Finance news. My opinion.

October 18, 2014

Harper warns Canadians about spread of Ebola at polio award ceremony

Filed under: business, lenders — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 7:03 pm

Prime Minister Stephen Harper warned about the potential for the spread of Ebola at an award ceremony in Toronto today, saying that much like polio the disease must not be underestimated.

Harper said the current situation with Ebola reminds us that in an age of globalization, global trade and travel, a problem that was once far away from Canada “could arrive at our shores very quickly.” The World Health Organization says the Ebola outbreak has killed more than 4,500 people in West Africa.

Harper was presented with the Rotary Foundation Polio Eradication Champion Award for his efforts to eliminate polio globally, and said that in many countries, including Canada, polio was once a “devastating illness” for thousands of people every year but has now been virtually eliminated as a common concern bad credit payday loans.

Harper accepted the award on behalf of the Government of Canada, which he says has championed polio eradication for 25 years and added the world is close to fully eradicating the disease.

He said it was the generosity and support of Canadians that has led to great progress toward the elimination of polio, due to the fact that Canadians have supported the initiative and related efforts on maternal and child and newborn health generously over the past few years.

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October 13, 2014

McDonald’s invites food questions, including why its burgers don’t rot

Filed under: finance, uk — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 10:07 pm

NEW YORK • McDonald’s wants to explain why its burgers may not rot and that there are no worms in its beef.

The world’s biggest hamburger chain is confronting unappetizing questions as part of a U.S. campaign to beat back perceptions that it serves Frankenfood. The company has run similar campaigns in Canada and Australia and said Monday it’s bringing the effort to its flagship market.

The push comes as McDonald’s fights to boost its performance in the U.S., where sales slid 1.5 percent at established locations in the most recent quarter, following a 0.2 percent dip for last year. In addition to increased competition, McDonald’s is trying to keep up with changing tastes, with places such as Chipotle marketing their food as more wholesome alternatives.

To improve the image of its food, McDonald’s recently rolled out chicken wraps with sliced cucumbers and the option to substitute egg whites in breakfast sandwiches. It also plans to eventually let people swap out the french fries in value meals with options like salad or vegetables.

For its latest campaign, among the first issues McDonald’s addresses are widely circulated online images and videos that show its burgers staying in tact after several weeks or even years. On its webpage, McDonald’s says that’s likely because the food has dehydrated, and that food needs moisture to form mold.

The company’s responses to other questions such as “Does McDonald’s beef contain worms?” are more direct: “No. Gross! End of story.”

A video posted on the company’s home page also showed Grant Imahara, a former host of the TV show “Mythbusters,” touring a Cargill beef plant where McDonald’s patties are made.

“Are there lips and eyeballs in there, Jimmy?” Imhara asks a plant supervisor, who explains that the patties only have beef trimmings. Another guide says the patties do not contain lean finely textured beef, an ingredient widely referred to as “pink slime” that became the subject of controversy a few years ago. McDonald’s stopped using the ingredient about three years ago.

Ben Stringfellow, vice president of communications for McDonald’s USA, said in a phone interview that the campaign is a new way of engaging with customers more directly. He noted people are demanding for more information about products across the board, not just from McDonald’s.

“In many ways, it’s the way the world is going,” he said.

National TV ads will begin airing Monday letting people know about the push. McDonald’s says people can submit questions via social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. The company plans to respond to the most common questions with videos or other posts, as well as responding one-on-one to questions, Stringfellow said.

Laura Ries, a marketing consultant based in Atlanta, noted McDonald’s risks bringing up unappetizing thoughts some people may never have heard about.

“I didn’t know people thought there were worms in its beef, or that they didn’t use real chicken,” Ries said.

Still, she agreed that companies have to be more responsive to questions from customers, especially at a time when people can amplify their concerns and criticisms to bigger audiences on social media.

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October 7, 2014

Ontario children

Filed under: business, technology — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 10:56 am

A coroner’s inquest into the circumstances leading to 12-year-old Chazz Petrella’s suicide is crucial to filling sometimes fatal gaps in the province’s youth mental health system, experts say.

“There’s no question it would be a very useful inquest, in my view. There’s an increasing problem of people with mental health issues who can’t get help when it’s required,” said Peter Rosenthal, a Toronto lawyer who has previously represented families at coroner’s inquests.

Janet Petrella-Ashby and her husband, Frank, requested last Friday that Dr. Dirk Huyer, Chief Coroner for Ontario, call for an inquest into their son’s late August death. The preteen committed suicide, hanging himself in a tree next to the family home. He spent years struggling with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiance disorder (ODD) and mild anxiety.

The Petrellas say their son bounced from mental health agency to mental health agency for years. They say many families in Ontario struggle to find proper treatment for their children’s mental health issues because of problems within the province’s system.

In a rare move, Irwin Elman, the provincial advocate for children and youth, backed the Petrellas by sending a second letter to Huyer, also requesting an inquest.

Cheryl Mahyr, spokesperson for the coroner’s office, confirmed Monday that Huyer had received both requests, but no decision has been made.

All deaths in Ontario are considered for possible inquests, she said, but the decision to call an inquest is made at the conclusion of the local coroner’s investigation. The Petrellas’ lawyer, Julie Kirkpatrick, said that investigation is ongoing, pending toxicology tests, and results could take several weeks.

Should the local coroner determine that an inquest is not necessary, the family may file a written request to hold an inquest, Mahyr said. The case would then be reviewed by the Regional Supervising Coroner, Dr. Craig Muir, who has 60 days to respond. If Muir again determines an inquest is not necessary, the family can then ask Huyer to review the matter. Huyer’s decision, required with 20 days, is final.

The Petrellas’ request is also supported by Monique Taylor, NDP MPP for Hamilton Mountain, who wrote a third letter to Huyer, dated Monday, requesting an inquest.

“By doing an inquest, we will have further advice to push the government to move forward with respect to mental health,” Taylor told the Star.

In the Petrellas’ case, Taylor said it was quite obvious the family was in crisis and there was no system for Janet and Frank to fall back on to save Chazz’s life.

“Now it’s too late for that family, but we have to make sure that it’s not too late for other families moving forward.”

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October 5, 2014

On the witness list: Paulson, Geithner, Bernanke

Filed under: news, technology — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 7:28 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — It could be an awkward reunion.

Three top former government leaders who devised the 2008 financial bailouts — Henry Paulson, Timothy Geithner and Ben Bernanke — are set to testify this week in a lawsuit over the government’s rescue of the insurance giant AIG.

Six years ago, their rescue plan revived AIG, protected its far-flung financial partners and helped save the financial system. Yet AIG’s former CEO, 89-year old Maurice Greenberg, argues that the government’s bailout was illegitimate and is demanding roughly $40 billion in damages for shareholders.

This despite the fact that Greenberg orchestrated a 2010 deal in which he unloaded $278 million in AIG shares that his holding company owned — a windfall that might have been impossible without the government’s intervention.

The lawsuit alleges that the bailout violated the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment by taking control of AIG without “just compensation.” Greenberg objects to the government’s takeover of a company approaching bankruptcy in exchange for what would eventually become $180 billion-plus in taxpayer-backed loans.

Many legal experts deem the lawsuit a longshot. But the trial serves as a reminder that few were satisfied by the government’s response to the crisis — even those who, like Greenberg, fared far better than the millions who lost homes and jobs.

For Greenberg, the case represents a chance to make the former Federal Reserve chairman (Bernanke) and two past Treasury secretaries (Paulson and Geithner) defend a landmark action made at the most perilous moment for the U.S. financial system since the Great Depression.

All three, of course, have well-honed and oft-repeated arguments in defense of the AIG bailout. Geithner released his memoirs this year, while Paulson appeared in a Netflix documentary film about his experiences last year. The tight-lipped Bernanke is now writing his own book.

During the height of the crisis, no private company was willing to provide loans to AIG. The insurer “faced severe liquidity pressures that threatened to force it imminently into bankruptcy,” Bernanke told the House Financial Services Committee in 2009.

An AIG collapse “would have posed unacceptable risks for the global financial system and for our economy,” Bernanke said. The viability of state and local governments, banks and 401(k) plans was at risk, he warned.

Greenberg’s lawyer, David Boies, is famed for fighting for gay marriage and arguing before the Supreme Court on behalf of Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election. But in congressional hearings and news conferences, the three witnesses he intends to grill before the U.S. Court of Federal Claims have learned to measure their words carefully.

The challenge is whether Boies can use the multitude of their past comments about AIG to trap them in an inconsistency, said Hester Peirce, a senior research fellow at George Mason University and former Senate Banking Committee staffer.

“They are in a pretty difficult position because they might have to contradict what they previously said,” Peirce said.

For Americans who yearn to see reckless bankers held accountable in court, it’s somewhat surreal to have a lawsuit based on the premise that the government’s rescue unfairly punished a company whose collapse would have threatened the global financial system.

How so? AIG was overexposed to subprime mortgages back in 2008. That’s because of a financial instrument known as a credit default swap. It obligated AIG to pay out if the mortgages defaulted.

Its stock and credit ratings had nosedived. The company largely built by Greenberg appeared to be freefalling into bankruptcy, possibly dragging down several major investment banks with it.

So the government provided an initial $85 billion loan — ultimately $182 billion — in return for an 80 percent stake in AIG.

That 80 percent stake angered Greenberg. He remained the company’s most vocal shareholder after being ousted as CEO and chairman in 2005 amid a New York state investigation into suspicious financial transactions under his watch. Greenberg contends that AIG shareholders were singled out for retribution, while the government chose to extend loans on far more generous terms to banks such as Citigroup.

The division within AIG that undermined the company’s balance sheet was established under Greenberg’s watch, noted James Cox, a law professor at Duke University.

“Greenberg probably did create a culture at AIG that nurtured the aggressiveness of the swaps business and the excessive greed that we associated with the crisis,” Cox said. “I don’t see him as a choir boy in this process.”

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October 2, 2014

TTC won’t run streetcars on Cherry until at least 2016

Filed under: debt, money — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 2:08 pm

The track work is nearly complete. But it

September 26, 2014

Applications for US unemployment rise 12K to 293K

Filed under: news, uk — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 2:15 am

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits increased last week after falling sharply two weeks ago. Despite the rise, the level of applications remains near pre-recession levels, a sign that hiring will likely remain healthy.

Weekly unemployment benefit applications rose 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 293,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. Yet the four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell for the second straight week to 298,500.

The figures are “very low … close to all-time lows when measured as a share of payrolls,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, in a research note. “We expect robust job growth in the months ahead.”

Two weeks ago, applications had plummeted to 281,000, near a 14-year low first reached in July. Over the past year, the four-week average for applications has fallen 7.1 percent. They climbed above 650,000 during the recession in 2009.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs. Fewer applications indicate that employers are holding onto their workers, likely because they are more confident about the economy. It may also indicate they will boost hiring.

The total number of people receiving benefits ticked up by 7,000 to 2.4 million. A year ago, 3.9 million people were receiving unemployment aid. That number has fallen sharply partly because of the expiration of extended benefits, a program that ended at the beginning of this year.

Applications fell steadily through the summer. At the same time, job gains have been solid, despite a slowdown in hiring in August.

Employers added just 142,000 jobs last month, according to the Labor Department, down from an average of 212,000 in the preceding 12 months. It was the end of a six-month streak of monthly job gains in excess of 200,000. The unemployment rate fell to 6.1 percent from 6.2 percent, but only because some of those out of work gave up looking. The government doesn’t count people as unemployed unless they are actively searching.

Still, most economists expect hiring will continue at a healthy pace this year. Surveys of both manufacturing and services firms show that companies in both sectors added workers in September.

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September 24, 2014

Deer are pests for airports, threats to pilots

Filed under: money, news — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 11:03 am

WASHINGTON (AP) — Aviation and wildlife experts say soaring deer populations are nuisances for airports and threats to pilots, especially at this time of year.

Whether driven by hunger or just crazy for love, deer will do seemingly anything to get onto airport grounds and runways, including leaping over tall fences or squeezing under them. But put a deer and a plane together on a runway and both can have a very bad day.

A recent government report says that from 1990 to 2013, there were 1,088 collisions between planes and deer, elk, moose and caribou. Most of the planes suffered damage, and some were destroyed. One person was killed and 29 others injured. About a third of the collisions took place during the October-November mating season.

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September 16, 2014

Yellen Rate Raises Seen as Gradual in Survey as Inflation Muted - Bloomberg

Filed under: lenders, marketing — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 8:31 am

Even after five years of steady economic growth, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen is likely to raise interest rates only gradually between 2015 and 2017 as inflation remains muted, according to a Bloomberg survey of economists.

Fifty-six percent of 61 economists said the median of policy makers

September 11, 2014

MasterCard loses EU court battle over fees

Filed under: business, house — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 11:43 am

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union’s highest court has thrown out an appeal by MasterCard against a decision by the bloc’s antitrust authority to scrap some of its fees charged to merchants.

The ruling by the 28-nation bloc’s Court of Justice on Thursday closes MasterCard’s seven-year-old battle against a decision made by the EU’s competition watchdog.

The judges in Luxembourg confirmed a 2012 ruling against by a lower EU court, saying the relevant fees cannot be seen as “objectively necessary” since the card system remains “capable of functioning without those fees.”

The so-called multilateral interchange fees on every card transaction were retained by the card-issuing bank and charged to merchants.

MasterCard is based in Purchase, New York.

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September 8, 2014

China

Filed under: management, news — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 5:59 am

China

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