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September 1, 2014

Markets drift as Wall Street has day off

Filed under: Uncategorized, legal — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 2:04 pm

LONDON (AP) — Ahead of a raft of economic developments this week, financial markets started the week on a lackluster note Monday as Wall Street was closed for the Labor Day holiday.

KEEPING SCORE: In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares closed up 0.1 percent at 6,825.31 while Germany’s DAX rose the same rate to 9,479.03. The CAC-40 in France ended a tad lower at 4,379.73. Earlier in Asia, China’s Shanghai Composite rose 0.8 percent to 2,235.51 points and Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 added 0.3 percent to 15,476.60. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was marginally higher, adding 0.04 percent to 24,752.09.

UKRAINE: In Europe, the crisis in Ukraine remains a key source of interest for traders. On Monday, there were signs that a breakthrough may be in the offing as pro-Russian rebels appeared to soften their demand for full independence, saying they would respect Ukraine’s sovereignty in exchange for autonomy. The insurgents’ platform, released at the start of Monday’s negotiations in Minsk, the Belarusian capital, represented a significant change in their vision for the future of Ukraine’s eastern, mainly Russian-speaking region.

GLOBAL MANUFACTURING: There were some worrying signs however that the global manufacturing sector is waning. Two surveys showed China’s manufacturing growth slowed in August as export demand and investment weakened, raising expectations Beijing might launch more stimulus. HSBC Corp. said its purchasing manufacturers index fell to 50.2 from July’s 18-month high of 51.7 on a 100-point scale on which numbers above 50 show an expansion. An official industry group, the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing, said its separate PMI declined to 51 no fax pay day loan.1 from 51.7. A similar picture emerged for the 18-country eurozone, with the August PMI from financial information company Markit down at a 13-month low of 50.7. On Tuesday, the Institute for Supply Management publishes its estimate for the U.S. economy.

EUROPE: Whether the weak economic indicators coming out of the eurozone will prompt the European Central Bank to enact further stimulus measures at its monthly policy meeting on Thursday remains open to question. Bank chief Mario Draghi called in a speech last month for fiscal policies to support growth, a departure from the ECB’s implicit support for austerity. No immediate steps are expected but the bank has begun work on a program to buy asset-backed securities.

EURO IN RETREAT: The crisis in Ukraine and weak eurozone economic data have combined to hurt the euro currency over the past few months. On Monday, it fell to a near year-low of $1.3119.

U.S. ECONOMY: After Thursday’s ECB meeting, traders will be fully focusing on the U.S. nonfarm payrolls report for August. The release often setts the market tone for a week or two after its release as traders try and work out when the Federal Reserve will start raising interest rates. Investor confidence over the U.S. economy has risen following several months of strong growth in hiring and corporate profits and a series of major corporate acquisitions.

ENERGY MARKETS: U.S. benchmark crude for October was down 25 cents at $95.71 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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August 31, 2014

How to keep your college freshman from going broke

Filed under: finance, term — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 12:28 am

Sending kids off to college is about more than decorating the dorm room.

Parents also need to school their children about budgeting, the risks of using credit cards and other money issues, financial advisers say. Habits they form now can help — or hurt — in the long run.

Often, people in their late 20s and early 30s who are recovering from credit problems can trace them back to their college days, says Ken Chaplin, senior vice president at TransUnion, a credit reporting agency. “The decisions they made they were 18 and 19 impacted them and their ability to obtain credit,” he says.

Students should avoid blunders that could leave scars on their credit reports, he says. That includes paying their bills such as their rent and credit card bills on time. It’s also important to pay their credit card balance in full every month, he adds. Since many of the cards offered to college students come with low credit limits, it can be easy to go over it. Even approaching the limit can hurt your credit score, he says.

Parents talking to their children about money should also research the bank accounts, debit and credit cards being pitched to students to make sure they don’t end up with a bad deal. Some other things to keep in mind when talking about money with your college freshmen:

Budget for food. Rising tuition and living costs can make it hard for students to afford pricey meal plans. Some schools are opening food banks and introducing food vouchers as a way to help students who are skipping meals and working multiple jobs in order to afford groceries.

Find a good bank. At many schools, student IDs are now doubling as prepaid cards that are loaded with financial aid. That convenience can be costly as the cards are often riddled with fees, including a charge on purchases that require a PIN instead of a signature payday advances. What’s more, schools often get millions of dollars in kickbacks for the arrangements. Parents may want to set students up with a separate bank account that may charge fewer fees.

Go over budgeting and fees. Parents should talk to their children to make sure they understand how bank accounts work, personal finance columnist Michelle Singletary says. That means knowing how to balance a checkbook and understanding when overdraft fees may be charged. Other things to go over: budgeting, ways to save money on books and the total cost of college, down to every single fee.

Consider a mobile bank. Tech-savvy freshmen may get help tracking their spending by using mobile-based bank accounts offered by startups such as Moven and Simple that require a smartphone. The startups, which offer basic banking services, such as deposits, bill pay and savings, typically charge fewer fees because they don’t face the same overhead costs as traditional banks. Apps also make it easy for people to set up alerts to know when they’ve exceeded spending limits.

Save on textbooks. The average college student spends $1,200 a year on books and supplies, according to the College Board. Students may save hundreds of dollars a semester by renting textbooks instead of buying them. Chegg, Amazon and Barnes & Noble all rent out college textbooks. At least one startup, Packback, lets people borrow digital copies of textbooks.

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August 29, 2014

Canadians Eugenie Bouchard, Milos Raonic advance at U.S. Open

Filed under: online ads, term — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 5:40 am

NEW YORK—Think of the court in Arthur Ashe Stadium as the tennis equivalent of Broadway: U.S. Open newcomers can bask in the bright lights, or they can get a nasty case of stage fright. And Thursday night was Eugenie Bouchard’s debut.

Well, the reviews are in, and according to the most fearsome critic of all — the scoreboard — Bouchard is definitely a drama queen, in the best of ways. With a 6-2, 6-7 (4), 6-4 win over Romania’s Sorana Cirstea, she earned a place in the tournament’s third round, her best career U.S. Open performance.

“I definitely had to battle,” Bouchard said on court after the match. “I just believed in myself and told myself to keep fighting.”

The expectations are higher than this for Bouchard, this tournament’s seventh seed. She is the only woman to play in the semifinals of every major this season, and became Canada’s first Grand Slam finalist at Wimbledon. So the third round probably isn’t going to cut it.

Bouchard will be joined there by Milos Raonic, another player who has lofty goals. He defeated Peter Gojowczyk, the world’s 124th ranked player, 7-6 (4), 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 (3), in a match that took just over three hours.

It was a win, but like Bouchard’s it wasn’t entirely comfortable.

“The thing is, I wasn’t going for it enough,” Raonic said. “It’s about getting through. It’s about finding a way, and getting through. That’s what I was able to do. I have one day now to get better and I know I’ll play better my next match.”

Things seemed wobbly from the start. Raonic started the match, the very first point, with a double fault. A double fault? If his serve was off, that could be trouble. And then there was his forehand, his backup weapon of choice and a usually reliable tool for dispatching opponents. Except it kept going wide. And occasionally long.

Plus, there was the usual New York drama. What looked like feathers, or maybe little pieces of Kleenex, floated lazily past, as ballboys chased them my credit score. Towels flapped in the wind; the chair umpire regularly chided spectators wandering through both players’ sightlines just as they were about to serve — “move quickly,” she sighed at one point, “wherever you are going.”

Bouchard walked onto her court just as Raonic walked off his. She was scheduled for the second match of the evening on Ashe, which seats nearly 24,000 people. It’s considered a showcase, so Bouchard’s schedule — as inconvenient as it was for, say, newspaper deadlines — was a compliment to her potential and her popularity.

“Usually, you’ve got to win a Slam, be No. 1 in the world, or be an American to get the lead role in a match here,” said ESPN’s Mike Tirico. “The match is not in there tonight because of Cirstea. It’s because of Bouchard.

“So that says a lot about the star power — we think you’re going to be so good, we’re going to put you on the card here because people want to see you.”

At first, it seemed like it might be a speedy event. Bouchard cruised through the first set, taking just 28 minutes to claim the frame. The second act, though, contained far more tension: it lasted an hour and a minute, and Cirstea won the second set in a tiebreak.

The match stretched into a second hour, and the final minutes, of course, were where the real drama unfolded. Cirstea may have come into the match ranked 80th in the world, but just last summer she was within reach of the top 20, and she was a finalist at the Rogers Cup in Toronto (where she ultimately lost 6-2, 6-0 to Serena Williams.)

But Bouchard capitalized on a double fault by the Romanian at 3-3, and actually had a match point at 5-3, but Cirstea came back and forced the final game.

Bouchard acknowledged how close she came to having her name taken off the playbill.

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August 27, 2014

Why the Tim Hortons-Burger King deal boosted the Canadian dollar today

Filed under: Uncategorized, technology — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 7:48 pm

The Canadian dollar was higher Wednesday, benefitting from the major deal struck that will see American fast-food giant Burger King buy Canadian coffee-and-doughnut chain Tim Hortons for $12.5 billion.

The loonie rose 0.41 of a cent to 91.72 cents US.

The cash-and-stock deal will see the parent of the U.S. firm, 3G Capital, own 51 per cent of a new company, which will be the world’s third-largest quick service restaurant company.

The loonie has been pushed higher in the past by big corporate deals. That’s because a foreign buyer acquiring a Canadian company will need Canadian currency to close the deal, boosting demand for the loonie on financial markets.

Our double-doubles better not start tasting like double-singles: editorial

Traders also anticipated a strong economic growth update Friday when Statistics Canada releases the June reading on gross domestic product. Economists expect that GDP grew by 0.2 per cent in June, which would translate into annualized growth of 2.6 per cent.

And next Wednesday, the Bank of Canada releases its next decision on interest rates.

On the commodity markets, October crude in New York was up 22 cents to US$94.08 a barrel.

December copper was down a cent to US$3.21 a pound, while December bullion gained $1.30 to US$1,286.50 an ounce.

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August 26, 2014

US Treasury bill rates unchanged at weekly auction

Filed under: legal, money — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 1:04 am

WASHINGTON (AP) — Interest rates on short-term Treasury bills were unchanged in Monday’s auction with both the three-month and six-month bills going for the same rates as the previous week.

The Treasury Department auctioned $29 billion in three-month bills at a discount rate of 0.030 percent, matching last week’s rate. Another $24 billion in six-month bills was auctioned at a discount rate of 0.050 percent, also unchanged from last week.

The discount rates reflect that the bills sell for less than face value. For a $10,000 bill, the three-month price was $9,999.23 while a six-month bill sold for $9,997.47. That would equal an annualized rate of 0.030 percent for the three-month bills and 0.051 percent for the six-month bills.

Separately, the Federal Reserve said Monday that the average yield for one-year Treasury bills, a popular index for making changes in adjustable rate mortgages, edged up to 0.11 percent last week from 0.10 percent the previous week.

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August 24, 2014

Goldman in deal worth $1.2B over US bond claims

Filed under: loans, news — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 8:52 am

WASHINGTON (AP) — Goldman Sachs has agreed to a settlement worth $1.2 billion to resolve claims that it misled U.S. mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac about risky mortgage securities it sold them before the housing market collapsed in 2007.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie and Freddie, announced the settlement Friday with the Wall Street powerhouse.

New York-based Goldman Sachs sold the securities to the companies between 2005 and 2007.

Under the settlement, Goldman is paying $3.15 billion to buy back the securities from Fannie and Freddie. The FHFA said the settlement was worth $1.2 billion because of the difference between what Goldman is paying and the current value of the securities. That means Goldman effectively is paying a $1.2 billion penalty.

Goldman will pay about $1 billion to Fannie and $2.15 billion to Freddie for the securities it sold.

“We are pleased to have resolved these matters,” said Goldman Sachs Group Inc. general counsel Gregory Palm in a statement.

The settlement is the latest federal government agreement over actions related to the financial crisis that struck in 2008. The crisis, triggered by vast sales of risky mortgage securities, plunged the economy into the deepest recession since the Great Depression.

The securities soured after the housing bubble burst in 2007, losing billions in value.

The government rescued Fannie and Freddie at the height of the crisis in September 2008 when both were on the verge of collapse. The companies received taxpayer aid totaling $187 billion. They have since become profitable and repaid the full bailouts.

The FHFA sued 18 financial institutions in 2011 over their sales of mortgage securities to Fannie and Freddie. The total price for the securities sold was $196 billion.

A number of big banks, including Goldman, JPMorgan, Bank of America and Citigroup, previously have been accused of abuses in sales of securities linked to mortgages in the years leading up to the crisis. Together, they have paid hundreds of millions in penalties to settle civil charges brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which accused them of deceiving investors about the quality of the bonds they sold.

Goldman agreed in 2010 to pay $550 million to settle the SEC’s charges, the largest penalty against a Wall Street firm in the agency’s history.

In recent months, Justice and state regulators have reached multibillion-dollar agreements over mortgage securities with JPMorgan, Citigroup and Bank of America. The most recent was announced Thursday with Bank of America, the second-largest U.S. bank, which is paying a record $16.65 billion — $7 billion of it earmarked for consumer relief.

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August 22, 2014

Obama offers new accommodations on birth control

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

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration will offer a new accommodation to religious nonprofits that object to covering birth control for their employees. The measure allows those groups to notify the government, rather than their insurance company, that birth control violates their religious beliefs.

The government is also extending an existing accommodation to some for-profit corporations like Hobby Lobby that’s currently available only to nonprofits. That accommodation requires groups to sign a form transferring responsibility for paying for birth control to their insurers or third-party administrators.

The dual decisions embrace suggestions included in recent Supreme Court rulings. But they’re unlikely to go far enough to satisfy religious groups. That’s because they would still make the groups complicit in a system that provides birth control through their organizations’ health plans.

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August 21, 2014

To us, Tina Fontaine just another missing native kid: Mallick

Filed under: legal, technology — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 6:52 am

The call for a federal inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous girls and women isn’t the result of nearly 1,200 females crying out from wherever their graves may be. It isn’t history leaking blood, it is a continuing serial tragedy, and pretty little Tina Fontaine, her corpse hauled out of the Red River on the weekend in the bag her killer had stuffed her into, is just the latest instalment.

What makes Tina’s death worse is that at age 15, she was only 5’3” and weighed a feather-light 100 pounds. It was so easy for the killer to murder Tina, bag her up and dump her in the river. Even though her family and the police were looking for her, he calculated that she would be just another missing native kid, fun to torment, easy to slaughter and really easy to dispose of.

He was right. She was only found by chance while police divers searched for the corpse of a man, Faron Hall, also native, who had been seen struggling in the water. Hall’s body was also brought in. Behind the big blue tarps screening Tina’s corpse from view, Winnipeg’s Canadian Museum for Human Rights gleamed in the distance.

Tina’s story is harrowing, starting with the ID photos sent out as she went repeatedly missing after her life turned bad. There she is smiling with a cool ‘do, short on one side and long on the other, with big hoop earrings that must have made her very proud. On her slender neck just north of her throat, there is a worrying bruise or abrasion.

After Tina’s father got cancer when she was 4, her grandmother took her in, CTV reported. “She was a happy baby. She was a happy girl,” Thelma Fontaine said. But after her father was beaten to death in 2011, Tina fell apart. She was put into foster care in Powerview, Man., and then in Winnipeg, the latter a poor choice because she was both attracted to city life and unable to cope with it. Police say she may have been working the streets, and in the past year, she had run away three times. In one November 2013 notice of her disappearance, the RCMP in Powerview said she “is noted to have a history of attending Winnipeg.” That time she was found two days later but you can’t make a miserable, desperate teenager stay when she wants to flee.

“She had barely been in the city for a little over a month and she’s definitely been exploited, taken advantage of, murdered and put into the river in this condition,” Winnipeg homicide unit officer Sgt. John O’Donovan told reporters. And then he said what police are generally too brisk to say: “She’s a child. Society would be horrified if we found a litter of kittens or pups in the river in this condition. This is a child. Society should be horrified.”

O’Donovan has nailed us. We do treat aboriginal people like animals. Think of the children of Attawapiskat, a James Bay reserve which floods regularly and where children have basically been camping out in school shacks for years, begging the federal government for help. Those children are appallingly neglected.

“Yet the ones we see come down here and that we have as . . . patients, they are wonderful kids,” said a Toronto doctor who headed up north to help them. “They have got a great temperament, they’re very kind, they’re very intellectual, they are fun to be with high risk personal loans.” One Toronto rescuer was particularly upset by conditions in Moosonee. “It horrified me. There was neglect and abandonment and a very hard life.” Another said happily, “They are just lovely lovely children.”

Oh, I’m sorry, I mis-wrote myself. My mistake.

Replace “kids” and “children” with “dogs” and “doctor” with “vet” and I will be correctly quoting from a July story in the Toronto Star about white people going to Attawapiskat to treat stray dogs, “adopt” them and bring them back to Toronto. There is not a word about aboriginal children being neglected or abandoned or having a “hard life” after 150 years of colonialism, family patterns disrupted by residential school, sexual abuse, extreme poverty and hearty never-ending racism.

Dogs do as they’re told, for food. They attend obedience classes, don’t run away, don’t judge their pathetic unkempt owners, and fill a hole in the lives of inadequate people who don’t like children, much less aboriginal ones.

You may disagree. If ignoring Attawapiskat children in favour of dogs doesn’t seem harsh to you, read a 2010 Facebook post by Lorrie Steeves, a Winnipeg woman whose husband Gord is running for mayor of Winnipeg. “Lorrie Steeves is really tired of getting harrassed (sic) by the drunken native guys in the skywalks. we need to get these people educated so they can go make their own damn money instead of hanging out and harrassing (sic) the honest people who are grinding away working hard for their money. We all donate enough money to the government to keep thier (sic) sorry assess (sic) on welfare, so shut the f— up and don’t ask me for another handout!”

After the CBC reported the Steeves story on Aug. 8 — this was the last day Tina was seen alive in downtown Winnipeg — accompanied by a photo of Steeves at a gala with a big glass of white wine in front of her, Steeves apologized. I’m glad she did and I’m glad she enjoys a drink, but if this is how white Canadians think — that they are themselves exquisite while aboriginal Canadians are flawed beyond redemption and their sufferings of less interest than those of dogs — we have a long way to go. Well obviously we have a long way to go.

An inquiry into Canada’s missing and murdered women might lay this all open under a bright light, but Stephen Harper’s Conservatives call it unnecessary. In the meantime, think of Tina Fontaine of the Sagkeeng First Nation in Manitoba. When she went missing last year, a heartfelt flyer with her picture described her, with an addendum: “Scars on both arms.”

People cut themselves when they’re hurting. Tina was hurting badly. The flyer also warned passersby, “Tina went missing before. Do NOT approach her harshly please.” She was approached harshly, one final time.

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August 19, 2014

EPA launches probe of Tyson’s role in polluting a Missouri creek

Filed under: management, mortgage — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 3:52 pm

MONETT, Mo. • The Environmental Protection Agency has begun an investigation of Tyson Foods’ role in a discharge of a food supplement that allegedly led to pure ammonia flowing into a southwest Missouri creek, killing more than 100,000 fish.

The discharge on May 16 allegedly caused the wastewater plant in Monett to fail and allowed a chemical to flow into nearby Clear Creek, The Joplin Globe reported.

The EPA did not immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press Tuesday.

The company revealed the investigation earlier this month in its quarterly notice to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

“We’re cooperating with the Environmental Protection Agency in its investigation, as we have with state and local agencies regarding this incident,” company spokesman Worth Sparkman said Monday.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources found that Tyson’s pre-treatment plant in Monett treated wastewater containing Alimet, a liquid animal feed supplement, that it had received another Tyson operation in Aurora. After the water was pre-treated, it was discharged to Monett’s sewage system. The compound killed the bacteria that process the wastewater effluent in Monett’s plant, causing virtually undiluted ammonia to flow into Clear Creek. It is unclear how much Alimet was discharged.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster filed a six-count civil lawsuit against Tyson after the spill, seeking fines, compensation for damage to the stream and reimbursement for the costs of the state’s investigation.

Koster said at the time his lawsuit was filed that he did not pursue criminal charges because he had no evidence that Tyson knowingly dumped the chemical into the water. But he said, “there was negligence involved, and people will be held responsible.”

The DNR issued notices of violation against Tyson Foods and the city of Monett after the spill but the department said it believed Tyson was responsible for the discharge.

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August 17, 2014

Second autopsy ordered on body of Missouri teen Michael Brown

Filed under: mortgage, online — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 9:08 pm

FERGUSON, MO.—U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Sunday ordered a federal medical examiner to perform another autopsy on the body of a black Missouri teenager whose fatal shooting by a white police officer has spurred a week of rancorous and sometimes violent protests in suburban St. Louis.

Department of Justice spokesman Brian Fallon cited a request by family members and the “extraordinary circumstances” surrounding the case of 18-year-old Michael Brown in explaining decision.

“This independent examination will take place as soon as possible,” Fallon said in a statement. “Even after it is complete, Justice Department officials still plan to take the state-performed autopsy into account in the course of their investigation.”

The Justice Department already had deepened its civil rights investigation of the shooting. Officials said a day earlier that 40 FBI agents were going door-to-door gathering information in the Ferguson, Missouri, neighbourhood where an unarmed Brown was shot to death in the middle of the street on Aug. 9.

David Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor who supervised the criminal civil rights section of Miami’s U.S. Attorney’s office, said a federally conducted autopsy “more closely focused on entry point of projectiles, defensive wounds and bruises” might help that investigation, and that the move is “not that unusual.”

He also said federal authorities want to calm any public fears that no action will be taken on the case.

Holder’s latest announcement followed the first night of a state-imposed curfew in Ferguson, which ended with tear gas and seven arrests after police dressed in riot gear used armoured vehicles to disperse defiant protesters.

Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson said protesters weren’t the reason for the escalated police reaction early Sunday morning after the midnight curfew took effect, but a report of people who had broken into a barbecue restaurant and taken to the roof, and a man who flashed a handgun in the street as armoured vehicles approached the crowd of protesters.

Also overnight, a man was shot and critically wounded in the same area, but not by police; authorities were searching for the shooter. Someone also shot at a police car, officials said.

The protests have been going on since Brown’s death heightened racial tensions between the predominantly black community and mostly white Ferguson Police Department, leading to several run-ins between police and protesters and prompting Missouri’s governor to put the Highway Patrol in charge of security.

Ferguson Police waited six days to publicly reveal the name of the officer and documents alleging Brown robbed a convenience store before he was killed, though Chief Thomas Jackson said the officer did not know Brown was a suspect when he encountered him walking in the street with a friend.

Scott Olson / GETTY IMAGES

People wait for reaction from police after they refused to honour the midnight curfew on Aug. 17.

Gov. Jay Nixon, who imposed the curfew after declaring a state of emergency as protests turned violent to start the weekend, said Sunday morning on ABC’s “This Week” that he was not aware the police were going to release surveillance video from the store where Brown is alleged to have stolen a $49 box of cigars.

“It’s appeared to cast aspersions on a young man that was gunned down in the street. It made emotions raw,” Nixon said.

In announcing the curfew, Nixon said many protesters were making themselves heard peacefully but the state would not allow looters to endanger the community. Johnson, the Highway Patrol captain, had said police would not enforce the curfew with armoured trucks and tear gas and would communicate with protesters and give them ample opportunity to leave. Local officers faced strong criticism earlier in the week for their use of tear gas and rubber bullets against protesters.

As the curfew deadline arrived early Sunday, most protesters left the streets, but those who remained protesters refused to leave the area as officers spoke through a loudspeaker: “You are in violation of a state-imposed curfew. You must disperse immediately.”

As officers put on gas masks, a chant from the distant crowd emerged: “We have the right to assemble peacefully.”

A moment later, police began firing canisters into the crowd. Highway Patrol Spokesman Lt. John Hotz initially said police only used smoke, but later told The Associated Press they also used tear gas canisters.

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