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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 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

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 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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November 6, 2014

A-B adding ‘Oculto’ tequila flavored beer

Filed under: Uncategorized, legal — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 11:56 pm

In a bid to attract Millennials, Anheuser-Busch will launch a tequila flavored beer next year called Oculto that’s aged on Mexican tequila barrel staves. 

St. Louis-based A-B, the U.S. subsidiary of A-B InBev, said Oculto will make its U.S. debut in Spring 2015. More information about a launch date, marketing campaign and packaging will be announced early next year, a spokesperson said.

Oculto, which means “hidden” or “waiting to be found” in Spanish has 6 percent alcohol by volume (ABV). The lager infuses beer aged on Mexican tequila barrels with blue agave. 

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November 2, 2014

Republican gains could aid Obama’s Asia trade pact

Filed under: mortgage, technology — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 5:36 am

WASHINGTON (AP) — Big Republican gains on Election Day would be a blow to much of President Barack Obama’s agenda, but one stymied item on his to-do list might get a fresh chance to move forward: trade. That could breathe life into Asia-Pacific trade talks essential to his efforts to deepen engagement in the region.

Obama needs special authority, known as fast track, to negotiate trade deals that Congress can accept or reject, but cannot change. It would smooth the way for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is under discussion with 11 nations, and help advance separate negotiations with the 28-member European Union.

Fast-track legislation was introduced in January but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., would not allow a vote. Many Democrats fear that opening markets to countries with lower wages and standards will cost American jobs. Republicans tend to be more supportive, seeing more trade as benefiting the economy.

With Republicans favored to take control of the Senate and expand their House majority, trade could become a rare point of agreement between a Republican Congress and the White House.

Yet obstacles would remain.

Many Republicans would hesitate to a Democratic president make progress on his agenda. Among Democrats, there’s widespread opposition in the House to the Asian pact. Opposition is less strong in the Senate, but it only takes a few lawmakers to use procedural tactics and try to block the deal.

With or without fast track, there’s no guarantee that the TPP nations can reach an agreement. The main players, the U.S. and Japan, appear at loggerheads over access to Japan’s heavily protected agriculture market.

When TPP trade ministers met in Australia in late October, they announced significant progress in negotiations but no deal ahead of the Nov. 10-11 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, where leaders of the 12 nations will want to signal the end is in sight.

Having a clear definition of exactly what’s in the pact would help trade legislation in Washington, said Jeffrey Schott, an international trade specialist at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

“The large majority of the Republican party would support this and would be lobbied hard by the business community to get the legislation through,” Schott said. “This is not just a symbolic issue. This is a dollars and cents issue.”

But Lori Wallach of the advocacy group Public Citizen said U.S. negotiators have not broached in the TPP negotiations the issue of currency manipulation, despite demands from many U.S. lawmakers that it be included.

“The U.S. Congress will not provide the Obama administration with trade authority in no small part because it has ignored Congress’ demands for the deal,” Wallach said.

Liberal-leaning groups also fear it will lead to Internet censorship and grant more power to corporations, adding to the reluctance among Democrats to support it.

The ambitious talks seek to cut tariffs and set broader rules on issues such as intellectual property and state-owned enterprises, and apply to countries that account for nearly 40 percent of the world economy and one-third of global trade. Besides the U.S. and Japan, the participants are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

The administration views the TPP as strategically important for U.S. outreach to the Asia-Pacific. The main U.S. business advocacy group also views it as an opportunity to expand exports to the region’s fast-growing economies.

Christopher Wenk, the senior director of international policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said Republican congressional leaders have said consistently that trade is an area where they are interested to work with the president, but Obama needs to take the initiative.

“We definitely want to see more leadership from the administration and the president himself on trade issues after the elections,” Wenk said.

Republican advocates for the deal have accused Obama of failing on that count. They include the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, Utah’s Orrin Hatch, a co-sponsor of the fast-track legislation and an important voice in the months ahead.

As the negotiations come down to the wire, the importance of getting fast-track authority grows. Without it, other governments will question whether the deal they agree on with the U.S. could be tinkered with by Congress, which could derail it.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman wrote Foreign Affairs magazine that fast-track authority “would give U.S. trading partners the necessary confidence to put their best and final offers on the table.”

Obama is under fire for his handling of foreign policy and he stands little chance of attaining other legislative goals on immigration and raising the minimum wage in a Republican-controlled Congress. Success on trade could burnish his presidency during his final years in office.

“Trade could be a real big achievement of the last couple of years of this president’s term,” Wenk said.

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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 28, 2014

Savannah Surges as Major Port for Imports on U.S. Growth - Bloomberg

Filed under: finance, mortgage — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 8:44 am

Blueberries from Chile, Peru and Brazil may soon be heading toward U.S. tables via Savannah, Georgia, opening another shipping market in the city

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