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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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July 10, 2014

Hong Kong Buyers Queue for New Homes After Prices Plunge - Bloomberg

Filed under: business, online — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 1:16 am

On a Saturday morning in mid-June, thousands wait, crammed into Hong Kong

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July 1, 2014

Flooding forces evacuation of Saskatchewan hospital

Filed under: economics, online ads — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 8:45 pm

More than 150 acute care patients and long-term residents have been moved from a hospital in eastern Saskatchewan because of flooding.

The full-scale evacuation at St. Peter’s Hospital in the city of Melville, about 145 km northeast of Regina, took place because a creek behind the facility was rising Tuesday.

Officials are also watching a nearby dam.

“The dam has not been breached,” said Patrick Boyle with the Saskatchewan Water Security Agency. “What we’ve seen happen is the water level coming into the dam, the dam is holding, it’s actually going around the dam . . . and that’s what’s creating the impact in the town and the cause for concern with the infrastructure there.”

Emergency management commissioner Duane McKay says the water has not entered the hospital and crews are building a berm on a driveway behind the facility.

“The water has not touched the building and the work that’s going there is to ensure that it never gets to the building,” said McKay.

The evacuation comes because a deluge of rain caused widespread flooding in eastern Saskatchewan and western Manitoba.

Officials had said Monday that parts of southeast Saskatchewan got more than 240 millimetres of rain over the weekend, while some parts of western Manitoba reported more than 100 mm. However, those figures came out while the water was still coming down in many communities.

More than 500 people have been forced to leave their homes in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. That number will likely rise as officials started asking people living along the river in Virden, Man., to leave their homes on Monday night.

Meanwhile, McKay also says the number of communities under states of emergency has jumped to 53 in Saskatchewan cash advance no faxing.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says early estimates show the “unprecedented rainstorm and flooding” will be costly.

“We think we’re looking at an event that was larger in financial impact than the 2011 flood because it’s so widespread, because the number of communities are so significant and also because of the major infrastructure and highway damage,” Wall said Tuesday in Saskatoon.

“That particular event cost the province $360 million and so we’re thinking it’s somewhere higher than that.”

Wall says it’s hard to assess some of the highway damage because the roads are still under water. At least 19 sections of highways in eastern Saskatchewan were closed to travel Tuesday.

There were also 31 municipalities under emergencies in Manitoba, which is now bracing to deal with rivers swollen by the runoff.

“It’s not over yet,” Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger said Tuesday after touring flooded areas. “There’s been a lot of rain in Saskatchewan and all that water moves towards Manitoba.”

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June 28, 2014

Dyke March draws thousands in

Filed under: canada, marketing — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 7:17 pm

The drum beat starts slow, a trudging thump, faintly mournful vocals drifting over the crowd gathered in front of the stage.

With each verse, it picks up speed and power, until hands are clapping and feet are stamping and heads are bobbing among those gathered for the annual Dyke March on Saturday afternoon.

The song, speaker and performer Sharp Dopler had explained, is called “The Longest Walk.”

It reflects the difficulty of the beginning, the challenge of setting out on a journey, and then the increasing speed and ease with which one can travel until they’re poised to “take over the world.”

Finally, the song reaches its crescendo and the crowd erupts in a long, loud chorus of cheers.

Thousands congregated in Allan Gardens in downtown Toronto before the march in an atmosphere that was part-political rally, part-reunion, part-festival. Some donned T-shirts that read No H8, others made signs that read things like, “Yes I’m a lesbian, Now kiss me,” and more political messages such as “Prostitution laws kill sex workers.”

Marcy Rogers, who has been coming to the Dyke March since its inception in the mid-1990s, said it serves as a reminder of when women didn’t have status in the gay community.

“We were just kind of allowed,” said Rogers. And it’s still important because women have haven’t yet achieved basic rights like equal pay, said Rogers.

“Nothing’s really changed,” she said. “It has on a certain level … but as women, we still haven’t got what we want low interest rate personal loans.”

Prostitution laws, poverty, domestic violence, missing and murdered aboriginal women — these are some of the problems that still need to be addressed, said Moxie Moxon.

“Dyke March is about addressing all those issues,” said Moxon, as nearby marchers chanted, “We’re here, we’re queer, we’re feminist, don’t f— with us!”

And it’s a social event, Moxon said, as she stopped again and again to greet passersby.

“This is where we meet our community every year,” said Moxon.

As the long procession wound its way out of Allan Gardens to follow the march route through downtown, onlookers gathered along the sidewalks. Former MP and current mayoral candidate Olivia Chow marched, drawing a chorus of cheers as she made her way down Carlton St. flanked by purple-T-shirted campaign supporters.

Pride volunteer Margaret Ngai said she was there working to raise awareness about human rights, both domestically and internationally, as part of the events.

“A lot of people think of it as a big celebration or party,” said Ngai, co-chair of Pride’s human rights team. “We want to elevate the human rights.”

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As barriers in sports fall, baseball still waiting for first openly gay player

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June 23, 2014

Tokyo Dealer Likes Odds as Abe Embraces Plan for Casinos - Bloomberg

Filed under: technology, term — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 8:05 pm

For trainee dealer Taichi Yahagi, the odds of making a better living turning cards at a baccarat table in Tokyo are looking up.

The 41-year-old tutor paid about $5,000 for a three-month course at the Japan Casino School, betting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will succeed in his push to allow gaming houses to be built in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. Discussions on the bill to legalize casinos started last week, with debate to resume in the parliament

June 22, 2014

British couple convicted of killing parents:

Filed under: marketing, term — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 5:01 am

LONDON—A British husband and wife were convicted Friday of murdering the woman’s parents, burying their bodies and collecting their pension checks for 15 years.

A jury at Nottingham Crown Court found Susan and Christopher Edwards guilty of shooting William and Patricia Wycherly in May 1998.

Prosecutors said the debt-ridden Edwards collected almost 250,000 pounds ($457,000) by pretending her parents were still alive. In 2005 they sold the parents’ home in the central England town of Mansfield, with the bodies buried in the backyard.

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Police Detective Chief Inspector Rob Griffin said the couple, desperate for money, “decided an easy way to get their hands on it was to kill their parents, and that’s what they did.”

“I think cold is the word,” he said.

They used some of the money to buy celebrity memorabilia, including autographs of Gary Cooper and Frank Sinatra.

They told friends and relatives that the Wycherlys were travelling or had moved away.

Police unearthed the bodies in October after being tipped off by a family member that Christopher Edwards had admitted burying the bodies.

The couple had moved to France but were arrested at a London railway station after emailing police to say they wanted to surrender.

They pleaded not guilty to murder. Susan Edwards testified she had been provoked into shooting her mother after her mother killed her father.

But a jury did not believe the story.

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June 20, 2014

IMF Considers Dropping Exemption That Enabled 2010 Greek Loan - Bloomberg

Filed under: management, news — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 2:05 pm

The International Monetary Fund is considering creating a new way for indebted countries to get large loans and dropping a exception to its lending rules that enabled Greece to obtain a loan in 2010 without having to first restructure its debt.

The exemption was established at the start of the European debt crisis to prevent contagion by allowing some nations to receive financing even though the fund could not say with

April 29, 2014

Audit finds issues with Toronto trustee expenses

Filed under: mortgage, news — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 7:11 am

Toronto trustees like to have their say in the boardroom, but they do a lot of talking outside of it as well — racking up thousands of dollars worth of calls to and from the Virgin Islands, Panama, Cuba, Greece and Mexico.

A detailed internal audit of Toronto District School Board trustees found numerous examples when they were, mostly without question, reimbursed for unauthorized or dubious expenses, including conference costs six days after the end of a three-day conference, $100 for alcohol and a $250 parking violation — issued for either blocking a fire route or a fire hydrant.

Trustee John Hastings, chair of the audit committee, said he could not explain the claims but wants the board to move quickly to address spending.

“I think it’s a combination of training that has to be provided to trustees, plus clearer policies and procedures … we need to bloody well pull up our socks and get at it,” he said before heading into a meeting Monday afternoon to discuss the audit.

The board paid out an additional $3,500 in international texting and data roaming charges from September 2010 to last January. “There appears to be no monitoring of trustee’s board cellphone charges,” the audit notes.

“We need to have a tracking system on that,” Hastings added. “We need to probably have better phone plans that adapt to the individual circumstances of trustees. Again, I see this as a big opportunity to get this ship turned around in this regard.”

The audit comes after a December report by Ernst and Young raised red flags about financial processes at Canada’s largest school board home insurance. It also comes amid revelations of trustee misbehaviour, after senior educators complained staff have been bullied, harassed and intimidated by elected officials.

There is no indication trustees harangued staff to approve expenses, Hastings added.

The audit details current differences in the rules for Toronto public and Catholic boards — showing limits and controls for the latter, with very few for the former.

(Spending at the Catholic board was tightened in 2009 after trustees made outrageous expense claims for things like lingerie and vacations.)

Toronto public trustees have annual expense accounts of $27,000, with extra money available through a fund for non-ward business such as professional development.

While some expenses “contradicted the policy … the estimated costs of these exceptions represent a small percentage of the total $2.5 million in trustee and governance expenses during the audit period” of September 2010 to this past January, the audit notes.

A new policy firming up expense reporting will go before another committee this week, and Trustee Sheila Cary-Meagher continues to push to have all expenses posted online, in detail, as soon as possible.

The audit also revealed that trustees have hired board employees as their constituency assistants — not allowed — or have assistants who have no contract on file with the board.

It also raises questions about two trustees who charged taxpayers for stays at Ottawa’s luxury Chateau Frontenac hotel for a national school boards’ conference — one billing $354 a night for three nights, the other $414 a night for four nights.

Hastings himself said he had to reimburse the board for $60 for mileage he mistakenly claimed for meetings he didn’t attend.

“We’re all fallible,” he said.

He also defended a $2,100 expense for lanyards, with his trustee business card tucked inside, given to each graduating high school student last year.

Another unnamed trustee spent $11,600 for newsletter printing and graphic design.

Hastings said up to eight staff members were approving expenses without sufficient documentation, and feels that no more than two or three should be in charge.

TDSB audit highlights

Seven trustees incurred long distance charges on their cellphones: $55 for calls to and from Panama in one month; $947.50 to and from Cuba over one month; $2,218.47 to Barbados, Switzerland and the Virgin Islands; $1,473.90 in calls to China, Chile, Hong Kong, Greece and Polynesia; $320 in calls to and from Israel during one month; $800.43 to Guyana and Trinidad; $492.90 to Greece and Mexico over two months.

“The TDSB may have paid for personal long distance charges of the trustees,” the audit notes. Policy says they must reimburse such charges, and the audit recommends creating a special form for trustees to do so.

Almost $3,500 was billed for data roaming, international texting and text roaming life insurance for retirement.

One trustee charged the board for home Internet at two addresses in one month.

“A number of trustees submitted expenses for travel, accommodation, meals or other expenses in their conference claims that were outside of the conference dates … One trustee attended a three-day conference and incurred hotels, tours and other accommodation charges for up to six days after the conference. There were also two hotel rooms paid during one day of the trip.” One trustee billed $300 in tour costs and $400 in food at a conference with no explanation. Four trustees billed for a night at a Toronto hotel for a conference, when all live in the city and the conference took place during the day. One trustee expensed 181 kilometres in a day, with no details. One trustee billed cabs totalling $2,500, another $4,700. The audit notes there are no rules and that other transportation might be less expensive. Citing no clear policy on gifts, the audit found $40 spent on flowers for a parent council chair; $1,054 in glassware to “an organization in relation to the signing of a board agreement,” $30 for a music CD for a guest speaker, and Hastings’ lanyard giveaway. Parking receipts with no details, or details that don’t match mileage claims. $2,210 in “professional development” costs for constituency assistants.

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April 25, 2014

Don’t assume you’re safe from Heartbleed

Filed under: canada, money — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 1:35 pm

It sounds alarmist, but it’s true. Email, social media, banking — all of it is at risk.

The Heartbleed Internet bug is particularly nasty because it’s pervasive. It affects apps, hardware and websites.

Two weeks on, companies are still moving to address the bug:

, Fortune 500)didn’t release a firmware update for its AirPort routers until Tuesday. Dell’s SonicWALL app, which lets you connect to corporate networks from home, just got patched Monday. QNAP updated the firmware for its Turbo NAS data storage centers last week. Many of Cradlepoint’s 3G and 4G modems, used by businesses, weren’t patched until recently.

On April 17, there were still 150 million vulnerable apps running on Android smartphones, according to cybersecurity provider ). All must be updated.

“The fallout from this is likely to continue for weeks and months to come,” said Tom Brennan, a computer security expert who developed a free add-on to the Firefox Web browser that detects if a website is vulnerable.

To be safe from Heartbleed, you need to know that everything you use to connect online is updated and fixed: smartphone apps, Wi-Fi routers, office servers, the websites you visit — and their servers too.

The risk is inherent in the complicated way the Internet works. Signing into your bank might bounce you to data centers around the globe. That’s why solving the Heartbleed problem is a herculean task that’s largely outside of your control.

All you can do is change your passwords often — all of them — and update your software to the latest version. And don’t trust any app, device, computer environment or website until those in charge specifically say they’ve patched the problem.

“At this point, the best thing the average consumer should do is simply pay close attention to vendors’ notices and apply any fixes,” said FireEye researcher Hui Xue car warranty. Then change all your passwords again.

But many companies aren’t making it easy for you to figure it out. Banks aren’t placing announcements on their website homepages to reassure customers they’re safe. Information about whether routers are vulnerable — and how to fix them — are located deep within the websites of Apple, D-Link and Netgear.

Rick Dakin, CEO of IT department auditor Coalfire, said websites should be alerting customers, and company IT departments should be informing employees about their own company’s situation.

“If you go to a website today, and they don’t have a statement on Heartbleed, I would be wary,” Dakin said.

It’s difficult to overstate the problem. Heartbleed isn’t a computer virus that automatically gets deleted by your computer’s antivirus program. It’s a flaw in the software devices use to talk to one another. And because these are all interconnected, it only takes one weak point to let hackers peek in. Even some versions of )Norton AntiVirus software were impacted. Bryan Harris, a researcher at analytics software maker SAS, called it “a systemic issue” with a long, uphill road ahead.

So severe are the problems with OpenSSL, the encryption software that had the Heartbleed bug, that some are ditching it entirely. A Canadian computer programmer recently created another version of it, called LibreSSL, in an attempt to simplify and clean it up.

But even if everything seems patched, we’ll never know for sure, said Joe Touch, director of the Postel Center of computer research at the University of Southern California. New computer systems are often built relying on older ones which are no longer maintained.

“Like most bugs, there are some systems that will correct very quickly, some less so, some never,” he said.

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April 18, 2014

Defend ‘Obamacare’ unabashedly, some Democrats say

Filed under: economics, management — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 8:36 am

WASHINGTON • With enrollments higher than expected, and costs lower, some Democrats say it’s time to stop hiding from the president’s health care overhaul, even in this year’s toughest Senate elections.

Republicans practically dare Democrats to embrace “Obamacare,” the GOP’s favorite target in most congressional campaigns. Yet pro-Democratic activists in Alaska are doing just that, and a number of strategists elsewhere hope it will spread.

President Barack Obama recently announced that first-year sign-ups for subsidized private health insurance topped 7 million, exceeding expectations. And the Congressional Budget Office — the government’s fiscal scorekeeper — said it expects only a minimal increase in customers’ costs for 2015. Over the next decade, the CBO said the new law will cost taxpayers $100 billion less than previously estimated.

Republicans already were pushing their luck by vowing to “repeal and replace” the health care law without having a viable replacement in mind, said Thomas Mills, a Democratic consultant and blogger in North Carolina. Now, he said, Democrats have even more reasons to rise from their defensive crouch on this topic.

“Democrats need to start making the case for Obamacare,” Mills said. “They all voted for it, they all own it, so they can’t get away from it. So they’d better start defending it.”

Even some professionals who have criticized the health care law say the political climate has changed.

“I think Democrats have the ability to steal the health care issue back from Republicans,” health care industry consultant said Bob Laszewski said. “The Democratic Party can become the party of fixing Obamacare.”

In truth, some Democratic lawmakers often talk of “fixing” the 2010 health care law arrest records. But it’s usually in response to critics or in a manner meant to show their willingness to challenge Obama.

For instance, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., who faces a tough re-election bid, used her first TV ad of the campaign to highlight her demand that Obama let people keep insurance policies they like.

But Landrieu and other hard-pressed Democrats have not gone as far as a pro-Democratic group in Alaska that is unabashedly highlighting the health law’s strongest points.

The independent group Put Alaska First is airing a TV ad that praises Democratic Sen. Mark Begich for helping people obtain insurance even if they have “pre-existing conditions,” such as cancer. The ad doesn’t mention Obama or his health care law by name, but it focuses on one of the law’s most popular features.

Other Democrats should consider such tactics, political consultant David DiMartino said.

“There is still time to tell the story of Obamacare to voters,” he said. Democratic candidates don’t want to be defined entirely by the health law, he said, “but now they can point to its successes to fend off the inevitable distortions.”

GOP strategists don’t agree. The recent upbeat reports might help Democrats temporarily, but “the negative opinion of Americans toward Obamacare is baked in,” Texas-based Republican consultant Matt Mackowiak said. “If Obamacare was truly trending positively,” he said, “Sebelius would have stayed, and Democrats in tough races would be picking a fight on Obamacare, instead of mostly hiding from it.”

Kathleen Sebelius, the health and human services secretary closely associated with the health care law, is stepping down. Democrats say it’s a sign that the biggest problems are past, but Senate Republicans vow to use her successor’s confirmation hearings as another forum for criticizing the law.

Democrats hardest hit by anti-Obamacare ads — including Sens. Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mark Pryor of Arkansas — continue to defend the health law when asked, but they generally focus on other topics, campaign aides say.

Polls don’t suggest public sentiment is shifting toward Democrats, said Robert Blendon, a professor of health policy and political analysis at the Harvard School of Public Health. But with at least 7.5 million people enrolled despite last fall’s disastrous rollout of insurance markets, Blendon said, Democrats have some strong new material to use.

“Each of the Democratic candidates is going to have to make a calculation on whether or not they can motivate Democrats,” Blendon said. “For Democrats to get an advantage out of the law, they have to convince people they have something to lose if the Senate changes hands.”

Republicans need to gain six seats to control the 100-member Senate.

New political problems might arise for the health care law before the Nov. 4 election. For instance, the individual requirement to carry health insurance remains generally unpopular, and now penalties may apply to millions of people who remain uninsured.

So far, Republicans have had an edge in public opinion, particularly when those with strong sentiments about the law are considered. A recent AP-GfK poll found that strong opponents outnumber strong supporters, 31 percent to 13 percent. And motivated voters often make the difference in low-turnout nonpresidential elections criminal search. But the poll also found that most Americans expect the health law to be changed, not repealed.

That puts Republicans in a tricky situation: GOP primary voters demand repeal, but general election voters in November are looking for fixes.

“It’s not a cheap and easy political target anymore,” Laszewski said. “Republicans are going to have to tell us what they would do different.”

Democrats deride GOP proposals to “replace” the 2010 health care law, saying they collapse under close scrutiny. Since they generally contemplate a smaller federal government role, many of the GOP ideas are likely to leave more people uninsured. Some approaches do not completely prohibit insurers from turning away people with pre-existing medical conditions.

Economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who advises many top Republicans, said the emerging GOP plans aren’t tied to the ups and downs of Obama’s law but look ahead to the 2016 presidential election, when the party will need alternatives.

Ultimately, he said, “there can’t be a Republican ‘replace.’ … There needs to be a bipartisan reform.” That doesn’t seem likely, but Holtz-Eakin said it was the only kind of change that will prove durable.

Democrats can cheer the latest statistics, “but they are not out of the woods yet,” he said. “They have waived and deferred a million things they knew were unpopular, and those are still out there.”

AP Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.

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