Showing posts from February 22, 2016

Venezuela's decline fuelled by plunging oil prices

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[The fate of a nation with all its economic eggs in the petrochemical basket should serve as an excellent cautionary tale for Canada. *RON*]
By Wyre Davies, BBC World News, 20 February 2016

Venezuela is a country of superlatives. Many of them, alas, are not particularly desirable: the world's largest proven oil reserves; the world's highest rate of inflation; the world's worst performing economy etc.

The South American country now has another "title" to add to that list: that of the world's most murderous nation.

A recent report by the Venezuelan Observatory on Violence (OVV) calculated that the 2015 murder rate was a shocking 90 per 100,000 residents, a figure considerably higher than other "hotspots" for violence like Colombia and Mexico, and 20 times the homicide rate in the United States.

"The cause of the violence in Venezuela is the breakdown in the social pact," says Professor Roberto Briceno Leo…

Silicon Valley Tech Worker Fired After Blogging About Starving While Working at Billion-Dollar Food Delivery Firm

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[The corporatocracy rampant. Her letter is a summary of the economic misery many millennials have found themselves in after leaving college. Welcome to the class wars and the further crapification of labour. *RON*]
By Bethania Palma MarkusRaw Story / AlterNet, 21 February 2016

A fired employee from the Silicon Valley tech firm Yelp! has raised anger over the $1.38 billion company’s labor practices after writing a blog that pointed out that the profitable company’s employees are struggling to survive.

The employee, known as Talia Jane online, posted on her Medium blog that many employees can’t make basic living expenses, in an open letter to the company’s CEO Jeremy Stoppelman, according to Business Insider. After publishing the letter, Talia Jane was fired from her post as customer service agent.

Her letter is a summary of the economic misery many millennials have found themselves in after leaving college.

“So here I am, 25-years old, balancing all…

America Is In A Proxy War With Itself In Syria

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[Confusion in the Obama administration’s Syria policy is playing out on the ground as U.S.-backed groups continue to battle against one other. "The Americans must stop [the YPG] — they must tell them you are attacking groups that we support just like we support you. But they are just watching. I don’t understand U.S. politics." *RON*]
Mike Giglio, Buzz Feed, 20 February 2016
ISTANBUL — American proxies are now at war with each other in Syria.

Officials with Syrian rebel battalions that receive covert backing from one arm of the U.S. government told BuzzFeed News that they recently began fighting rival rebels supported by another arm of the U.S. government.

The infighting between American proxies is the latest setback for the Obama administration’s Syria policy and lays bare its contradictions as violence in the country gets worse.

The confusion is playing out on the battlefield — with the U.S. effectively engaged in a proxy war with itself…

Germany migrant shelter fire 'cheered by onlookers'

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[The political extremes keep getting more extreme. *RON*]

BBC World News, 21 February 2016

A fire which broke out at a building planned to house migrants in eastern Germany was greeted with cheers from some onlookers, police say.

The fire in the town of Bautzen in the early hours of Sunday morning destroyed the roof of a former hotel, which was being converted into a migrant shelter.

Police said some of the crowd tried to prevent firefighters from extinguishing the blaze, which destroyed the roof.

The premier of Saxony, Stanislaw Tillich, described them as "criminals".

Police suspect arson. The investigation includes detectives who normally deal with extremist crimes. No-one was hurt.
'Unashamed delight'

Only a few days ago, protesters in another Saxon town, Clausnitz, blocked the arrival of a bus taking migrants to accommodation.

Oilprice: Utilities get aggressive against solar industry

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[Read this along with yesterday's story on how The Kochs Are Plotting A Multimillion-Dollar Assault On Electric Vehicles. *RON*]
Nick Cunningham,, 20 February 2016

Now that solar power is reaching prime time, the fossil fuel industry is doing all that it can to stop its growth.

For many years solar was on the periphery, installed by early adopters and helped along by government subsidy. But over the last several years, solar has emphatically become mainstream. It is still growing from a low base, but it is now one of the most preferred sources of new electricity generation. The cost of residential solar have been cut in half since 2010, and utility-scale solar has achieved even greater cost declines.

In 2015, the U.S. saw 16 gigawatts of new renewable energy capacity installed, which accounted for two-thirds of the total. Solar alone accounted for about one-third of new capacity last year. Natural gas only captured 25 percent of th…

Preparing for the Collapse of the Saudi Kingdom

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["Saudi Arabia is no state at all. There are two ways to describe it: as a political enterprise with a clever but ultimately unsustainable business model, or as an entity so corrupt as to resemble a vertically and horizontally integrated criminal organization. Either way, it can’t last. It’s past time U.S. decision-makers began planning for the collapse of the Saudi kingdom." An extreme view? Is this what Hasni Mubarik thought before he found himself in jail? And what happens to support for the royals as the petrodollar disappears and shrinks? *RON*]

Sarah Chayes and Alex de Waal, The Atlantic, 18 February 2016

For half a century, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been the linchpin of U.S. Mideast policy. A guaranteed supply of oil has bought a guaranteed supply of security. Ignoring autocratic practices and the export of Wahhabi extremism, Washington stubbornly dubs its ally “moderate.” So tight is the trust that U.S. special operators d…

B.C. budget splashes money around for all, except those who need it most

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[We rightly flinch at what we see in US politics. Yet here, with a smile and a handshake and a photo-op... *RON*]

Gary Mason, The Globe and Mail, 18 February 2016
Here is a sad, sour fact about politics: If you’re poor, vulnerable, disadvantaged, scraping by to feed and house your family, governments don’t really care about you. They all say they do but they don’t.
Just look at the B.C. government’s $47.5-billion budget tabled this week. If you were someone living on the margins of society, it was enough to make you weep. There was lots of money, for instance, for those wanting to purchase a house – tax breaks of up to $13,000 – but little for those for whom the idea of ever owning a home will remain a dream.
B.C. budget aims to cool roaring real estate market (The Globe and Mail)

The government could find $100-million to put in some phony prosperity fund, a pre-election gimmick of the first rank, and yet could find only enough money to give those o…

Italy presents anti-austerity roadmap

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[And see also: Portugal's Post-Bailout Spending Plan Earns Cheers and Jeers, and also Irish protest austerity before vote that may bring instability, and also OECD calls for less austerity and more public investment. *RON*]

By Eric Maurice, EuroObserver, 22 February 2016 

Engaged in a policy struggle with the European Commission, Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi is calling for more flexible fiscal rules, growth policies, a eurozone budget and cost sharing of the migrant crisis.

The demands, which Rome says are "a far-reaching policy agenda and concrete proposals", are included in a nine-page document published on Monday (22 February) by the Italian ministry of economy and finances ahead of a visit to Rome by commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

"Fiscal rules should prove their adequacy to cope with a challenging economic environment," says the document, entitled A Shared European Policy Strategy for Growth, Jobs, a…