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Showing posts from December, 2016

The Kigali Principles on the Protection of Civilians: Peacekeeping or War Fighting?

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[On the not-so-subtle shift from peace keeping to active warring for the UN. *RON*]
Lise Morjé Howard, Political Violence @ a Glance, 28 December 2016
Peacekeeping was born in the midst of the American civil rights movement and the world-wide tide against colonialism. Ralph Bunche, the first African American to win a Nobel Peace Prize, was one of peacekeeping’s founding fathers. The basic principles of peacekeeping – impartiality, consent of the warring factions, and the use of force only in self-defense – were based on insights from the successful non-violent civil rights and anti-colonial movements of the era, and they remain operational today, according to the UN Department of Peacekeeping’s website.

Why Oil Is the Glue That Bonds Trump and Putin

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[It's a macabre waltz and the oil industry powers are calling the tune. Andrew writes for rabble.ca; nice to see him get broader exposure. *RON*]
By Andrew NikiforukThe Tyee, 30 December 2016

Oil has fueled a bully bromance between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. Although this revolutionary union possesses a terrifying petro logic, it promises to be as volatile and tragic as any shotgun marriage. The relationship is, as Trump might well tweet, “unpresidented.”

How, after all, can a president-elect openly admire a foreign leader whose shadowy intelligence apparatus played a significant role in undermining the U.S. election by hacking into the files of the Democratic National Committee?

This dysfunctional story is about oil and carbon. The master resource and its climate destabilizing emissions have arranged the ballroom where Trump and Putin now waltz.

There’s some really good news for low-wage workers this weekend

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[I'm not at all sure how useful this is as a strategic push. To me the real issue is the crapification of jobs, not nickel and dime increases. See also: Why raising the minimum wage in Seattle did little to help workers, according to a new study. *RON*]

By Max Ehrenfreund, Washington Post, 31 December 2016
It has been a difficult year for the left politically, but at least with respect to the minimum wage, progressive activists had major victories — including in a couple of very red states.

As a result, the minimum wage will increase in 19 states as 2016 comes to a close, according to figures compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Two more states and the District of Columbia will raise the minimum later in the new year.

Why 2017 will be a make-or-break year for Internet freedom

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[If you'd like to see some campaigns where you can contribute or take action, click here. *RON*]
David Christopher, rabble.ca, Dated 2 January 2017

2017 is here, and it's clear it will be a make-or-break year for Internet freedom. Around the world, our digital rights are under threat as never before. Let's take a look at some of the big challenges ahead.

In Canada, the federal government will soon be publishing its response to the national security consultation that closed in December. It's abundantly clear that Canadians want the government to repeal Bill C-51 and deliver strong privacy rules to make us safe -- but will the government listen, especially against the backdrop of a full-on RCMP propaganda campaign calling for even more invasive spy powers?

It’s not game over. Austria stopped rightwing populism in its tracks

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[Signs of hope. It was to be the last great domino of 2016, but the country showed that victory on the radical right is not inevitable. "Our future does not belong to the Trumps, the Farages or the Le Pens. Hatred can be defeated." See also: The rise of fascism is not inevitable – just look at Bridges Not Walls. *RON*]

Owen Jones. The Guardian, 31 December 2016

In 2016, the tide of rightwing populism has seemed unstoppable. From Britain’s vote to leave the EU after a referendum campaign soaked in foreigner-bashing, to Donald Trump’s elevation to the White House. Britain’s Nigel Farage, France’s Marine Le Pen and the Netherlands’ Geert Wilders were rarely spotted without a smirk etched on their faces.

The last great domino of 2016 was supposed to be Austria. A narrow defeat for the xenophobic right in the second round of the presidential elections in May was annulled, and the Freedom party’s Norbert Hofer looked set to become the first …

China announces ban on ivory trade by end of 2017

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[Great news! As they say, China buys up around 70% of illegal ivory world wide. *RON*]

BBC World News, 30 December 2016

China has announced a ban on all ivory trade and processing activities by the end of 2017.

Conservation groups hailed the decision as "historic" and a "game-changer" for the future of elephants.

The move follows a resolution at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) in South Africa in October.

China has the biggest ivory market in the world - some estimates suggest 70% of the world's trade ends up there.

Nearly 1,000 City staff at four big US banks given €1m in pay deals in 2015

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[Disclosures by Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America Merrill Lynch show 971 staff received €1m. See also: 'Negligible' link between executive pay and firm's performance, says study. *RON*]
Jill Treanor, The Guardian, 29 December 2016

Four major US banks handed almost 1,000 of their top City staff at least €1m (£850,000) in pay deals last year.

Goldman Sachs, the highest profile Wall Street bank, disclosed that 11 of its key staff received at least €5m in 2015.

B.C. Education Minister Mike Bernier left some important things out of his year-end wrap up

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[ELECTION 2017. For instance, the BCTF's landmark supreme court win was the biggest education news in BC — but Bernier didn't mention that. Or the fact that he fired two democratically elected school boards, or the list of school closures, or the list of repairs not done, or his gift of public funds to private schools. *RON*]

Patti Bacchus, Vancouver Observer, 28 December 2016

B.C. Education Minister Mike Bernier is touting 2016 as “a banner” year for British Columbia’s students and education system in an opinion-editorial out this week.

While Bernier highlights capital investments, B.C. students’ impressive showing in the recent PISA results and the new provincial curriculum, he leaves out the year’s biggest education news.


More than one-third of schoolchildren are homeless in shadow of Silicon Valley

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[The gap widens. Tech economy is drawing new inhabitants and businesses but is contributing to dislocation, leaving families, teachers and even principals with housing woes. See also: Income inequality is off the charts: Can local policies make a difference? and Inequality Is Only Getting Worse.*RON*]

Alastair Gee, The Guardian, 29 December 2016


Every night for the past year or so, Adriana and Omar Chavez have slept in an RV parked in East Palo Alto, a downtrodden community in Silicon Valley.

On a recent morning before sunrise, they emerged on to the empty street. Omar showed his phone to his wife: 7.07am. “Shall I wake up the girls?” he said, his breath visible in the freezing air.

2016: Canada's Oil Sands Downturn Hints at Ominous Future

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[I don't know that I would call this "ominous" - excellent, more like! Low oil prices that caused project cancellations, as well as new climate policies, have activists seeing the beginning of the end in Canada's oil patch. See also: Consider how to manage end of fossil fuel era. *RON*]

Nicholas Kusnetz, Inside Climate News, 29 December 2016

It was a dark year for Canada's tar sands.

Plunging oil prices caused companies to cancel or delay nearly three dozen projects. Extensive wildfires forced producers to shut down operations for weeks. And after a decade that saw little action on climate change policy, Canadian officials began shaping plans to cap the tar sands' emissions and set a national price on carbon with an eye to meeting the country's commitment to the Paris climate agreement.


Muslims and Indigenous People Face the Most Discrimination in Canada, According to Canadians

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[Appalling levels of perceived discrimination across the board. Little difference between Canada and US. *RON*]

By Bruce Anderson & David Coletto, Abacus Data, 29 December 2016


In our final survey of the year, we asked Canadians to tell us how much discrimination they see in our society, towards a variety of groups. To add context, we mimicked some questions that the Pew Research Center asked in the US recently. Here’s what we found:
The large majority (79%) of Canadians say that there is “some” or “a lot” of discrimination towards Muslims in Canada, and two thirds (67%) say the same thing about discrimination towards Indigenous people.Almost one in two say there is a lot of discrimination against people of the Muslim faith, far more than towards any of the other groups we tested.Roughly equal sized majorities see (some or a lot of) discrimination towards black people and gays & lesbians.1 in 2 (51%) say there is (some or a lot of) discrim…

Big Growth in Tiny Businesses

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[The crapification of labour. U.S. companies that employ nobody soar. *RON*]

Jeffrey Sparshott, Wall Street Journal, 28 December 2016

A tiny segment of U.S. manufacturing appears to be thriving—the one with no employees.

A mix of technology, economic necessity and adventure is leading more Americans to found companies that plan to stay very small. That entrepreneurial spark also highlights challenges facing the economy, from difficulty re-entering the job market to the diminishing role of fast-growing young firms.

Nicholas Hollows wants to be his own boss, and not anyone else’s.

Today's Trumpery

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Seven Things the Defund DAPL Campaign Has Achieved So Far

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[Actual good news from 2016! *RON*]
Ari Paul, YES! Magazine, 28 December 2016

Back in September, researcher Hugh MacMillan helped create an infographic tracing the money behind the Dakota Access pipeline. Using public data, MacMillan and his colleagues at the environmental nonprofit Food & Water Watch showed which 17 financial institutions have directly loaned money for the pipeline's construction and which 38 banks were offering hundreds of millions of dollars in open lines of credit to the parent companies controlling the pipeline project.

"It's an illustration of how decisions about our energy future and our climate future are being made," MacMillan said.

Iraq Facing Potential 'Catastrophe of Biblical Proportions'

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[Scary prospect. Mosul Dam breach could pose greater threat than ISIS. *RON*]
Jenn Gidman, Newser, 27 December 2016
(NEWSER) – As Iraqi forces continue their battle against ISIS in Mosul, there's another problem lurking just 25 miles away from the embattled city: the Mosul Dam, a structure the US Army Corps of Engineers has called the "most dangerous dam in the world," per a piece by Dexter Filkins in the January 2 New Yorker. It's not the dam itself that has both American and Iraqi officials worried: It's that the structure is built on void-prone gypsum rock, which needs constant cement injections; without that fortification, the ground underneath the dam will be whisked away and the dam will sink and crumble. When the dam was being built, experts assured then-leader Saddam Hussein the gypsum problem could be managed, and the Mosul Dam was completed in the mid-'80s—but structural problems were immediately evident. Af…

How climate change transformed the Earth in 2016

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[A CO2 milestone; transforming the arctic; agricultural instability; the end of the Great Barrier Reef? *RON*]
Shanika Gunaratna, CBS News, 27 December 2016
2016 was a milestone year in the continued warming of the planet. From unstable agriculture to the drought in California to melting ice sheets to extreme weather events and heat waves, climate change has disrupted virtually every corner of the world.

It’s impossible to exhaustively list all the ways in which climate change was felt in 2016, but here’s a guide to understanding the year that was for the planet:

Fuck work

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[Interesting piece. Economists believe in full employment. Americans think that work builds character. But what if jobs aren’t working anymore? *RON*]
James Livingston, Aeon, 25 November 2016

James Livingston is professor of history at Rutgers University in New Jersey. He is the author of many books, the latest being No More Work: Why Full Employment is a Bad Idea (2016). He lives in New York.

Work means everything to us Americans. For centuries – since, say, 1650 – we’ve believed that it builds character (punctuality, initiative, honesty, self-discipline, and so forth). We’ve also believed that the market in labour, where we go to find work, has been relatively efficient in allocating opportunities and incomes. And we’ve believed that, even if it sucks, a job gives meaning, purpose and structure to our everyday lives – at any rate, we’re pretty sure that it gets us out of bed, pays the bills, makes us feel responsible, and keeps us away from dayt…

‘It can either be Jewish or democratic. It cannot be both’: In parting shot, Kerry tears into Israel

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["Secretary of State John Kerry tore into Israel on Wednesday for settlement-building, accusing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of dragging Israel away from democracy and forcefully rejecting the notion that America had abandoned Israel with a controversial U.N. vote." See also: Israeli PM counters Kerry, calls speech a ‘deep disappointment’. *RON*]
Josh Lederman & Matthew Daily, Associated Press / Ottawa Citizen, 28 December 2016
Kerry: 'Not in US Interests' to Create One State
WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John Kerry tore into Israel on Wednesday for settlement-building, accusing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of dragging Israel away from democracy and forcefully rejecting the notion that America had abandoned Israel with a controversial U.N. vote. Israel’s government accused Kerry of a skewed attempt to blame Israel for failing to reach a peace deal.

Today's Trumpery

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Take Your Pick!

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[As year-end draws nigh I wind up with a pool of stories, since there are always more worth posting every day than I can reasonably fit in. To clear out my list in Pocket, here is an assortment. Check out whatever appeals to you most! Some, unfortunately, may be protected by a pay wall. *RON*]


What Have We Learned From the Lac-Megantic Oil Train Disaster?, DeSmog Blog

F-35 chief: 'This program is not out of control', Business Insider

The Senate just released a massive report on drug pricing — here's what you need to know, Business Insider

The implications of the Andrey Karlov assassination, Al Jazeera

Here is the indictment against the New York hedge funders charged with $1 billion fraud, Business Insider

Sounding the Alarm about Uber’s Impacts on Transit, and on Cities, Human Transit

All This Talk of Voter Fraud? Across U.S., Officials Found Next to None, New York Times

Rohingya abuse may be crimes against humanity: Amnesty, Al Jazeera

Christine Lagarde avoids jail, keeps job afte…

Cheetah 'more vulnerable to extinction than previously thought'

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[Urgent action is needed to stop the world’s fastest land animal becoming extinct, experts have warned. 😢 *RON*]
Press Association, The Guardian, 27 December 2016
Urgent action is needed to stop the cheetah – the world’s fastest land animal– becoming extinct, experts have warned.

Scientists estimate that only 7,100 of the fleet-footed cats remain in the wild, occupying 9% of the territory they once lived in. Asiatic populations have been hit the hardest, with fewer than 50 surviving in Iran, according to an investigation led by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

Law firms’ pooled accounts pose money laundering threat

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[Tens of billions of dollars flow unfettered through legal company accounts each year aided by the banksters: report. I wonder if a similar loophole exists in Canada? *RON*]

The Real Deal, New York Real Estate News, 72 December 2016

Even as banks face fiercer anti-money laundering regulations, massive amounts of questionable cash continues to flow freely through the bank accounts of U.S. law firms.

Pooled client accounts, as they are known, are set up by law firms to hold client money for a few days or weeks, like when a real estate sale is pending. Law firms are not required to disclose whose money they are holding in the name of attorney-client privilege.

Hell just froze over: the New York Times runs an article saying Zionism is racist

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["...by denying liberal principles, Zionism immediately becomes continuous with — rather than contradictory to — the anti-Semitic politics of the sort promoted by the alt-right… insofar as Israel is concerned, every liberal Zionist has not just tolerated the denial of this minimum liberal standard, but avowed this denial as core to their innermost convictions." *RON*]
Phil Weiss & Donald Johnson, Mondo Weiss, 20 December 2016

Trump’s election is having fascinating consequences. Today the New York Times ran a long piece titled, “Liberal Zionism in the Age of Trump,” by Omri Boehm of the New School saying that liberal Zionism is a contradiction: liberal American Jews have “identified themselves with Zionism, a political agenda rooted in the denial of liberal politics.”

Netanyahu 'told New Zealand backing UN vote would be declaration of war'

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[Ridiculous; he's attached - hook, line and sinker - to the support of the right-wing radicals in Israel. Israeli PM reportedly warned that support for motion on settlements would ‘rupture relations’ between two countries. See also: Israel’s Netanyahu et al. Throw Trump-like Tantrums after UNSC Slam; Israel approves settler building in E.Jerusalem ahead of Kerry speech; Israel Cabinet minister calls Kerry speech 'pathetic'. *RON*]
Peter BeaumontJulian Borger & Kate Shuttleworth, The Guardian, 28 December 2016
Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly told New Zealand’s foreign minister that support for a UN resolution condemning Israeli settlement-building in the occupied territories would be viewed as a “declaration of war”.

"We've Seen Exxon Leading the Charge to Go After Groups That Criticized Them"

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[Exxon works to silence journalists who criticize them, vehemently opposes the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, and maintains strict silence on what it knows about who is being made rich and who is being in hurt in deals it has made in Equatorial Guinea and Angola. Should their leader be made US Secretary of State? *RON*]
Janine Jackson, CounterSpin / Truthout, 23 December 2016

Janine Jackson interviewed Zorka Milin about Rex Tillerson for the December 16, 2016, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.

MP3 Link

Janine Jackson: A widely circulated news article on the appointment of Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson to be secretary of State opens with the note that "the brash Texas oilman…helped forge or supervise exploration, production, and refinery projects in 50 countries on six continents." But corporate media really only appear interested in one country, and that's Russia.

Black Snake Bleeding Out: How DAPL Is Duping Investors

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["The valiant and peaceful Native-led resistance to DAPL is in large part responsible for the Army Corps decision, which represents a major blow to the Black Snake. But in the end, the kill shot may be delivered by the project’s backers. Investors must now also realize that the people’s resistance to fossil fuel infrastructure is not going to be cheap." *RON*]

Anthony Karefa Rogers-WrightThe Leap: System Change on a Deadline/Common Dreams, 22 December 2016
The Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) is yet another violent variable in the equation of environmental racism that plagues the United States, and the world—to the peril of Indigenous and low-wealth communities of color everywhere.

"The financial implications of this decision are both far reaching and profound, and may signal the death knell of DAPL."

Secrecy Around Composition of Oilsands Dilbit Makes Effective Spill Response, Research Impossible: New Study

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[The oil companies say the composition of dilbit is an industrial secret and that releasing this information would harm their competitive position. And if you believe that, I have a watch I'd like to sell you. *RON*]

By Judith Lavoie, DeSmog Blog, 23 December 2016

Knowledge gaps about the behaviour of diluted bitumen when it is spilled into saltwater and lack of information about how to deal with multiple problems that can result from extracting and transporting bitumen from the Alberta oilsands, make it impossible for government or industry to come up with effective policies to deal with a disaster, says a newly published research paper, Oilsands and the Marine Environment.


Smog linked to third of deaths in China, study finds

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[Research puts air pollution on a par with smoking as threat to human health. I know they are supposedly working on this - probably more than we'll be able to say about the US over the next 4 years. But is it enough? And soon enough? See also: China names and shames heavy polluters during this week’s thick smogMan escapes uninjured after car plunges off pier in heavy smogScientists crack Beijing smog puzzle. *RON*]

Alice Yan, South China Morning Post, 23 December, 2016


Smog is related to nearly one-third of deaths in China, putting it on a par with smoking as a threat to health, according to an academic paper based on the study of air pollution and mortality data in 74 cities and published in an international journal.

The findings by Nanjing University’s School of the Environment, which were published in the November edition of the journal the Science of the Total Environment, provides the latest scientific estimates of the health cost of C…

Dr. Orange: The Scientist Who Insists Agent Orange Isn't Hurting America's Veterans

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[For decades, the military and the VA have repeatedly turned to one man to guide decisions on whether Agent Orange harmed vets in Vietnam and elsewhere. His reliable answer: No. I wonder where people like Alvin Young come from - what makes them tick? "Most of the stuff he talks about is in no way accurate. He's been paid a hell of a lot of money by the VA over the years, and I think they don't want to admit that maybe he [isn't] the end all and be all."*RON*]

Charles Ornstein & Mike Hixenbaugh, Mother Jones, 25 December 2016

This story originally appeared on ProPublica and the Virginian-Pilot.

A few years ago, retired Maj. Wes Carter was picking his way through a stack of internal Air Force memos, searching for clues that might help explain his recent heart attack and prostate cancer diagnosis. His eyes caught on several recommendations spelled out in all capital letters:

"NO ADDITIONAL SAMPLING…"

"DESTROY A…

Bernie Sanders: The Democracy Now! Interview

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["In the last eight or so years, Democrats have lost 900 legislative seats in state capitols all over this country. So I think any independent assessment, without casting any blame, says the current approach has failed. All right? And the new approach, I think, is to create a kind of grassroots party, where the most important people in the party are not just wealthy campaign contributors, but working people, young people, people in the middle class, who are going to come in and going to start telling us what their needs are and give us some ideas as to how we go forward. So, where we are now is in a difficult moment. I don’t want to minimize the difficulties facing us. But throughout history, serious people have fought back. It is not acceptable—it really is not—for people to throw their hands up and say, 'Oh, I’m depressed. Oh, I’m giving up.' It’s not about you. It’s about the future of this planet. It’s about your kids and your g…

Yiwu: The Chinese city where it's Christmas every day

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[A look into the world of plastic Christmas trees and metallic tinsel in China, where 60 percent of decorations are made. "Are there no workhouses?" Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol *RON*]

Dave Tacon, Al Jazeera, 19 Dec 2016
Yiwu, China - China is expected to have the world's largest Christian community in the world within two decades, although Christmas remains a minor festival in the secular country. However, when it comes to commerce, the country's economy thrives on the holiday seasons.

Around 60 percent of the world's Christmas decorations come from factories surrounding Yiwu, in Zhejiang Province, a little more than an hour from Shanghai on the country's high-speed rail.

Trump du Jour

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Almost all the US jobs created since 2005 are temporary

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[One cause of the great and growing divide is the crapification of labour. *RON*]
Dan Kopf, Quartz, 5 December 2016 The conventional full-time job is disappearing.

Survey research conducted by economists Lawrence Katz of Harvard University and Alan Krueger at Princeton University shows that from 2005 to 2015, the proportion of Americans workers engaged in what they refer to as “alternative work” jumped from 10.7% to 15.8%. Alternative work is characterized by being temporary or unsteady—such as work as an independent contractor or through a temporary help agency.

Uber's robot cars move in, and the homeless must move along

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[Security guards working at Uber's San Francisco facility for self-driving cars dismantle a nearby tent city, according to homeless people who were displaced. The divide is widening in one of the wealthiest communities in the US. "I've started feeling like I'm not a human being any more." *RON*]

Dara Kerr, CNET, 22 December 2016

Jason Pitter has been homeless for months.

Until last week he had a tent, several blankets, as well as some other personal belongings. But after being pushed out of a tent city in a San Francisco industrial neighborhood, Pitter has moved repeatedly, getting into scrapes and losing almost all of his possessions.

Israel settlements: Netanyahu orders UN ties review

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[Bibi don't like Barack. Trump tried unsuccessfully to step in. See also: Israeli PM summons US ambassador amid UN vote row, and Netanyahu snubs May over UN settlements vote, Israeli media says. *RON*]

BBC News, 24 December 2016
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said Israel will re-assess its ties with the United Nations.

The move comes after the Security Council adopted a resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlement building on occupied land.

The resolution was passed after the US refused to veto it, breaking with long-standing American practice.

Washington has traditionally sheltered Israel from condemnatory resolutions.

Blame and bitterness keeping peace at bay

Democracy Is Dying as Technocrats Watch

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[Party apparatchiks can't understand what went wrong. Assaults on democracy are working because the current political elites have no idea how to defend it. See also: How Stable Are Democracies? ‘Warning Signs Are Flashing Red’. *RON*]
William Easterly, Foreign Policy, 23 December 2016

On Nov. 29, three weeks after Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S. presidential election, the following chart, showing a precipitous decline in support for democracy around the world, went viral after appearing in the New York Times:
"Across numerous countries…the percentage of people who say it is 'essential' to live in a democracy has plummeted…" https://t.co/YgrRkOBxBs — Martin Stabe (@martinstabe) November 30, 2016 Plenty of public argument ensued about the validity of the underlying data. But there was hardly any comprehension among experts about why moral support for democracy might be eroding — in part, because there’s good reason to think…

Today's Trumpery

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New study finds North Carolina is no longer a democracy

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[The 2016 election was so fraught, the state ranks alongside countries like Cuba, Indonesia, and Iran. See also: North Carolina legislature attempting virtual coup of new Democratic governor. *RON*]

Adam Peck, ThinkProgress, 23 December 2016

Here’s a quick recap of some news from North Carolina: Republican legislators reneged on a deal to repeal HB2, a deeply unpopular and discriminatory bill targeting the state’s LGBTQ residents. Outgoing Governor Pat McCrory finally conceded the election after he unsuccessfully tried to disenfranchise minority voters. Republicans, dismayed by the results of the election, staged a virtual coup, stripping incoming Democratic governor Roy Cooper of some of his authority.

DOJ Bestows 'Early Christmas Present' to Financial Giant Deutsche Bank

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['Some folks are going to prison, right? Oh wait, that's just in the movies.'  The way your world is structured pre-determines its winners and losers. This has little to do with free markets or democracy. *RON*]

Deirdre FultonCommon Dreams, 23 December 2016

German lender Deutsche Bank "got off easy" on Friday, having reached a $7.2 billion settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) over sales of mortgage-backed securities that fueled the financial crisis.

Of the $7.2 billion, just $3.1 billion is a cash penalty—the remaining $4.1 billion, economist Yves Smith explained at Naked Capitalism, is "promised 'consumer relief' as in 'stuff maybe we'll do in the future.'" Regardless, the amount is far less than the $14 billion originally requested by DOJ investigators.

This Week in History, 1921: Mass arrests at Kwakwaka'wakw potlatch took place Christmas Day

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[Back in the good old days of ethnic cleansing when practicing your traditions landed you in jail for six months. *RON*]
Kevin Griffin, Vancouver Sun, 23 December 2016
In the 1920s, chiefs in B.C. such as Dan Cranmer virtually ignored the federal law banning potlatches. Since 1884, anyone caught taking part in a potlatch could be charged under the Criminal Code and sentenced to up to six months in jail. Based on previous judicial decisions, Cranmer and others felt that the wording was so vague that it wouldn’t hold up in court.

Unpacking Kinder Morgan's employment promises

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[Four dozen jobs and a small increase in GDP offset by known environmental damages and spill risks with potentially catastrophic costs. *RON*]
Marc Lee, rabble.ca, 24 December 2016


After the federal approval of Kinder Morgan's controversial Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion (TMX), Alberta Premier Rachel Notley came to B.C. to sell the pipeline's economic benefits. She claims B.C. will get a $1 billion per year boost in GDP as a result of the pipeline, as well as thousands of jobs in both construction and operations once the pipeline is built.


Merry Catsmas and Happy Hanukat! :-)

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[Season's greetings, one and all! *RON*]

New Ebola Vaccine Gives 100 Percent Protection

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[Great news! Let's hope that it will be affordable enough that Africans will be able to apply it on a widespread basis. "Ultimately, only the huge, explosive 2014 outbreak that took 11,000 lives in Africa and spread overseas, reaching a handful of people in Europe and the United States, provided the political and economic drive to make an effective vaccine." *RON*]

By Donald G. McNeil Jr., New York Times, 22 December 2016

In a scientific triumph that will change the way the world fights a terrifying killer, an experimental Ebola vaccine tested on humans in the waning days of the West African epidemic has been shown to provide 100 percent protection against the lethal disease.

The vaccine has not yet been approved by any regulatory authority, but it is considered so effective that an emergency stockpile of 300,000 doses has already been created for use should an outbreak flare up again.

World’s largest hedge fund to replace managers with artificial intelligence

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[The banksters eating their own young. I wonder how to Gucci shoe will feel on the other foot! Bridgewater Associates has a team of engineers working on a project to automate decision-making to save time and eliminate human emotional volatility. *RON*]
Olivia Solon, The Guardian, 22 December 2016
The world’s largest hedge fund is building a piece of software to automate the day-to-day management of the firm, including hiring, firing and other strategic decision-making.

North Pole Temperatures May Soar to 50 Degrees Above Normal

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[Freakishly warm pole weather is likely to peak on Christmas Eve. *RON*]

Brian KahnClimate Central / Scientific American, 21 December 2016

For the second year in a row, the Arctic is facing a late December heat wave (at least by Arctic winter standards). Temperatures are forecast to soar about 50°F above normal, which would bring them near the freezing point at the North Pole.

As isolated data points, the back-to-back winter warm-ups would be weird. But taken in the larger context, it’s part of an unsettling trend for a region that is being rapidly reshaped by climate change.

Abandoned Texas oil wells seen as "ticking time bombs" of contamination

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[Corporatocracy means privatized gains, socialized losses. Texas is among several states grappling with a surge of abandoned drilling sites and dwindling funds to clean them up. *RON*]

Jim Malewitz, Texas Tribune, 21 December 2016

IMPERIAL — Peculiar things can happen after folks drill deep into the earth — looking for oil, water or whatever — and leave a bunch of holes in the ground. Fluids can gurgle and leak, migrating where they don’t belong. In rare instances, land could even sink or collapse.

Mediterranean Sea: 100 people reported dead yesterday, bringing year total to 5,000

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[This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler at yesterday's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. *RON*]

UN High Commissio for Refugees, 23 December 2016
Around 100 people are feared to have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea yesterday. The Italian coastguard carried out four rescue operations in the Central Mediterranean Sea. These latest tragedies bring the number of casualties in the Mediterranean this year to over 5,000. This is the worst annual death toll ever seen.

Today's Trumpery

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This Melting Glacier in Antarctica Could Raise Sea Levels By 11 Feet

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[See also: Collapse of West Antarctic Ice Sheet Reveals Inadequacy of Current Climate Strategies. *RON*]

Grennan Millkend, Motherboard Vice, 17 December 2016
The Earth’s climate, it seems, isn’t listening to the politicians that are insisting it’s not warming. The temperature continues to rise incrementally, and the globe’s large glaciers—giant vaults of stored water—continue to melt, releasing into the oceans. The global sea level, due to thermal expansion and glacial melting, continues to rise, building up a head of steam like a train just beginning its descent down a steep hill.

UN pushes for murder probe into Rodrigo Duterte

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[Incredible. President Duterte admitted last week to "personally" killing three men as mayor of Davao City during a gunfight in the 1980s. If you'd like to see the full half-hour Al Jazeera documentary on this mad man, click here: 101 East - Rodrigo Duterte: A President's Report Card. *RON*]
Source: News agencies, Al Jazeera, 20 December 2016

The UN's human rights chief has urged Philippine authorities to investigate President Rodrigo Duterte's claims that he killed three people while mayor of Davao City, as well as the growing carnage in his war on drugs.

FERC Suggests Spectra Energy Gas Facility Would Not Pose Cancer Risk, Based on Study by Spectra Consultant

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[Regulatory capture defined: When assessment of the public risk created by the private sector is contracted out to the private sector. Pre-Trump, and the foxes are already in charge of the hen-house. *RON*]

By Itai Vardi, DeSmog Blog, 20 December 2016
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) concluded in an environmental assessment that a proposed Spectra Energy gas compressor station in a residential Massachusetts neighborhood would not increase the risk of cancer in nearby residents.

However, it came to this conclusion via a questionable route — by citing a study done by a firm simultaneously working for Spectra.