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July 4, 2014

World Cup overpass project collapses in Brazil

Filed under: money, small business — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 3:57 am

RIO DE JANEIRO—An overpass under construction collapsed Thursday in a Brazilian World Cup host city, killing at least one person and trapping a commuter bus, two construction trucks and one car, authorities said.

The incident took place on a main avenue, the expansion of which was part of the World Cup infrastructure plan but, like most urban mobility projects related to the Cup, it was not finished on time for the event.

A woman who was driving a commuter bus trapped by the overpass died, said Capt. Federico Pascual of the Belo Horizonte fire department.

The overpass collapsed about five kilometres from the Mineirao soccer stadium, which has hosted several World Cup matches in recent weeks and will see the semifinal match next Tuesday.

Pascual said another 10 people were injured in the collapse, all construction workers working on the project.

The overpass “arched over a really busy thoroughfare,” Pascual said.

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June 22, 2014

Billions at risk as West Coast port contract ends

Filed under: economics, money — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 7:49 pm

LOS ANGELES • The West Coast ports that are America’s gateway for hundreds of billions of dollars of trade with Asia and beyond are no stranger to labor unrest and even violence.

Now, the contract that covers nearly 20,000 dockworkers is set to expire, and businesses that trade in everything from apples to iPhones are worried about disruptions just as the crush of cargo for the back-to-school and holiday seasons begins.

With contentious issues including benefits and job security on the table, smooth sailing is no guarantee.

On one side is the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, with its tradition of fierce activism dating to the Great Depression, when two of its members were killed during a strike. On the other is the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents shipping lines and operators of terminals at 29 West Coast ports.

Both acknowledge that they are unlikely to agree on a new contract before the current one expires June 30, but they plan to negotiate past that deadline. That would fit the pattern from contract talks in 2008 and 2002. In 2002, negotiators didn’t reach an agreement until around Thanksgiving, following an impasse that led to a 10-day lockout and a big disruption in trade.

The union’s total control over the labor pool means huge bargaining leverage, which negotiators have parlayed into white-collar wages and perks for blue-collar work. A full-time longshoreman earns about $130,000 a year, while foremen earn about $210,000, according to employer data. Workers pay nearly nothing for health coverage that includes no premiums and $1 prescriptions.

Neither side has publicly discussed progress on negotiations that began May 12 in San Francisco, which is headquarters to the union and the maritime association.

Twelve years ago, the shutdown had a lasting impact on how products moved in and out of the United States. Hulking cranes idled. Ships anchored in San Francisco Bay and outside ports from Los Angeles to Seattle. Economists estimated the impact at $1 billion each day.

Even after trade resumed, retailers — with their just-in-time supply chain — worried that West Coast ports risked becoming a bottleneck. Companies looked to Gulf Coast and East Coast ports, which courted them by upgrading facilities.

“They can’t afford to have their goods hung up either out on the sea or on the docks,” said Jonathan Gold, vice president of supply chain and customs policy at the National Retail Federation low interest rate personal loans.

Between 2002 and last year, the portion of shipping containers that came into the U.S. through West Coast ports dropped from 50 percent to 44 percent, according to a study by Martin Associates, a firm that analyzes transportation systems. Imports to the Gulf of Mexico and the Northeast increased.

Even so, West Coast ports handled cargo worth $892 billion in 2013 alone, according to trade data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Worries over the current negotiations have prompted some stores to route shipments away from the West Coast, Gold said. Other importers planning for fall and winter shopping have shipped early to beat the contract’s expiration date.

The maritime association warns that labor peace is essential to keeping West Coast ports competitive, especially with an expansion of the Panama Canal that will allow larger vessels to reach East Coast markets directly.

The union is not persuaded, at least not publicly.

“The competitiveness argument is an old saw that gets trotted out every time there’s a negotiation,” said union spokesman Craig Merrilees. “The claim has generally been used in an effort to extract concessions from the union members.”

One area where the Pacific Maritime Association is looking for concessions is benefits. According to the PMA, the cost of benefits more than doubled over the past decade, reaching $93,200 per registered worker in fiscal year 2013.

During these negotiations, a new incentive is in play: In 2018, a 40 percent tax on the value of “Cadillac” health plans above a certain threshold kicks in under the Affordable Care Act — and the union’s coverage qualifies.

Last July, workers and retirees picketed in Long Beach and in Tacoma, Washington, complaining that some families were shouldering tens of thousands of medical bills the health plan was not paying.

Employers said legitimate claims were being paid, but they were scrutinizing tens of millions of dollars of treatments that were likely fraudulent, including phantom appointments and charges for cosmetic surgery.

Other bargaining issues include what jobs will remain under union control, the introduction of technology that could make some jobs obsolete, and on-the-job safety measures.

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June 16, 2014

Blue Jays beat Orioles to split series

Filed under: business, money — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 7:41 am

BALTIMORE—J.A. Happ pitched effectively into the seventh inning, Dioner Navarro had three hits and two RBIs and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-2 Sunday for a split of the four-game series.

Edwin Encarnacion also had three hits for the Blue Jays, who had totalled 15 runs in losing six of their previous eight games. The AL East leaders came to town with a 4 1/2-game lead.

Adam Jones homered and Nelson Cruz had three hits and his major league-leading 56th RBI for the Orioles.

Happ (6-3) gave up one run, seven hits and no walks in six-plus innings. He had lost two of his previous three starts, yielding 12 earned runs over 17 2/3 innings. Casey Janssen got four outs for his 12th save.

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May 1, 2014

Image Guided Care: How a tumour is removed with only a small incision

Filed under: money, uk — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 4:48 pm

It’s a testament to how much punishment Zack Seager’s athletic body can take that he didn’t mention the painful, mysterious lump on his right shin to his parents.

About four millimetres long, and barely perceptible under his skin, the bump was just par for the course for the 17-year old soccer, rugby, basketball, volleyball, swimming and “everything-but-hockey” star of all his teams at school and in his hometown of Dunnville, about 45 minutes south of Hamilton.

“I just thought it was a calcium deposit or something,” he says coolly. “It freaked me out at first, but then I thought it was nothing. Then it started to hurt and that freaked me out again.”

Photos: Image Guided Care avoids large incisions and shortens the recovery period after surgery

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“He’s really into sports, so a lump on his body is really not unusual,” adds his mother, Kitty, a nurse. “He also has a very high pain threshold. He had a burst appendix for almost two days before he told me that it was hurting. He lived with this lump for about a year-ish and then he said to me one day, ‘This hurts like when my appendix burst.’

“Then I knew we were in trouble.”

Kitty immediately took her son to a local emergency room, where the doctor took an X-ray and called it right away. Zack had an osteoid osteoma. A bone lesion. It’s essentially a benign tumour and this kind of growth tends to crop up in young men.

“These actually are very small lesions, but they are excruciatingly painful,” explains interventional radiologist Dr. Michael Temple, an image-guided procedure specialist at Toronto’s SickKids Hospital car warranty. “It’s quite amazing how painful.”

View 2 photos

Steve Russell / Toronto Star

Dr. Michael Temple injects some saline to protect the skin near the bone lesion. Zack Seager has a bone lesion that will be removed by a bone. To avoid the large incisions and long recovery of surgery, doctors at SickKids use Image Guided Care, which uses state-of-the-art imaging equipment, a mobile CT Scan and ultrasound to provide precise surgical treatment guided by real-time images.

“And (Zack’s) is tiny, just a couple of millimetres in size. These affect patients’ lives unbelievably. They’re not able to walk, to participate in social activities or athletic activities.”

In the past, surgeons would go in and either scrape the osteomas off the bone or just cut them out. The problem was they couldn’t really see where they were going and sometimes they would have to leave a really big hole in the bone.

But, with advances in computerized tomography (CAT scans or CT), X-rays which collectively produce cross-sectional imaging of the body, treating bone ablations, as they are called, is a whole new ball game.

“It’s been close to 20 years ago now, people started thinking, ‘If I can heat this area up, then I can probably kill these cells,’ ” says Dr. Temple. “So, now, this is a kind of standard therapy. Basically, what I am doing is using a CAT scan to put a needle into the centre of the lesion and I actually use laser to heat the area and kill the tissue.

“So, instead of having a very large hole in the bone and in the skin, the incision is about two to three millimetres in size. And that’s the procedure.”

For Zack, the promise is that he’ll be back on his feet in time for the start of soccer season. Dr. Temple worries that the teen might be a little optimistic in this.

“Basically, no matter what you do, whenever you do anything to the bone, when you put a hole into it, you increase the risk of fracturing afterwards,” Dr. Temple cautions. “From a conservative point of view, we don’t want anybody breaking their legs afterwards. So we want them not doing any kind of major exercise for about to six or eight weeks, but they can walk around and do minor exercise in the meantime.”

His mother laughs. “Zack thinks he is going to be the person who walks out of the O.R. and have no trouble recovering. He is a suck-it-up-and-move-on kind of kid. He did ask the doctor if he could go for the surgery between the end of February and the first of April, because he has too many sports to do and he needs to be recovered.”

It’s the end of March and Zack, Kitty and his dad, Jim, are at SickKids, sitting and waiting for the procedure to begin. They’re in a busy waiting area close to the Star Trek-like operating room, which is filled with giant, white CT machines. There’s a control room, just like the bridge of the Enterprise.

Steve Russell / Toronto Star

Zack Seager’s leg sports a tiny bandage after having a bone lesion that will be removed by a bone. To avoid the large incisions and long recovery of surgery, doctors at SickKids use Image Guided Care, which uses state-of-the-art imaging equipment, a mobile CT Scan and ultrasound to provide precise surgical treatment guided by real-time images.

Zack isn’t nervous; he just wants to get this over extended service warranties. His parents seem understandably tense, as nurse Kim Evanoff checks his vital signs and prepares him for surgery. He’s told to strip to his boxers. And, yes, he must even take off his Lord of the Rings ring, which hangs on a chain around his neck.

Zack is lucky that he lives close to SickKids where image-guided therapy is used.

“In most of North America, they use something called radio-frequency ablation, which is basically an electrical kind of current,” says Dr. Temple. “The laser here is actually, smaller, cheaper and easier on the patient.

“The next thing that we’re going to be doing is using sound waves to treat these without actually breaking through the skin. We’re going to be able to take a person, lie them on a MRI table, put them into the MRI, focus sound waves into their body and burn the tissues inside their body without making an incision.

“We’re going to be starting our first patient case hopefully within the next couple of months.”

Zack feels there’s no time to waste. On this day, he goes into the O.R. at noon, and spends a few hours in recovery.

By 8:30 p.m., he and his parents are back home in Dunnville.

The next day, he’s on his feet, with a cane and “just a bandage” over the incision.

“It was good,” he says. “It only hurts a little bit. Not too much.”

Now the pain of sitting out part of his sports season begins.

Mobile users: Click to view interactive graphic of Zack’s operation

Source

April 29, 2014

Federal Reserve easing into a routine

Filed under: money, online — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 3:02 pm

WASHINGTON • The outcome of this week’s gathering of Federal Reserve officials in Washington is expected to be a yawner — and that’s a good thing.

The central bank will likely vote to do the same thing it did at its last meeting … and the one before that and the one before that: reduce the amount of money it is pumping into the economy by an additional $10 billion.

The Fed’s purchases of long-term bonds, known as quantitative easing, are widely expected to end in the fourth quarter. The steady phase-out has become so routine and predictable that QE has virtually vanished from the conversation on Wall Street and among Fed watchers.

That’s remarkable considering the program clocks in at more than $1 trillion — and counting — and is arguably the most unconventional of the many unorthodox policies the central bank pursued in the wake of the financial crisis home insurance. Investors have been more worried about rising tensions in Ukraine than what was once called the Taper Tantrum. The major U.S. indexes fell last week, while the yield on the 10-year Treasury was also down ahead of the Fed’s meeting.

This is the type of nonresponse for which the Fed has been aiming since it began hinting in spring 2013 that the days of QE were numbered. At first, the mere suggestion that the Fed would start scaling back was enough to ignite a sell-off in the markets. The backlash was so strong that interest rates spiked — offsetting the $85 billion a month the central bank continued to pour into the recovery in hopes of keeping long-term rates low.

Once the Fed began the phase-out, it opted to cut its bond purchases at a snail’s pace of $10 billion a month. The small reductions provide investors plenty of time to adjust to the new world order but are significant enough to ensure that the program will end this year.

Does QE still matter? Some economists have argued that even though this round of Fed bond purchases is twice as large as the previous ones, it has been the least effective. Others argue that once the program’s end date became clear, investors were able to calculate the size of the program, pulling forward any residual impact car company insurance maryland. Mortgage rates are slightly lower than they were when the phase-out was announced.

Fed officials have tried to preserve wiggle room by arguing that the wind down is not on autopilot. If the economy stops growing or the recovery takes off, they can slow down or speed up the program as needed. The central bank can be glad investors have turned their attention elsewhere and just let this plane land itself.

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April 25, 2014

FDA plans first e-cigarette regulations

Filed under: Canada, money — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 9:29 pm

Updated at 10:11 a.m.

WASHINGTON •  The federal government wants to ban sales of electronic cigarettes to minors and require approval for new products and health warning labels.

While the proposal being issued Thursday by the Food and Drug Administration won’t immediately mean changes for the popular devices, the move is aimed at eventually taming the fast-growing e-cigarette industry.

The agency said the proposal sets a foundation for regulating the products but the rules don’t immediately ban the wide array of flavors of e-cigarettes, curb marketing on places like TV or set product standards.

Any further rules “will have to be grounded in our growing body of knowledge and understanding about the use of e-cigarettes and their potential health risks or public health benefits,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg said.

Members of Congress and public health groups have raised concerns over e-cigarettes and questioned their marketing tactics.

“When finalized (the proposal) would result in significant public health benefits, including through reducing sales to youth, helping to correct consumer misperceptions, preventing misleading health claims and preventing new products from entering the market without scientific review by FDA,” said Mitch Zeller, the director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products.

Also on Thursday, the FDA proposed extending its authority to regulate cigars, hookah, nicotine gels, pipe tobacco and dissolvable tobacco products.

Public health advocates said the FDA proposal is a critical step in reining in marketing of the new products. But they also said it comes after an “inexcusably long delay,” pointing out that the FDA first announced its plans to regulate e-cigarettes in April 2011.

“It is inexcusable that it has taken the FDA and the Administration so long to act. This delay has had serious public health consequences as these unregulated tobacco products have been marketed using tactics and sweet flavors that appeal to kids,” the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids said in a statement.

Once the new rules are finalized, the agency could propose more restrictions on e-cigarettes. Officials didn’t provide a timetable for that action.

“The devil will be in the details of future regulatory decisions,” said Jeff Stier, senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative think tank in Washington. “If the regulations are too heavy-handed, they’ll have the deadly effect of preventing smokers from quitting by switching to these dramatically less harmful alternatives.”

The FDA said the public, members of the industry and others will have 75 days to comment on the proposal. The agency will evaluate those comments before issuing a final rule but there’s no timetable for when that will happen. The regulations will be a step in a long process that many believe will ultimately end up being challenged in court.

E-cigarettes are plastic or metal tubes, usually the size of a cigarette, that heat a liquid nicotine solution instead of burning tobacco. That creates vapor that users inhale.

Smokers like e-cigarettes because the nicotine-infused vapor looks like smoke but doesn’t contain the thousands of chemicals, tar or odor of regular cigarettes used auto warranty. Some smokers use e-cigarettes as a way to quit smoking tobacco, or to cut down. However, there’s not much scientific evidence showing e-cigarettes help smokers quit or smoke less, and it’s unclear how safe they are.

The industry started on the Internet and at shopping-mall kiosks and has rocketed from thousands of users in 2006 to several million worldwide who can choose from more than 200 brands. Sales are estimated to have reached nearly $2 billion in 2013. Tobacco company executives have noted that they are eating into traditional cigarette sales, and their companies have jumped into the business.

Some believe lightly regulating electronic cigarettes might actually be better for public health overall, if smokers switch and e-cigarettes really are safer. Others are raising alarms about the hazards of the products and a litany of questions about whether e-cigarettes will keep smokers addicted or encourage others to start using e-cigarettes, and even eventually tobacco products.

“Right now for something like e-cigarettes, there are far more questions than answers,” Zeller said, adding that the agency is conducting research to better understand the safety of the devices and who is using them.

At first glance, the FDA’s proposal is “broadly as expected and not as restrictive as some had feared,” Wells Fargo Securities analyst Bonnie Herzog wrote in a note to investors.

“It seems to be a responsible approach … and shows the FDA’s commitment to look at particular e-cigarettes in a science-based way rather than just conjecture,” said Jason Healy, president of Blu e-cigs, which is owned by Lorillard Inc. and holds more than 45 percent of the market. “Obviously we’ve got a long way to go. This may be just some calm before the storm.”

Healy noted that the e-cigarette landscape and the products themselves will continue to evolve and grow before the regulations take effect, and they will likely spur a consolidation of companies in the market.

In addition to prohibiting sales to minors and requiring health labels that warn users that nicotine is an addictive chemical, e-cigarette makers also would be required to register their products with the agency and disclose ingredients. They also would not be allowed to claim their products are safer than other tobacco products.

They also couldn’t use words such as “light” or “mild” to describe their products, give out free samples or sell their products in vending machines unless they are in a place open only to adults, such as a bar.

Companies also will be required to submit applications for premarket review within two years. As long as an e-cigarette maker has submitted the application, the FDA said it will allow the products to stay on the market while they are being reviewed. That would mean companies would have to submit an application for all e-cigarettes now being sold.

Source

April 7, 2014

Pope Francis gives faithful pocket-sized copies of the Gospels

Filed under: management, money — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 3:12 am

VATICAN CITY—Tens of thousands of faithful in St. Peter’s Square have been treated to gifts from Pope Francis: pocket-sized copies of the Gospels which he hopes they’ll keep handy and read daily.

The scriptures were handed out by volunteers after the Pope’s traditional Sunday appearance to pilgrims and tourists in the square payday loan companies.

The Pope did ask for something in return, telling them: “In exchange for this gift, perform an act of charity.” He said such an act might be praying for an enemy, for example.

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February 2, 2014

Kensington Market Loblaws: beyond a debate over gentrification

Filed under: finance, money — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 8:52 pm

There’s no more patently ludicrous marker of Toronto’s gentrification, and of gentrification as a whole model of civic transformation, than the mock graffiti dressing up the Loblaws on Queen St. West, near Bathurst.

It just says “LOBLAWS.” Over and over. In different ripped-off street art fonts. And it’s indoors!

It’s like a cartoon of an out-of-touch corporation pitiably trying to connect with the roots of a neighbourhood it’s papering over. It’s Homer Simpson strutting through Lollapalooza in an oversized Rastafarian hat: desperate, embarrassing, totally oblivious. It’s an easy target.

Last week, Tribute Communities announced it has sealed a deal with Loblaws to develop a 20,000 square foot supermarket in another of Toronto’s most contested neighbourhoods: Kensington Market.

Slated to take over 297 College St. — in a space formerly housing, no joke, a Zen Buddhist temple — the new Loblaws is being regarded in some quarters as both a material and existential threat to the vibrancy and uniqueness of Kensington.

It remains to be seen how exactly Loblaws and Tribute will pay phony homage to the neighbourhood they’re encroaching upon — a graffiti-scrawled Jane Jacobs quote or a 40-foot hollow Buddha filled with cheese? — but the people behind the new deal are already adopting the language of Kensington’s culture.

Speaking to Toronto Life, Tribute VP of land development Steve Deveaux stressed that the Loblaws will be “more of a community grocery store,” insisting that the Kensington we know will still be “relevant.”

“Relevant,” even!

Over the past year, Kensington has become a battleground, a site of contestation. As Loblawsian corporate interests further come to define Toronto, many have taken up the cause of protecting heritage communities against the corporatized steamrolling that defines, oh, pretty much everything.

Per a petition endorsed by 7,300-plus “Friends of Kensington Market” that has circulated online since Loblaws first began eyeing the Kensington-adjacent space, the clash is between Big Corporations and “the small independent stores, especially purveyors of raw food — fruit stands, dry goods, fishmongers, butcher and groceries,” those that “may not withstand the impact of a Loblaws moving into the community.”

In a way this battle has already been lost. Friends of Kensington Market are determined to preserve a spirit that’s already receded.

Kensington’s uniqueness has already been co-opted in less obvious ways. It was 2009 when Max and Son Meat Market, a tiny family-owned butcher on Baldwin St., was bought out by Peter Sanagan, laying the tracks for a much bigger, 5,000 square foot space hawking organic heirloom pheasants and artisanal pepperettes.

And if that didn’t seal Kensington’s fate as a sort of d

January 22, 2014

Thailand Unexpectedly Holds Key Rate After Emergency Declared - Bloomberg

Filed under: legal, money — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 12:08 pm

Thailand unexpectedly held its key interest rate, even as Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra yesterday declared a state of emergency in Bangkok to control anti-government protests that have crimped economic growth.

The Bank of Thailand kept its one-day bond repurchase rate unchanged at 2.25 percent, with monetary policy committee members voting four-to-three in favor of the decision, it said in Nakhon Pathom province today. Seven out of 21 economists in a Bloomberg survey predicted the outcome, while the remainder expected the rate to be cut by a quarter of a percentage point.

The emergency decree will be in place for 60 days starting today, as an escalation of attacks on anti-government protesters threatens to derail elections scheduled for Feb. 2. The turmoil has hurt the economy and the currency, Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong said last week, with Moody

January 14, 2014

Deal Reached on Spending Bill to Fund U.S. Government - Bloomberg

Filed under: investors, money — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 9:28 am

House and Senate appropriators agreed to a bipartisan bill to fund the U.S. government through Sept. 30, and it will be introduced tonight, Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski said.

The measure will reach the House floor tomorrow or Jan. 15, Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat, said in Washington.

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