s third largest pension fund, are getting cold feet and want out.

Just over the past 12 months, the “benchmark price” soared 27% for apartments and 38% for detached houses! The term “housing bubble” doesn’t even do it justice.

But in July, British Columbia implemented a 15% transfer tax on home purchases involving foreign investors, an effort to put a lid on the price spiral that’s threatening to price an entire generation out of the housing market. By the end of July, the first squiggles appeared, as prices still soared but year over year sales volume plunged nearly 20% [read…Vancouver Housing Bubble, Meet Pin].

Preliminary rep…

Federal spies suddenly intercepting 26 times more Canadian phone calls and communications

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[Trudeau needs to completely rescind Bill C-51, not fiddle around the edges of it, one of these days. But Obama winked at him once and the bromance evidently lingers. *RON*]

Ian MacLeod, Ottawa Citizen / National Post, 24 August 2016
OTTAWA — Interception of Canadians’ private communications by the federal electronic spy agency increased 26-fold last year, for reasons authorities won’t fully explain.

And despite commitments between Canada and its intelligence-sharing allies to respect the privacy of each nation’s citizens, the volume of information on Canadians collected by allied intelligence agencies and informally shared with Canada’s spies has grown to the point that it now requires a formal mechanism to cope with all the data.

At least one intelligence expert is concerned the change sidesteps the spirit of Canadian privacy laws.

Details are contained in the latest annual report by the independent, external oversight organization that reviews ac…

ICBC basic insurance rates may increase by 4.9%

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[Election 2017. An utterly uncritical piece. Why not also report that the BC Liberals are siphoning off $150 million per year for the next 3 years from ICBC and putting this money into their general revenues. I.e., this is yet another of Christy Clark's invisible taxes on British Columbians. The idea of attributing this increase to Brexit is noxious. See Editorial: Stop siphoning off ICBC money. *RON*]
DH Vancouver Staff, Daily Hive, 25 August 2016
ICBC is hoping to raise its rates for basic insurance by 4.9% – meaning it could soon cost you an average of $3.50 a month more to stay on the road.

In a release, ICBC says the rate hike is due to an increase in the number of crashes, claims being submitted, and the cost of settling those claims.

According to ICBC, the number of crashes across BC jumped by 15% in two years, from 260,000 in 2013 to 300,000 in 2015.

Meanwhile, it says, more damage claims are being filed to ICBC than ever before. In …

Next mission? Not Congo

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[An extremely difficult question. Note that he essentially argues that Canada should not intervene, not because it is not the right thing to do in principle, but because he believes the conflict is unwinnable in practice. See also: Shocking scenes as women are lynched and set on fire in Congo as ethnic tensions flare. Something of the complexity and, perhaps, hopelessness of the situation is brought across well in this short BBC film: Getting away with murder in DR Congo. *RON*]

By Louis A. Delvoie,, 26 August 2016
Canada's defence minister, Harjit Sajjan, has just conducted a so-called "first finding" mission to five countries in sub-Saharan Africa. This mission was widely viewed as a first step in the implementation of the instruction that the minister had received from Prime Minister Trudeau "to renew Canada's commitment to United Nations peace operations." That instruction was certainly consistent with …

RCMP arrest four Indigenous protesters for fish farm demonstration

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[Aboriginals and the police state under the corporatocracy. The full force of the law falls swiftly and invariably on Aboriginal protesters; note that no charges have been laid. See also the real probably cause: 72 hours to evict: First Nations send message to salmon farm.*RON*]
By Justin McElroy, CBC News, 25 August 2016
Four members of the Yaakswiis Warriors — whose members are part of the Ahousaht First Nation — were arrested this week after protesting a fish farm operation north of Tofino.

"We were protecting our water and our land," said Lennie John, who drove up to the Dixon Bay fish farm — operated by the Cermaq Group — in a "tin can boat."

"I put my boat where they were going to put the barge down, and they wouldn't halt. I asked them to stop, and they told me to stay off their channel, that it was their channel."

John and the other three protesters were arrested and later released on August 23, a day after …

Philippines drugs war: The woman who kills dealers for a living

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[A horrifying side-bar to the basic story on Philippine President Duterte's war on drugs. Another thought: How does this differ from Obama's 'targeted killings'? "Do the lives of 10 of these criminals really matter? If I am the one facing all this grief, would 100 lives of these idiots mean anything to me?" *RON*]

BBC Global News, 26 August 2016

The Philippines is in the midst of a brutal war on drugs sanctioned by the controversial President Rodrigo Duterte, which has seen almost 2,000 killings in a matter of weeks. The BBC's Jonathan Head explores the country's dark underbelly of dealers and assassins through the story of one woman trapped in a chilling predicament.

When you meet an assassin who has killed six people, you don't expect to encounter a diminutive, nervous young woman carrying a baby.

"My first job was two years ago in this province nearby. I felt really scared and nervous because it was…

The next big consensus view in economics has arrived

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[Fiscal stimulus is rapidly becoming the mainstream economic consensus. *RON*]

Myles Udland, Business Insider, 22 August 2016

It's official: Calling for more government spending is a mainstream consensus view.

For years following the financial crisis, policymakers around the world sought to follow the post-crisis response endorsed by the International Monetary Fund of reducing debt burdens to ease the stress of recession on various economies.

This mostly simply involves cutting government spending and raising taxes.

This is known as austerity.

In a series of notes to clients over the weekend, analysts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch summarize the case for fiscal stimulus, who the big corporate winners might be, and which countries could still have some time to go before they jump all in on fiscal stimulus.

Is the TPP falling apart? Let's take a look at where the 12 nations are at

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["The deal [is] not quite a dead duck, but 'a duck on life support.'" – Shawn Donnan, editor of the Financial Times. *RON*]
By Marie Aspiazu,, 22 August 2016

As the ratification fight intensifies, we're watching closely as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) winds its way through national legislatures across the globe. So grab your popcorn, and let's take a look at where the TPP stands in each country yet to ratify.

United States

In addition to opposition from both major U.S. presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the TPP recently faced two significant setbacks as Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi came out against the deal and House Speaker Paul Ryan deemed it pointless to even bring it up during the Lame Duck session of Congress later this year.

Analysis finds that BC’s “record levels” of K-12 education funding are a fiction

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[Election 2017. Despite Christy's fairy tale that BC education funding is at "record levels," budget analysis shows that funding is dropping as a percent of the economy (GDP) and is second lowest in the country, nearly $1000 per student below the national average. Click on the link, below, to read the full report. And, winning the 2016 cynicism award, see also: Premier Christy Clark aims to win the 2017 B.C. election with policies targeted at individual constituencies. *RON*]

Alex Hemingway, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, 24 August 2016

(Vancouver) Contrary to provincial government claims that education funding is at “record levels”, new analysis released today finds that education funding has dropped by 25% since 2001 as a share of BC’s economy (GDP).

What’s the real story behind BC’s education funding crisis? by Alex Hemingway was released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Not only has education fundi…

A Tale of Two Standoffs

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[The federal response to Lakota protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline couldn’t be more different than their reaction to this year’s Bundy occupation. See also: Why There’s a Media Blackout on the Native American Oil Pipeline Blockade. *RON*]

By Michael McLean, Jacobin Magazine, 21 August 2016
On a cold January afternoon in eastern Oregon, Ammon Bundy smiled from beneath his brown cowboy hat at a young, bespectacled reporter before explaining why he and his men had seized a federal building while armed with rifles. “The people need to be in control of their own land and not… have a people… three thousand miles away dictating how their own land works,” Bundy said. He was of course referring to the federal government, which controls and manages up to 80 percent of the land and natural resources in some Western states.

Bundy’s occupation stands in stark contrast to the one unfolding in North Dakota at this very moment.

There, hundreds of Lakot…

France burkini highest court suspends ban

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[Caved in to the global reaction. *RON*]

BBC World News, 26 August 2016
France's highest administrative court has suspended a ban on full-body "burkini" swimsuits that was imposed in a town on the Mediterranean coast.

The ban in Villeneuve-Loubet "seriously and clearly illegally breached fundamental freedoms to come and go, freedom of beliefs and individual freedom", it found.

The ruling could set a precedent for up to 30 other towns that imposed bans.

The court will make a final decision on the legality of the bans later.

Correspondents in France say the court's decision means that all the bans on burkinis are likely now to be overturned but one mayor in Corsica has already vowed to keep the ban in place on his town beach.

A human rights group, the Human Rights League (LDH), and an anti-Islamophobia association (CCIF), brought the ban in Villeneuve-Loubet to the court's attention.

Patrice Spinosi, a lawyer for the LDH, …

How Poverty Affects the Brain

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["Poverty and the conditions that often accompany it—violence, excessive noise, chaos at home, pollution, malnutrition, abuse and parents without jobs—can affect the interactions, formation and pruning of connections in the young brain." E,g, kids who grow up with higher levels of violence have weaker real-time neural connections and interaction in parts of the brain involved in awareness, judgment, and ethical and emotional processing. *RON*]

By Erika Hayasaki, Newsweek, 25 August 2016
The video tells the story of Malala Yousafzai, the Nobel Peace Prize winner from Pakistan who at 15 survived being shot in the head by the Taliban while riding a bus in 2012. “I want to get my education, and I want to become a doctor,” she says, adding that the Taliban throw acid on some people’s faces and kill others, but “they cannot stop me.”

A 15-year-old boy watching the clip on a laptop inside the University of Southern California’s Brain and Creativ…

Under The Knife: Human Rights and Inequality in the Age of Austerity

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[This raises a good question. What ever became of the United Nations' 2015 Sustainable Development Goals? *RON*]

Written by Ignacio Saiz and Luke Holland, Diplomatic Courier, 23 August 2016

In the wake of the global economic crisis austerity appears to have become the new normal. The fiscal austerity drive that has been aggressively pursued in Europe is now spreading around the world, with the International Labour Organization predicting that some 132 nations will implement significant reductions in public spending over the next few years. And with the ‘Brexit’ crisis in Europe fuelling fears of longer-term economic instability, the storm clouds of fiscal tightening are gathering in all corners of the globe.

Moreover, these austerity programs – generally comprising severe cuts to social expenditure, along with regressive tax hikes, and reforms to pensions, social welfare and labour protections – are intensifying despite ample evidence of the ne…

Private lives are exposed as WikiLeaks spills its secrets

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[This is terrible, and blame seems to lie squarely with Julian Assange, who could not be bothered to take the time and effort needed to protect people's privacy in his rush to get juicy stories out into the media. *RON*]
By Raphael Satter and Maggie Michael, AP The Big Story, 23 August 2016

CAIRO (AP) — WikiLeaks' giant data dumps have rattled the National Security Agency, the U.S. Democratic Party, and the Saudi foreign ministry. But its spectacular mass-disclosures have also included the personal information of hundreds of people — including sick children, rape victims and mental health patients, The Associated Press has found.

In the past year alone, the radical transparency group has published medical files belonging to scores of ordinary citizens while many hundreds more have had sensitive family, financial or identity records posted to the web. In two particularly egregious cases, WikiLeaks named teenage rape victims. In a third case…

Corporate tax cuts: why the old analyses don’t stack up any more (did they ever?)

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[Another good piece on why the neoliberal party line makes no sense, with a number of links to more detailed materials. *RON*]

By Rasmus Christensen, Fair Skat Blog / Tax Justice Network, 23 August 2016

Last month Pascal Saint-Amans, head of tax for the OECD, spoke to the Wall Street Journal, in an article subtitled The argument against taxing capital income relatively more than wages is losing its force. He said:

“For the past 30 years we’ve been saying don’t try to tax capital more because you’ll lose it, you’ll lose investment. Well this argument is dead, so it’s worth revisiting the whole story,” Pascal Saint-Amans, the OECD’s tax chief, said in an interview.”

This particular article came to our attention via the Fair Skat blog, which sketches out the implications – and they are highly significant. The usual story goes something like this:

“It’s important to cut taxes on capital because this promotes investment and growth. This is because h…

Like Humans, Chimps Reward Cooperation and Punish Freeloaders

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[It looks like this has been hard-wired into our evolutionary family tree for at least the seven million years since we split off from our common ancestor with the chimps. Recent research challenges the notion that our closest animal relatives don’t like working as a team. *RON*]

By Bret Stetka, Scientific American 22 August 2016

Although humans love the playful ways and toothy grins of chimpanzees, our primate cousins have the reputation of being competitive, churlish and, at times, aggressive.

New research published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that despite being prone to occasional violent behavior, chimps actually much prefer cooperating over competing. In fact, the work shows that chimps work together at similar rates as humans—and that when violence does occur among apes, it is often directed toward an individual that is not being a team player.

Working with 11 chimps housed in a large outdoor enclosure at…

Set to Stun: Children Are Being Tasered by School-Based Police Officers

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[The glories of the American police state meet the glories of the American educational system. See also: Birmingham Police Really Want To Use Pepper Spray in High Schools. *RON*]
By Rebecca KleinThe Hechinger Report / AlterNet, 18 August 2016

It was just a dumb fight. Two boys, both juniors, stood in the hallway discussing a classic teenage hypothetical: whether one of them could win in a fight against another student. But when one of the teens, Scott, said he didn’t think his friend could win, things turned personal.

They flung curse words back and forth that Thursday morning in March, lurching through the hallway of Knightdale High School, slamming into a row of lockers and tripping over a trashcan. A video shot by another student shows a teacher breaking up the fight after a few seconds, and both teens ending up on the ground, hurt only in pride.

One student was ushered away. But 17-year-old Scott, whose name has been changed to protect his…

French police make woman remove clothing on Nice beach following burkini ban

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[How do they think this will improve ethnic relations? How do they think this will curb terrorism? See also: RCMP allows Muslim women Mounties to wear hijab. And: French ‘Burkini’ Bans Provoke Backlash as Armed Police Confront Beachgoers. *RON*]

Ben Quinn, The Guardian, 25 August 2016

Photographs have emerged of armed French police confronting a woman on a beach and making her remove some of her clothing as part of a controversial ban on the burkini.

Authorities in several French towns have implemented bans on the burkini,which covers the body and head, citing concerns about religious clothing in the wake of recent terrorist killings in the country.

The images of police confronting the woman in Nice on Tuesday show at least four police officers standing over a woman who was resting on the shore at the town’s Promenade des Anglais, the scene of last month’s Bastille Day lorry attack.

After they arrive, she appears to remove a blue long-sleeved tun…

Critical Services Suffering in BC’s So-Called Great Economy

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[Rule of the Pattison, for the Pattison, by the Pattison. Election 2017. BC Liberal spin hides less-than-stellar performance on health, education, and more. Horrible, regressive MSP premiums are the first thing that must go! *RON*]

By Bill Tieleman,, 23 August 2017

“No government in BC history has invested more in health care, education, and other front-line services than Today’s BC Liberals.” – BC Liberal Party website If British Columbia’s economy is doing so well – as Premier Christy Clark constantly claims – then why are health care, education and other services suffering?

B.C. lags behind the Canadian national average and most provinces on wait times for several key surgical procedures.

For hip replacement, knee replacement, cataract surgery and radiation therapy, B.C. is behind the average across Canada.

And for the first three, B.C. does not meet the national benchmark established by the Canadian Institute for Health Information…

Man-made “wind trees” will finally make it possible to power homes using turbines

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[Simply very cool; I had to post this! :-) *RON*]

By Melody Schreiber, Quartz, 23 August 2016
Picture a steady breeze blowing through the leaves of a tree. Now imagine these leaves could do more than simply churn in the current of air—what if they could capture the wind and transform it into renewable energy?

Energy from wind is the fastest-growing source of electricity in the world, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, an environmental and social research institution. This development of wind power has mostly taken place on a large scale, usually by utility companies providing power to a grid of millions of customers. That’s because wind energy is most efficient when it’s capturing very strong winds, more common in remote areas and at heights greater than 50 feet off the ground. Those turbines need to be as tall as a five-story building, and they take up a lot of horizontal room, too—several hundred feet per turbine, in many cases. The…

Solar Delivers Cheapest Electricity ‘Ever, Anywhere, By Any Technology’

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[Half the price of coal! See also: Europe leads growing market in offshore wind power. Christy Clark, are you paying the slightest attention? Apparently not: Malaysia's Petronas sees gloomy industry outlook as second quarter profit slumps. *RON*]
Joe Romm, Think Progress, 23 August 2016

Chile has just contracted for the cheapest unsubsidized power plant in the world, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) reports.

In last week’s energy auction, Chile accepted a bid from Spanish developer Solarpack Corp. Tecnologica for 120 megawatts of solar at the stunning price of $29.10 per megawatt-hour (2.91 cents per kilowatt-hour or kwh). This beats the 2.99 cents/kwh bid Dubai received recently for 800 megawatts. For context, the average residential price for electricity in the United States is 12 cents per kilowatt-hour.

“Solar power delivers cheapest unsubsidised electricity ever, anywhere, by any technology,” BNEF Chair Michael Liebreich said on Twitter

Trickle Down Election Economics: How Big Money Can Affect Small Races

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[This is terrific! Cutting out the middle man, Democratic candidate Zephyr Teachout calls for a debate with her real opponent, hedge fund manager Paul Singer, who heavily funded her ostensible political opponent. *RON*]
By Sarah Jaffe, Moyers & Company, posted on Naked Capitalism by Yves Smith23 August 2016

Yves here. Be sure to check out the video of Zephyr Teachout calling for a debate with her stealth opponent, Paul Singer (yes, that Paul Singer).

By Sarah Jaffe, a reporting fellow at The Nation Institute and the co-host of Dissent magazine’s Belabored podcast. Her book, Necessary Trouble: America’s New Radicals, is due out from Nation Books in August 2016. Follow her on Twitter: @sarahljaffe. Originally published at Moyers & Company

At a press event in Kingston, New York, a Hudson Valley community about 90 miles north of Manhattan, the local Democratic congressional candidate, Zephyr Teachout, earlier this month called for a debate. Bu…

Philippines police chief: 1,900 killed in anti-drug war

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[1900 murdered in seven weeks by President Duterte of the Philippines. The UN and the US have both expressed concern over the 'extrajudicial killings' of alleged drug dealers. He's not out of his mind though. That's why he's also cleverly implemented a Nose-picking ban for Philippines police. *RON*]

Source: Agencies, Al Jazeera, 23 August 2016

The Philippines has recorded about 1,900 drug-related killings since President Rodrigo Duterte took office seven weeks ago and launched a war on narcotics, far higher than previously believed, according to police figures.

National Police Chief Ronald Dela Rosa told a Senate committee on Tuesday that about 750 suspected drug traffickers and users had been killed in police operations since July 1.

Police were also investigating around 1,100 other drug-related killings, Dela Rosa said, adding that there was no declared policy to kill drug users and pushers.

"We are not butchers" …

Occupying the Prairie: Tensions Rise as Tribes Move to Block a Pipeline

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[Note that this is Enbridge! The Standing Rock Sioux tribe and others are protesting the Dakota Access pipeline, which they say threatens water supplies and sacred lands. "Sheriff Kirchmeier told reporters that the demonstration had become an 'unlawful protest,' and Gov. Jack Dalrymple, citing 'public safety risks,' declared a state of emergency on Friday." See also: Native Activist Winona LaDuke: Pipeline Company Enbridge Has No Right to Destroy Our Future. *RON*]

By Jack Healy, New York Times, 23 August 2016

American Indians vs. Dakota Pipeline
NEAR CANNON BALL, N.D. — Horseback riders, their faces streaked in yellow and black paint, led the procession out of their tepee-dotted camp. Two hundred people followed, making their daily walk a mile up a rural highway to a patch of prairie grass and excavated dirt that has become a new kind of battlefield, between a pipeline and American Indians who say it will threaten water…

Congress scolds pharmaceutical company’s price hike on EpiPens

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[For many people not having access to an EpiPen is a matter of life or death. For many others not having one means enduring excruciating uncertainty about whether or not they are in a life-endangering situation. "There does not appear to be any justification for the continual price increases of EpiPen.… Manufacturing costs for the product have been stable and Mylan does not need to recover the product’s research and development costs because the product was on the market years before Mylan acquired it in 2007." *RON*]

By Ed Silverman, STAT / PBS News, 23 August 2016
Move over, Martin Shkreli. Get in line, Valeant Pharmaceuticals. Congress appears to have found another drug maker to scold over high prices.

Responding to the high cost of the EpiPen auto-injector for reversing life-threatening allergic reactions, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, on Monday wrote Mylan Laboratories asking for pricin…

As globe-threatening yellow fever epidemic explodes in Congo, people ask ‘where is the vaccine?’

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[DR Congo has probably the world's largest, certainly the most under-reported, civil and international conflicts in the world at present. The government is pretty well incapable of administering the necessary vaccination program. The vaccine is extremely effective, safe, and affordable. As the article says, yellow fever can be deadly, is 100% preventable and 0% curable, and likely to spread beyond DR Congo's borders. See also: WHO to hold emergency meeting to advise on yellow fever. *RON*]

By Emily J. Baumgaertner, Washington Post, 22 August 2016

KINSHASA, Congo — Here in Kinshasa, they’re using bug spray to repel a pandemic.

At first glance, it looks like a bloody ambush on civilians: Dozens in uniform are storming into a bustling marketplace bearing on their shoulders what look like bazookas.

People are screaming, scrambling in every direction, their noses and mouths covered as they drag their children by their hands. Those in uniform …

Why It Matters

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[Associated Press is doing a series of 36 short backgrounders on issues pertinent to the US Presidential campaign, many of which are global or otherwise equally applicable to Canada. These are the first eight; you may be interested in following them as they appear. *RON*]
Associated Press, 23 August 2016

22 August 2016
WHY IT MATTERS: Income inequality

WASHINGTON (AP) — THE ISSUE: The rich keep getting richer while more Americans are getting left behind financially.

Austerity, media and democracy

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[And a very good letter to the Editor of the Irish Times on austerity and so-called free markets. *RON*]

Donal McGrath, Irish Times, 22 August 2016

Sir, – A Leavy (August 22nd) writes that the alternatives to austerity were default or even more borrowing. This is simply incorrect. No-one seriously suggested that the Irish state should default on sovereign debt but Ireland’s deficit would have been about half the final outcome had we refused to pay the speculative losses of European banks, and the cutbacks which would have been necessary would have been much less severe. The Irish government paid out about €64 billion to these private banks, adding in over €3 billion not covered by the guarantee scheme at all, and Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has confirmed he will not even apply for retrospective relief under the new ECB guidelines (“Banking Union: Restoring Financial Stability in the Euro Zone”). That plan was hailed at the time of publicat…

What do we do with art from the past deemed offensive today?

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[A good opinion piece on the value, risks and relativity of indignation. *RON*]

Russell Smith, Globe and Mail, 23 August 2016
The news that a former Islamist warrior in northern Mali has pleaded guilty to – and apologized for – the destruction of ancient architecture in Timbuktu is mild vindication for all of us who were outraged by the continuing destruction of valuable art and sculpture across the Middle East by religious fanatics.
It has been easy to denounce the blowing up of precious libraries and temples by ISIS and gorgeous Buddhist statues by the Taliban – that is obviously wrong, Philistinic, uncivilized. Sensitive people of all political stripes are against it. It is officially a war crime now. We are all for the preservation of the past and of the hand-worked artifacts of foreign cultures. Even if those cultures had values antithetical to our own (as the priceless Islamic libraries of Timbuktu, being themselves pretty sexist, surely did…

Cruise ships start to come under scrutiny as massive pollution machines

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[Something to think about next time you see one of these beasts lumbering under Lions Gate Bridge. "At full power the world's largest cruise ship can burn about 66,000 gallons of diesel fuel a day. One cruise ship emits the same amount of air pollutants as five million cars traveling the same distance. That's largely due to the higher-sulfur diesel fuel typically used by cruise ships" *RON*]

By Stephen EdelsteinGreenCarReports / Christian Science Monitor, 21 August 2016

While increased pressure on car makers to improve emissions continues, regulators and environmental groups are also scrutinizing other forms of transportation-related emissions.

Cruise ships regularly depart major ports with thousands of passengers onboard, and they are now being called out as major sources of pollution.

At full power, the massive diesel engines propelling the Harmony of the Seas—the world's largest cruise ship—can burn about 66,000 gallons o…

New Book Reveals Trump Is Actually Sleazier and Slimier Than We Ever Thought

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["There is no moral core inside Donald Trump." The press is doing a marvelous job of demonstrating to the US electorate that it has no one worth voting for. For see also: Hillary Clinton’s Ethics Problems Are Worse Than She Understands, and Hillary scrubs sexual assault pledge after allegations against Bill resurface. *RON*]
By Steven RosenfeldAlterNet, 19 August 2016

David Cay Johnston has been one of the nation’s premier investigative reporters for decades, specializing in the ways government works for the wealthy at the expense of everyday Americans. He first met and covered Donald Trump in the 1980s. In his latest book, The Making of Donald Trump, he profiles the many ways the Republican presidential nominee has gotten wealthy by bilking others, colluding with criminals, evading prosecution, and romancing the press. I spoke with Johnston recently about his new book.

Steven Rosenfeld: What are you trying to show readers about Don…