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November 23, 2014

Decision day in Ferguson will be Monday at the earliest

Filed under: Uncategorized, canada — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 5:08 am

FERGUSON, MO.—The top-secret grand jury probing into the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black teen, already unusual by Missouri standards, has thrown a wrench into expectations of a weekend ruling, pushing any announcement to Monday at the earliest.

The added delay only deepened frustrations in the predominantly African-American St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, where protesters demanding justice for Michael Brown amid an intensifying security buildup vowed to stay the course.

Officials with the St. Louis County Prosecutors office have refused comment since Friday, when they signalled an announcement was imminent. But on Saturday, a St. Louis downtown business association circulated an email telling its membership that the grand jury had not yet reached a decision and would reconvene Monday to continue deliberations. Multiple major U.S. news agencies later confirmed the news, or lack thereof, citing unnamed officials.

The 12-member panel weighing the fate of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson has spent more than three months on what typically takes little more than a day. And with no recommendation from prosecutor Bob McCulloch, they have been left to sift through the full heft of evidence to determine whether or not Wilson will be indicted on charges ranging from involuntary manslaughter to second-degree murder.

Though grand jury testimony is seldom made public, McCulloch has pledged to win court approval to release full transcripts of the proceedings after a decision is announced.

The latest twist met with groans of frustrations in Ferguson, where the dozens of stores along the main shopping thoroughfare of West Florrisant Ave. are wrapped in plywood, braced for the worst.

“It’s sickening. This is tearing up my family,” said Marvin Skull, 55, an electrician who has visited the protest site opposite Ferguson Police Headquarters “nearly every day” since the Aug. 9 shooting.

“We’re living under a governor’s declared State of Emergency, we’re facing school closures, and we’ve got enough extra law enforcement here to make us all feel like enemies in our own country. And all over a process that should have been decided months ago.”

Michael Brown Sr., who has publicly pleaded for calm regardless of what the grand jury decides, spent Saturday as a volunteer, helping distribute Thanksgiving turkeys on the street where his son died.

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November 21, 2014

Linden MacIntyre on community, vengeance and punishment

Filed under: canada, management — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 6:00 pm

Linden MacIntyre is not going quietly into retirement.

He was in the headlines this week over comments comparing CBC news anchor Peter Mansbridge with former colleague Jian Ghomeshi. His last piece for the CBC’s fifth estate aired on Friday and his fourth novel, Punishment, has just published.

Both deal with justice, and with how communities band together to reinforce shared values and shared mythologies. In the case of the fifth estate piece: how an innocent man spent three years behind bars after police pressured witnesses to change their stories. In Punishment, a community holds tight to old assumptions about a former convict in a bid to make their town seem a safer place.

At 71 years old, and with a journalism career that spans 50 years — including 38 at the CBC, the past 24 co-hosting the investigative magazine show — old habits appear to be dying hard for MacIntyre. He’s reminiscing in his publisher’s office about his most memorable investigations

“The Trouble with Evan,” he recounts with some passion, “was a monumental piece of television.” The award-winning investigation, which ran as a special two-hour segment of thefifth estate on the CBC in 1994, focused on the psychological abuse heaped on a boy by his parents, who found him “difficult.”

“We had thousands of reactions to it,” says MacIntyre, including one 27-year-old inmate who wrote and said “somebody has got to help that kid or he is going to end up like me.”

That inmate became part of the inspiration for Punishment. The narrative centres on two men: a former inmate, Dwayne Strickland, and prison guard Tony Breau. The two have much in common. Both were adopted into families in a small Nova Scotia town, St. Ninian. Both ended up in prison, albeit on different sides of the bars.

And both returned to the small town of their youth, each in their own ways becoming part of the “mythology” of the community. As MacIntyre points out, the ties and values that bind a community are often based on myth. Things such as: a small town is safe, you never quite know how adopted kids are going to end up, once a criminal always a criminal.

To make his point, MacIntyre refers back to another real-life story, that of murdered schoolgirl Christine Jessop: “That family moved from Toronto to Queensville, Ontario, because of the mythology that places like Queensville are safer than Toronto. Which is horse manure. Wherever there are people there is danger. Wherever there are people there is comfort and safety. But there is no place that’s safer than another place unless there is nobody else living there.”

It’s a rather bleak view of the human state.

MacIntyre himself grew up in a small, isolated town “where there were very few people my own age,” he says. To keep himself amused “I read a lot of fiction . . . at an early age I developed a fascination with the business of writing. I always thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be remarkable to be one of those people who could write a book?’ . . . You create people, you create worlds, you create reality around you. And it never crossed my mind that I could be one of those people because those people came from bigger, more sophisticated places.”

He’s created just that in Punishment, although his characters come back to the simple small town from bigger, more sophisticated places. They’ve already had the big experiences and they’re coming back home, back to where it’s safe.

This allows MacIntrye to explore what safety means and to look at ideas of why we, as individuals and as a society, seek justice, vengeance, punishment, scapegoating.

That need is explored in Punishment when the ex-con Strickland moves back to the community. So does Breau, who takes early retirement from his prison job, and Neil Archie MacDonald, who retires in disgrace from his own police career in Boston. Caddy Stewart, whose granddaughter is found dead at Strickland’s house, provides a catalyst for these issues to collide within the narrative free online credit report.

MacIntyre hearkens back to his childhood again, to a man with parallels to Strickland. His name was Johnny Macfarlane and he was “permanently presumed to be guilty.” His family was big and the children “right out of Dickens” with runny noses, rotten teeth and grinding poverty.

Johnny served a lot of “useful functions,” says MacIntyre, a touch sardonically. “He excused us from looking at ourselves. He excused us from looking at the health of the community . . . if you were hostile to Johnny you could be hostile to his whole pathetic family, and so there was never any sense of what could we do to improve that family and maybe make the place a little safer.”

MacIntyre is a masterful storyteller, in person telling about how his own father spoke Gaelic until he was 9 years old while his grandparents never learned to speak much English. “The interesting thing was my father was about a fourth generation Canadian, but they lived in such isolation that they never really had to use English.” His father worked as a hard rock miner, something MacIntyre himself worked at during the summers, earning money to pay for university.

That talent for storytelling has served MacIntyre well.

He’s won 10 Gemini Awards for his work as well as the 2010 Giller Prize for Canadian fiction for his novel The Bishop’s Man. That book was part of a trilogy that began with 1999’s The Long Stretch and included 2012’s Why Men Lie. He’s also written an award-winning memoir, Causeway: A Passage from Innocence about the building of a causeway between Cape Breton, where he grew up, and mainland Nova Scotia in the 1950s.

It’s a long way in some ways from the setting of Punishment, taking place as it does with the backdrop of Sept. 11 and the hunt for Saddam Hussein and his alleged weapons of mass destruction. But in a way it makes perfect sense. The small community becomes a microcosm of the bigger world, provides a contained place, a structure in which to explore how we treat each other.

And to understand how communities deal with disaster; why it is that, when something bad happens “there’s an instant need for understanding and an explanation of why it happened. But also, and overwhelmingly, reassurance that nobody in the family is to blame. Nobody in the community is to blame.”

A real-life example comes up as an attempt at explanation, MacIntrye referring back to another of his experiences, this time when he was covering the conflict in the Middle East.

“I remember talking to these brilliant young Israeli soldiers, very Europeanized, educated, doing their time in the army,” he says. They had been at an “awful massacre,” which MacIntrye says they could have stopped, could have prevented. “Instead they enabled it. I said, ‘How do you justify that? In there, there’s nothing but dead children and old people and you guys stood by and let it happen.’ And this guy . . . a guy you could probably sit down and talk literature or music or whatever with, a very sophisticated person, says, ‘They’re all terrorists. They’re all terrorists.’ You kill a kid, you are killing tomorrow’s terrorist. You kill a woman, you kill the incubator for tomorrow’s terrorist.”

It’s a messy business, life. And perhaps the best we can do is understand. After 50 or so years of journalism, of covering conflict, of seeing people at their worst, MacIntyre has this to say:

“People do bad things for very complicated reasons and it’s incumbent on us to find out what those reasons are so that we can then begin to correct the causes that produced the problem.

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November 20, 2014

Minivans do poorly in new crash tests

Filed under: business, marketing — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 3:04 am

DETROIT (AP) — The Honda Odyssey was the only minivan to earn the highest safety rating in new crash tests by the insurance industry.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says the Nissan Quest, Chrysler Town and Country, and Dodge Caravan all garnered the lowest rating on the small overlap front crash test. In each of those tests, the crash caused the minivan’s structure to collapse.

The small overlap test is a severe test that replicates what happens when a vehicle’s front corner collides with another object at 40 miles per hour.

The Toyota Sienna earned an “acceptable” rating. The group said its structure was weak but the dummy was protected by its side air bags.

IIHS plans to test one other minivan — the Kia Sedona — in the coming weeks.

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November 18, 2014

TransCanada pressuring opponents of Energy East pipeline, documents show

Filed under: business, economics — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 8:20 am

TransCanada Corp. plans to browbeat detractors of its ambitious Energy East pipeline with intense pressure so that they are distracted and forced to redirect their resources, according to documents obtained and released by Greenpeace on Tuesday.

These documents — dozens of pages — also describe the company’s public relations strategy, which includes detailed background research into environmental agencies that are opposing the pipeline and hiring “third parties” who will be able to do things when TransCanada cannot.

The documents also mention a meticulous “grassroots advocacy” campaign — TransCanada has already launched one.

Environmental agencies such as the David Suzuki Foundation, Equiterre, Avaaz, Ecology Ottawa and the Council for Canadians are specifically named in these documents.

TransCanada filed its Energy East application with the National Energy Board two weeks ago. These documents were prepared by Edelman, the world’s largest public relations firm, between May and August.

But Shawn Howard, a spokesperson for TransCanada, said the documents provided by Greenpeace contain recommendations and not all have been implemented.

The company has focused on ensuring that communities, landowners, First Nations and all Canadians “have the facts to make an informed decision about Energy East. Part of that includes ensuring that we understand what organized opponents are saying about our project.”

On its advocacy program, Howard said over 2,500 people joined it in two weeks and “nearly 100 have shared their personal stories … We’ve been open and transparent about all of these programs since they launched and will continue to do so.”

TransCanada is clearly worried about the growing opposition to the Energy East pipeline, said Stewart, the climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace Canada. “These documents show that TransCanada is planning a secret dirty tricks campaign, using third parties to attack and smear their critics.”

TransCanada’s plan to hire “third parties” smacks of smear campaigns, he said. “That is what we are reading it as. That is what the experience has been in the U.S. … people who run smear campaigns are co-ordinated (by a company) but can disavow them if caught.”

Energy East, longer and larger than Keystone XL, has already seen opposition in parts of Quebec, including in Cacouna, a port town pegged as one of two export terminal sites for the pipeline project personal loan for poor credit.

In Ontario, the city of North Bay has been most vocal in its opposition.

TransCanada wants to convert its 40-year-old natural gas pipeline from Saskatchewan to Ontario to carry crude oil and to connect it with a new pipeline it plans to construct through Quebec and on to export terminals and refineries in New Brunswick. The 4,600-kilometre pipeline would run through six provinces and four time zones, carrying up to 1.1 million barrels of crude oil every day. Tankers would carry the oil to Europe, India, China and the U.S.

The project will include construction of oil terminals in Saskatchewan, Quebec and New Brunswick.

TransCanada is still waiting for a final decision on Keystone XL, its better-known pipeline project, but Energy East is just as important to the company.

The company “is bringing in tea party tactics, the advertising has been crazy and yet opposition is growing,” said Andrea Harden-Donahue of Council of Canadians.

On being specifically named in the internal documents, she said everything about the Council of Canadians is on the website. “We could save them millions of dollars … we have nothing to hide.”

Quebec, expected to pose the most serious challenge to the pipeline, figures prominently in the leaked documents. A 46-page document titled “Strategic Plan: Quebec” highlights specific communities, organizations and community leaders that TransCanada says pose challenges for the pipeline project.

It also includes a “tactics to pressure” component.

One paragraph says: “In order to add layers of difficulty for opponents, we will work with third parties and arm them with information they need to pressure opponents and distract them from their mission.”

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November 16, 2014

Australia-China Trade Deal to Drive Exports Beyond Mining - Bloomberg

Filed under: mortgage, technology — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 6:40 pm

Australia will reach a free trade deal with China today, cementing ties with its biggest economic partner and reducing the nation

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November 15, 2014

Activists

Filed under: legal, term — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 3:44 am

Labor and community organizers meeting with Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen challenged officials who are ready to raise interest rates to first come visit the poorest neighborhoods with them before saying that the economy has recovered.

Kati Sipp, one of about two dozen activists meeting Yellen, said at a press conference yesterday in front of the central bank in Washington that she would show Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser

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November 13, 2014

Senate committee to hold Takata air bag hearing

Filed under: management, money — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 4:36 pm

DETROIT (AP) — A Senate committee will hold a hearing next week on recalls of potentially deadly air bags made by Japanese parts supplier Takata Corp.

The Commerce Committee hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday. The committee says in a notice that it will examine Takata’s air bag recalls as well as the government’s recall process.

Ten automakers have recalled nearly 8 million vehicles in the past year to replace Takata air bag inflators faxless payday loans. The company’s air bags can explode with too much force, shattering a metal canister and sending shrapnel into the passenger compartment.

The problem has been blamed for at least five deaths.

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November 11, 2014

Yuan Strength Seen as Message to Obama as Talks Loom: Currencies - Bloomberg

Filed under: legal, term — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 9:52 pm

China is using the yuan to make the case that it

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November 10, 2014

Central bankers seek rule to raise capital cushion

Filed under: Uncategorized, economics — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 9:28 am

GENEVA (AP) — Thirty of the world’s biggest banks would be required to hold vastly greater capital as a cushion for losses under new rules proposed Monday by a panel of central bankers, regulators and officials.

The new rules put forward by the Basel, Switzerland-based Financial Stability Board were crafted in response to a call from leaders at the Group of 20 summit in Russia in 2013; they would not take effect until 2019 at the earliest. They are meant to prevent a repeat of the 2008 global financial crisis by creating a common international standard for the “total loss-absorbing capacity” of global systemic banks.

The FSB is based at the Bank for International Settlements, a central bank for central banks, and its new rules would apply to the list of 30 “global systemically important banks” that BIS considers too big to fail fast cash now.

The proposal calls on big banks to hold 16 to 20 percent of their risk-weighted assets in equity and cancelable debt and “at least twice” the current leverage ratio under the so-called Basel 3 requirement.

That does not include equity for other buffers that some of the banks must hold, which could result in large lenders holding what the proposal calls “combined capital buffers” of about 21 to 25 percent of the risk-weighted assets.

The next step, the FSB said, is for more study and public input before submitting final rules to G-20 leaders next year.

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November 8, 2014

U.S. airstrike destroys convoy carrying Islamic State leaders

Filed under: loans, term — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 7:56 pm

BAGHDAD—The U.S. has conducted a series of airstrikes targeting Islamic State leaders near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, U.S. military officials said Saturday.

The airstrikes on Friday night destroyed a convoy of 10 armed trucks believed to be carrying some Islamic State (IS) leaders, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe military operations.

The officials could not confirm whether the top Islamic State leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was among those targeted. Al-Baghdadi has declared himself the caliph, or supreme leader, of the vast areas of territory in Iraq and Syria under IS control.

Despite the airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition, Sunni militants have continued to carrying out deadly bombings targeting Iraqi security forces and civilians. A suicide truck bomber struck the convoy of a top Iraqi police officer killing eight people, including the ranking official, authorities said Saturday, in an attack that bore the hallmarks of militants from the Islamic State group.

The late Friday attack happened when the suicide attacker drove his bomb-laden truck into the convoy of police Lt.-Gen. Faisal Malik al-Zamel, who was inspecting forces in the town of Beiji north of Baghdad, police said. The blast killed al-Zamel and seven other police officers, while wounding 15 people, hospital officials and police officers said.

Meanwhile on Saturday, a series of bombings in and around the capital Baghdad killed at least 43 people, with the deadliest blast hitting the city’s sprawling Shiite district of Sadr City, where a car bomb tore through a commercial area, killing 11 people and wounding 21.

There has been an uptick in the number of bombings blamed on Sunni militants in the capital and mostly targeting Shiites, feeding sectarian tensions in the city, as the security forces of the Shiite-led government battle the Sunni militants of the Islamic State group to the west and north of the capital. More recently, the attacks targeted Shiite pilgrims marking Ashoura, the highlight of the sect’s religious calendar.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack in Beiji, 250 kilometres north of Baghdad, but suicide bombings have been the signature style of Sunni militants for more than a decade in Iraq.

Shiite Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, recognizing al-Zamel’s standing, led mourners at al-Zamel’s funeral on Saturday and a top army officer, Gen. Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi, vowed to avenge his death.

“Beiji will be the graveyard of Daesh (the Arabic acronym for the IS group),” said a clearly moved al-Saadi on state television payday loan lenders.

Al-Saadi and al-Zamel have been leading the ongoing battle to rid Beiji, which is located in Salahuddin, of IS fighters who swept into the city last summer. “We have cleansed many of Beiji’s neighbourhoods and we will shortly announce its complete liberation,” said al-Saadi.

A U.S.-led coalition has been launching airstrikes on Islamic State militants and facilities in Iraq and Syria for months, as part of an effort to give Iraqi forces the time and space to mount a more effective offensive. The IS had gained ground across northern and western Iraq in a lightning advance in June and July, causing several of Iraq’s army and police divisions to fall into disarray.

On Friday, U.S. President Barack Obama authorized the deployment of up to 1,500 more American troops to bolster Iraqi forces, including into Anbar province, where fighting with IS militants has been fierce. The plan could boost the total number of American troops in Iraq to 3,100. There now are about 1,400 U.S. troops in Iraq, out of the 1,600 previously authorized.

“What is needed from the U.S. is that it should work to bring the Iraqi people together,” said Hamid al-Mutlaq, a Sunni Iraqi lawmaker. “America, and others, should not become an obstacle that hinder the Iraqis’ ambitions for a free Iraqi decision that serves the interests of Iraq”

Besides the Sadr City bombing, at least nine people were killed and another 18 wounded when a car bomb tore through the commercial neighbourhood of Al-Amin in southeastern Baghdad. Two car bombs also killed eight people and wounded 16 on a commercial street in Baghdad’s southwestern Amil neighbourhood, police officials said.

A car bomb also detonated on a commercial street in Baghdad’s busy central al-Karadah district, killing seven people and wounding at least 21, officials said. In Yousifiya, a town just south of the capital, two people were killed and four wounded in a bombing near a fruit and vegetable market. Another car bomb struck Zafaraniya in southeastern Baghdad, killing six and wounding 13, officials said.

Hospital officials confirmed the casualties. All police and hospital officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to journalists.

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