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June 24, 2014

In Yellen We Trust: That’s the Bond Mantra as Inflation Is Dismissed - Bloomberg

Filed under: Canada, news — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 10:21 am

As the Federal Reserve works to extricate itself from the bond market, its influence over debt investors is only increasing and boosting the chance of a soft landing for Treasuries.

While the Fed scales back the unprecedented stimulus that has inundated the world

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.


June 17, 2014

Mayor Rob Ford to city: Change the locks, I’ll be back

Filed under: Uncategorized, term — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 10:37 pm

Mayor Rob Ford will return to Toronto and to his seat at the head of the city in just over 10 days.

In a letter dated June 2 to the city clerk’s office, Ford said he would return June 30 “in the latter portion of the afternoon, to resume my duties as Mayor of Toronto.”

The note is signed above where “MAYOR FORD” is written out in capital letters.

The letter also asks the city to change back the locks prior to his arrival. In his absence, Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly absorbed all of Ford’s staff and his duties as mayor quick cash. Last week at council, Kelly appointed Councillor Mike Del Grande as deputy-deputy mayor since he had planned to be away this week.

Ford has been in rehab, at the GreenStone treatment facility in Bala, Ont., for more than a month.


June 14, 2014

GM recalls another 530,000 cars, including late-model Camaros

Filed under: business, online — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 4:45 pm

Updated at 1:45 p.m.

General Motors Co. recalled about 530,000 cars in the U.S. on Friday, including the past four years of Chevrolet Camaros, new Buick LaCrosse sedans, and older Chevrolet Sonics and Saab convertibles.

This latest round brings GM’s total for the year to 38 separate recalls in the U.S. involving 14.4 million vehicles, a record for the automaker. Including this latest round, the auto industry has recalled about 25 million vehicles this year, about one out of every 10 vehicles on the road in the U.S.

“Discovering and acting on this issue quickly is an example of the new norm for product safety at GM,” said Jeff Boyer, GM vice president of global safety.

The Camaro recall covers 464,712 Camaros from the 2010-14 model years in the U.S. GM said a driver’s knee can bump the key fob and cause the key to unexpectedly shift from the “run” position, shutting off the important car functions such as power steering, air bags and the power brake assist.

The issue, which may primarily affect drivers sitting close to the steering column, was discovered by GM during internal testing following its recall of 2.6 million older small cars earlier this year for a faulty ignition switch linked to more than 50 crashes and at least 13 deaths.

But GM said the Camaro problem is unrelated to the ignition system used in Chevrolet Cobalts and other small cars included in the ignition-switch recall. Unlike the ignition in the older cars, the Camaro system meets all GM engineering specifications, the automaker said.

GM said it knows of three crashes “that resulted in four minor injuries” that it believes may be linked to the Camaro key fob.

The automaker will fix the problem by changing the Camaro key to a standard design from one in which the key is concealed in the fob and is opened by pushing a button.

GM also recalled 28,789 Saab 9-3 convertibles from the 2004-11 model years because an automatic tensioning system cable in the driver’s side front seat belt retractor can break. GM said it learned of the problem from customer complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration personal business card. GM said it is unaware of any crashes, injuries or fatalities related to the problem. GM no longer owns Saab.

Dealers will replace the driver’s side retractor in the recalled vehicles. GM also will cover the same repair if needed for the passenger seat belt during the life of the vehicle.

The Chevrolet Sonic recall involves 21,567 cars from the 2012 model year equipped with a six-speed automatic transmission and a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine. The cars can have a condition in which the transmission turbine shaft fractures “as a result of a supplier quality issue,” GM said. Dealers will replace the transmission turbine shaft. GM is unaware of any crashes, injuries or fatalities related to this condition.

GM said 14,765 model year 2014 Buick LaCrosse sedans need to be repaired because a wiring splice in the driver’s door may corrode and break, creating an electrical problem with circuits that control the door chime, passenger windows, rear windows and the sunroof. Dealers will inspect the driver door window motor harness and, if necessary, replace an electrical splice.

The wave of GM recalls has come after the automaker revamped its recall process following the disclosure that it waited a decade to recall the older cars with the deadly ignition-switch defect.

An internal probe into the delayed recall released by the automaker earlier this year found that a pervading atmosphere of incompetence and neglect led the company to allow the problem to fester for 11 years before anyone acted to correct it.

GM Chief Executive Mary Barra has fired 15 people as a result of the company-commissioned investigation into why the automaker delayed recalling defective cars. Five more GM employees were disciplined.

GM still faces ongoing investigations into the ignition-switch problem by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Department of Justice and Congress.


April 18, 2014

Ukraine, Russia reach tentative de-escalation agreement

Filed under: investors, small business — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 4:19 pm

OTTAWA—An agreement to ease tensions along Ukraine’s eastern border is raising hopes that a diplomatic solution to the ongoing crisis can be found, even as clashes in the country’s eastern regions claimed lives.

But even as diplomats worked to avoid further violence in the country, Canada and NATO allies continued to prepare for the possibility of a deepening crisis in the region.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Thursday that Canada will send six CF-18 fighter jets to Poland as part of a NATO air-policing mission. Another 20 military staff will be sent to bolster Canada’s contingent at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

Harper said the move was a direct response to Russian expansionism in Ukraine.

“This is in response to the situation that is developing there and, frankly, more generally to the concern that we have on what really is expansionism and militarism on the part of Russia,” Harper said Thursday.

“I believe this to be a long-term, serious threat to global peace and security and we’re always prepared to work with our allies in NATO and elsewhere.”

Harper said in a statement that Canada remains steadfastly behind Ukraine and will not “stand idly by” while the country’s sovereignty is challenged court records.

Canada’s commitment — which was requested by NATO — came as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced that four-way talks between the U.S., the European Union, Russia and the Ukraine had resulted in a tentative agreement on initial steps to de-escalate tensions.

The agreement calls on the two sides to halt violence, intimidation and provocative actions, according to reports. It also puts further Western economic sanctions against Russia on pause for the time being.

Under the Geneva statement, protesters would be given amnesty if they comply with the demands, including the immediate disarmament of all illegally armed groups, and the return of all seized buildings to their rightful owners. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe will oversee the process.

Kerry called the deal “a good day’s work,” but said both sides need to translate the words into immediate action.

“None of us leaves here with a sense that the job is done because of words on a paper,” Kerry told reporters in Geneva.

Kerry added that if Moscow does not respect the commitment to de-escalate tensions, “we will have no choice but to impose further costs on Russia.”

The agreement comes after a night of bloodshed in the southeastern city of Mariupol, just 60 km from the Russian border, according to Ukrainian authorities. Ukrainian police killed three pro-Russian fighters and wounded 13 others Thursday in an overnight attack on a national guard base. Special forces were deployed, according to Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, and 63 people were detained and weapons seized.

Earlier this week, Ukraine sent troops into its eastern Donetsk region, where Kyiv said “armed extremists” operating under Russian direction had occupied government buildings. The masked militias operating in the region are reported to have sophisticated weaponry, stoking fears they’re backed by Moscow.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called those fears “nonsense” on Thursday, but acknowledged for the first time that the masked troops involved in the annexation of Crimea were Russian soldiers police reports public record.

In Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama told reporters that it will take “several days” to know whether Russia and Ukraine will follow through on the Geneva agreement.

“The question now becomes will . . . (Russia) use the influence that they’ve exerted in a disrupted way to restore some order so that Ukrainians can carry out an election, move forward with the decentralization reforms that they’ve proposed, stabilize their economy, and start getting back on the path of growth and democracy,” Obama said.

“We’re not going to know whether or not there’s follow through on these statements for several days.”

Earlier Thursday, Obama spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and planned to speak with British Prime Minister David Cameron. The West will follow through with more economic sanctions, Obama said, unless they see progress on the ground in Ukraine.


April 16, 2014

Brampton school stabbing sent one to hospital over alleged $10 feud

Filed under: loans, news — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 9:00 pm

A fake $10 bill and a two-week feud set off a fight inside a Brampton high school that sent one teen to the hospital with stab wounds and put three others in police custody.

Several students outside St. Roch Catholic Secondary School on Tuesday afternoon who witnessed the lunch-hour fight and knew those involved said the beef started after one student paid an older boy with a counterfeit $10 bill.

Peel police said one 17-year-old boy was sent to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Two other boys, aged 16 and 17, were arrested at the school. A third male student who left the scene was being sought by police and later arrested, police tweeted at 6:30 p.m.

What the money was for, no one seemed to know, but those present say the student who handed over the fake money was the one who allegedly did the stabbing.

“They decided to deal with it today, I guess,” said a Grade 10 student who was in a second-floor hallway when the fight broke out on the main floor. “I’m shaken up . . . I was worried about it was going to happen soon.”

The feud started two weeks ago with the exchange of money, friends said. In the hallway, things escalated.

“It was kind of a dirty look that he gave the guy. He turned around and then he asked him what’s going on and why he’s looking at him like that,” said the Grade 10 student, standing next to his mother in front of the school. “They were going to go outside; they just fought inside instead.”

He said a 16-year-old, also in Grade 10, pulled out a knife. The boy who was injured, in Grade 12, never fell to the ground and had to be held back by others as the fight continued.

“They were throwing fists at each other,” said one Grade 9 student who did not want to give her name. “And then all of a sudden, he was bleeding a lot from his neck.”

Teachers were quick to break up the fight, students said, and the injured boy was taken to the office before the ambulance arrived to take him to Brampton Civic Hospital.

The school was put in lockdown just as the first lunch break — reserved for Grade 10 students — was ending and a new one beginning. Students from all grades were pulled into the closest classrooms. Tactical teams went from room to room looking for the missing suspect, police said.

Students tweeted from the hours-long lockdown, commenting on the heavily armed officers “packin heat.”

Several neighbouring schools were also put in a state of hold-and-secure.

With files from Jodee Brown

Stabbing in a Brampton high school started after a two-week-old fight over a fake $10 bill, students here say. $10 is a big deal to them.

April 8, 2014

Railroads stress safety after deaths up in 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized, economics — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 6:08 pm

OMAHA, Neb. • Railroads are launching a new campaign to highlight the dangers of being near train tracks after a spike in rail deaths last year.

At this time last year, the railroads were proudly calling 2012 their safest year ever as derailments and crossing accidents kept declining. But last year, the number of trespassing deaths rose by 47, or 11 percent, to 476, and the number of deaths in accidents increased nearly 8 percent to 250.

Although the rates vary from year to year and there are only theories to explain last year’s increase, it prompted federal regulators to develop a public campaign aimed at reducing accidents. Ads being released Tuesday are focusing on how people and vehicles stand no chance against a train.

“We need to make sure people understand the danger they’re putting themselves in on the rails,” said Joyce Rose, CEO of Operation Lifesaver, a nonprofit dedicated to educating people about railroad hazards.

It’s difficult to determine what was behind the death increase in 2013, but Rose believes it may be related to smartphones and other electronic devices.

“We’re a distracted population,” Rose said.

The main television commercial for the new campaign, dubbed “See Tracks? Think Train,” shows a young man walking on railroad tracks while wearing headphones and not realizing a train is coming.

Mark Kalina, who lost parts of both legs in a train accident, supports the message.

The 24-year-old said he knew he made a bad decision when he tried to walk around a stopped train to get to his apartment in Columbus, Ohio, after he’d been out with friends in October 2012. The train started moving, and Kalina’s shirt got caught. But after climbing aboard the train to free his shirt, Kalina fell under the train.

Kalina, who hopes to return to Ohio State in the fall to compete his degree, wants others to learn from his mistake.

“It just takes one bad time to possibly end your life,” Kalina said.

The effort is also backed by the Association of American Railroads trade group, major railroads and the Federal Railroad Administration.

Despite the increase in deaths in 2013, regulators note that railroad safety has significantly improved over the past decade by most measures. Between 2004 and 2013, for example, the number of trespassing deaths went up about 3 percent.

The Federal Railroad Administration said the number of injuries and deaths from trespassing fluctuates from year to year based on factors such as construction near train tracks or increased vehicle and pedestrian traffic.

Kansas City Southern railroad engineer Russ W. Fletcher said he hopes this campaign will help people make better decisions at railroad crossings and around train tracks. He noted that railroad employees involved in accidents, especially fatal ones, also are affected.

“The memories never go away,” said Fletcher, who lives in Joplin, Mo. “It’s horrific for everyone.”

The 58-year-old veteran railroad engineer said he has even had near misses with police officers who disobey train crossing signals.

“We have very intelligent people making a bad decision every day,” Fletcher said.


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.


March 31, 2014

China’s leader Xi in first visit to European Union

Filed under: business, management — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 3:28 pm

BRUSSELS (AP) — China’s president is meeting with the top officials of the European Union to discuss the two sides’ close business ties and their wider diplomatic relations.

Xi Jinping on Monday became the first Chinese leader to visit the headquarters of the 28-country EU in Brussels.

The EU is China’s largest trading partner, while China is Europe’s second-largest, trailing only the U.S. China and Europe trade well over 1 billion euros worth ($1.37 billion) a day.

Xi was meeting with the head of the EU’s executive arm, Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, European Parliament leader Martin Schulz and Herman Van Rompuy, who chairs the meetings of the EU’s 28 national leaders.

Xi visited Belgium as part of a wider European tour that also has taken him to France, Germany and the Netherlands.


March 25, 2014

Latinos being left behind in health care overhaul

Filed under: management, small business — Tags: , , , — ManInBlack @ 3:56 am

WASHINGTON • The nation’s largest minority group risks being left behind by President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

Hispanics make up nearly one-third of the nation’s uninsured, but many are staying on the sidelines as the White House races to meet a goal of 6 million sign-ups by March 31.

Latinos “are not at the table,” says Jane Delgado, president of the National Alliance for Hispanic Health, a nonpartisan advocacy network.

Experts say that’s a loss both for Latinos, and the Obama administration itself us fast cash.

Hispanics who remain uninsured could face fines, not to mention risking high medical bills for their families.

And the government won’t get the full advantage of a largely young and healthy group that could help keep premiums low in the new insurance markets.


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