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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 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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October 31, 2014

Gas falling under $3 nationwide: What to know

Filed under: management, online — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 1:20 pm

NEW YORK (AP) — The sight is so surprising that Americans are sharing photos of it, along with all those cute Halloween costumes, sweeping vistas and special meals: The gas station sign, with a price under $3 a gallon.

“It’s stunning what’s happening here,” says Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service. “I’m a little bit shocked.”

The national average price of gasoline has fallen 33 cents in October, landing Friday at $3.00, according to AAA. Kloza said the average will fall under $3 by early Saturday morning for the first time in four years.

When the national average crossed above $3 a gallon in December of 2010, drivers weren’t sure they’d ever see $2.99 again. Global demand for oil and gasoline was rising as people in developing countries bought cars by the tens of millions and turmoil was brewing in the oil-rich Middle East.

Now demand isn’t rising as fast as expected, drillers have learned to tap vast new sources of oil, particularly in the U.S., and crude continues to flow out of the Middle East.

Seasonal swings and other factors will likely send gas back over $3 sooner than drivers would like, but the U.S. is on track for the lowest annual average since 2010 — and the 2015 average is expected to be lower even still.

Trisha Pena of Hermitage, Tennessee, recently paid $2.57 a gallon to fill up her Honda CRV. Like many around the country these days, she was so surprised and delighted by the price she took a photo and posted it on social media for her friends to see. “I can’t remember the last time it cost under $30 to put 10 or 11 gallons in my tank,” she said in an interview. “A month ago it was in the $3.50 range, and that’s where it had been for a very long time.”

Here are a few things to know about cheap gas:

— Crude prices came off the boil. Oil fell from $107 a barrel in June to near $81 because there’s a lot of supply and weak demand. U.S. output has increased 70 percent since 2008, and supplies from Iraq and Canada have also increased. At the same time, demand is weaker than expected because of a sluggish global economy fast cash advance loan.

— In the past, a stronger economy in the U.S., the world’s biggest consumer of oil and gasoline, typically meant rising fuel demand. No longer. Americans are driving more efficient vehicles and our driving habits are changing. Michael Sivak of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute calculates that the number of miles travelled per household and gallons of fuel consumed per household peaked in 2004.

— The drop from last year’s average of $3.51 per gallon will save the typical U.S. household about $50 a month.

— The drop will save the U.S. economy $187 million a day, and also boost the profits of shippers, airlines, and any company that sends employees out on sales calls or for deliveries.

— It will take an extra 1.5 years to make purchasing a higher-priced, better-mileage Toyota Prius instead of a Toyota Corolla pay off.

— New York’s average of $3.37 is the highest in the continental U.S. South Carolina and Tennessee are the lowest, with an average of $2.75.

— Politicians are either going to take the credit for lower gasoline prices or blame the other party for not helping them fall further. Don’t listen. There are small things politicians can do over long time horizons, like implement fuel economy standards or ease drilling regulations, but the decline in prices is mainly due to market forces.

— Gasoline is cheaper than milk again. In September the national average price of milk was $3.73 per gallon. The annual average for milk is on track to be more expensive than the annual average for gasoline for the first time since 2011. The gap is even bigger for some bottled water lovers. A case of a dozen 1.5 liter bottles of Evian on Amazon.com costs $38.99, which makes for a price per gallon of $8.20.

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October 23, 2014

Gauge of US economy posts solid 0.8 percent gain

Filed under: loans, management — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 10:44 am

WASHINGTON (AP) — A gauge designed to predict the economy’s future health posted a solid increase in September after no gain in the previous month.

The Conference Board says its index of leading indicators rose 0.8 percent last month following a flat reading in August which originally had been reported as a small 0.2 percent gain.

Economists expect that continuing strong gains in employment should boost incomes and help support solid economic growth in the United States in coming quarters despite a weaker outlook overseas payday lenders.

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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 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 11, 2014

U.S. Bank closes on financing for Arcade building rehab

Filed under: management, mortgage — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 10:40 am

U.S. Bank has closed on more than $77 million in several tax credit financing packages for the redevelopment of the Arcade building downtown.   

The Minneapolis-based bank, which announced the closure of financing Monday, invested $77 million in the century-old building at 800 Olive Street, through federal New Markets Tax Credits, federal and state historic tax credits and federal low-income housing tax credits. The bank’s U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation subsidiary is based in downtown St. Louis. 

Dominium Development, the Minneapolis-based developer on the $116 million project, is converting two lower floors of the 18-story, 500,000 square foot building to classroom space for Webster University and upper floors into 282 market rate and affordable-housing apartments for artists no credit check payday loans. The project also includes more than 13,000 square feet of artist studio space.

“Tremendous persistence, commitment and a deep desire to support the emergence of downtown St. Louis as an arts and innovation community kept our team motivated to make this development come to fruition,” Zack Boyers, chairman and chief executive officer of USBCDC said in a statement.

Webster University will move in as early as December 2015 and construction on the remaining space will finish in January 2016, U.S. Bank said.

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August 9, 2014

Financial health can be a matter of time, not smarts

Filed under: Uncategorized, management — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 6:28 pm

Conventional wisdom says the more you know about personal finance, the better off you’ll be at managing your money.

But a new survey suggests that knowledge alone is not enough. For your finances to be in good shape, you also need to be aware of something else: your attitude toward time.

Dwell too much on the past, present or future, and you could make decisions that are bad for your financial health, even if you know to do otherwise.

“Ideally, we’d all have happy memories, take time out in the present and plan for the future. But if you get out of whack in any one of those, bad things can happen,” said Nick Clements, co-author of the study and co-founder of MagnifyMoney, which reviews credit cards and other bank products.

Survey participants had to complete a “time personality” quiz developed by Philip Zimbardo, a professor emeritus of psychology at Stanford University and co-author of the study.

Participants were also scored on their financial smarts (say, whether they could calculate compound interest) and the state of their finances (for example, had they ever filed for bankruptcy). In all, 3,000 people in six countries, including Brazil, Germany and the U.S., participated.

The results showed that, despite your financial know-how, your time personality has a lot to do with how well you manage your money. Someone, for example, whose personality skews toward living it up today is often financially sick. You may understand how compound interest works, but the knowledge doesn’t help if you habitually overspend your paycheck.

On the flip side, you may think primarily about the future. But people who are too goal-oriented are often so harried by career and other obligations that they have little time to think through their financial options.

“It may be on your to-do list to buy insurance or invest in your 401(k),” Clements said. “But because you don’t have enough time, you rush through and make bad decisions.”

You might assume that young adults would fall into the camp of people who think too much about the present, the so-called hedonists, according to the survey. But that was not the case.

In fact, 25.3 percent of millennials have a past-negative personality: This group came of age about the time of the 2007-09 financial crisis, and the experience, colored by home foreclosures, big stock market losses and high rates of unemployment, dominates their financial decision-making.

In comparison, only 16.5 percent of baby boomers (people born from 1946 to 1964) were past negative in the study.

To get a sense of what your time personality is, take the quiz at magnifymoney.com/timeperspective. After answering the questions, you’ll see where you fall on the time personality spectrum.

What if the results show you’re past negative? According to the survey, most millennials don’t rate themselves as being money-savvy. But those who land in this group tend to be financially healthy because they’re not taking the kinds of risks that can lead to bankruptcy or other money catastrophes.

Just keep in mind that too much caution can be a bad thing.

Without some risk, you may never be hired for that dream job or grow your savings into a comfortable nest egg. (A fact that young adults might appreciate more if they had more financial knowledge.)

Similarly, you don’t want to be so financially conservative that you forgo having any fun today.

Said Clements: “Think of Ebenezer Scrooge, sitting on a pile of gold coins. He is financially healthy, but you probably don’t want to be him.”

Carolyn Bigda is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.

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August 3, 2014

Doug Ford backs off Bill Blair

Filed under: loans, management — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 9:16 am

Doug Ford has backed off accusations that police Chief Bill Blair leaked information about a criminal case involving Mayor Rob Ford after the chief said the claims were untrue and threatened legal action.

In an interview Saturday with the Toronto Sun, Ford said of the incident that “I wish it didn’t even happen, to be honest with you,” and “I just wish the chief all the best.”

The war of words between the two flared up Friday when Ford, a city councillor, accused Blair of releasing information about the impending subpoena to be served to his brother as a possible witness in the extortion trial of the mayor’s friend Alexander “Sandro” Lisi.

Speaking to reporters Friday, Doug Ford suggested that the information was leaked as “payback” because the police services board decided last week not to renew Blair’s contract.

“When you have the leadership of the police department releasing a subpoena to the media before they release it to the mayor, you wonder why we need a change at the top?” Ford told the reporters.

“I got an idea,” he added. “Maybe the chief should just let the Toronto Star serve him. Because God knows, they’ve got a direct line to the chief.”

Later that day Blair said through a spokesperson that “Doug Ford is lying, and I am prepared to take legal action.”

While Ford spoke about Blair in conciliatory terms on Saturday — “he’s leaving, I’m leaving, so I think we should leave on good terms” — he refused to say whether he still believed the subpoena information was released as “payback,” according to The Sun.

“I can’t make a comment on that,” he said. “Sometimes I get a little rambunctious, sometimes.”

The Star reported on Friday that Mayor Rob Ford would soon be served with a subpoena in Lisi’s extortion trial. Lisi is accused of making threats in an effort to obtain the video that appears to show Ford smoking crack cocaine.

A subpoena could force Ford to testify under oath at Lisi’s preliminary hearing, scheduled to start next March.

The video has been a source of contention between Blair and the Fords since the chief confirmed its existence on October 31 and said he was “disappointed.”

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July 23, 2014

Consumer Prices in U.S. Increase as Gasoline Costs Jump - Bloomberg

Filed under: legal, management — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 2:00 am

The cost of living in the U.S. rose in June, paced by a jump in gasoline that is now reversing, bolstering Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen

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