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Sun, 29 May 2016
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US businesses to take part in Russian economic forum despite objections from Washington

© Alexei Danichev / Sputnik
Trinity Bridge in St. Petersburg
Major US investors will take part in the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF 2016) this June despite US government objections, according to the Russian Embassy in Washington.

"Business will do what it sees as necessary. What is not forbidden is allowed. According to our information, the leading investors will attend the Russian forum. American companies will be among them. The policy of ignoring the forum has failed. Interested companies, in any case, will attend and no one will hinder them," said Russian Embassy spokesman Grigory Zasypkin.

It's hardly a surprise Washington ignores events in Russia, but pressuring business is inappropriate, as the United States has always separated business from politics, the spokesman said.


Judge orders bailiff to handcuff public defender in courtroom despite not breaking any law

© Ronda Churchill/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Conrad Hafen is shown on the bench on Tuesday, April 12, 2016.
A deputy public defender found herself in handcuffs Monday as she tried to keep a client out of jail.

Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Conrad Hafen said he wanted to teach the lawyer about courtroom etiquette. "You need to have order in a courtroom," Hafen later told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "And there needs to be proper decorum with attorneys."

Tension seemed to escalate quickly Monday morning inside the judge's courtroom, according to court transcripts.

Zohra Bakhtary, a deputy public defender for three years, has spent at least one day a week for the past year inside Hafen's courtroom on the sixth floor of the Regional Justice Center.

Comment: The public defender should absolutely file a complaint to the state of Nevada over the behavior of the judge. The judge did not find her in contempt of court, and if he had, he would have had to follow clearly outlined procedures. None of those procedures involve handcuffing a counselor and putting her in the corner to "teach her a lesson". That is abuse of power. The judge can't just do whatever he wants if a counselor is fighting hard for her client. Either he finds her in contempt of court, or he deals with it like an adult. The fact that the judge intentionally keeps the cameras in the court turned off makes it look like he doesn't want there to be evidence of his behavior for others to judge.


More large scale demonstrations in France: Thousands of French port workers protest labor reforms in Le Havre

Thousands of French port workers gathered on Thursday in a large-scale demonstration against labor laws in central Le Havre, a major port city in northern France, local media reported.

Some 3,600 port and dock workers were greeted with applause as they marched into the city square where thousands have been rallying since morning, according to Normandie Actu news website.

Thursday's demonstrations brought together between 8,000 and 30,000 protesters in Le Havre, according to police and trade unions' reports cited by local broadcaster France Bleu.

Comment: France is reeling from more than 6 days of various protests against the labor reforms putting stress on Holland's leadership.

French workers blockade oil refineries and depots in protest of unpopular labor reform


A photojournalist describes going undercover as a sex worker

© Mimi Chakarova
"They brought me to a group of 12 men, kept me there for four days, taking turns," said Maia, who was trafficked to Moscow at 18 - Moldova, 2005
Sometimes I wonder if I would do it again.

That's the funny thing about life. Experience comes in random, sporadic servings. It's only years later that the story takes shape.

I didn't intend to spend more than a year covering human trafficking. It ended up taking a decade. I didn't intend on reporting in more than two countries. So, how did I end up in nine?

Before my trips, my mum used to ask: "It took us so many years to get out of poverty, why do you keep returning there?" I would sit in her kitchen and the only answer that would come to mind was: "It's so damn familiar."

I can say the same about the Balkans. Each time the plane landed, I was home. It could have been Turkey, Greece, Albania, Bulgaria (my birth country), or Macedonia - I wasn't an outsider. I understood the culture, the rawness of our ways, the dark humour of our days.

Snakes in Suits

Former McDonald's CEO: Raising minimum wage to $15 would lead to replacing workers with robots

© Lucy Nicholson / Reuters
A robotic revolution is set to happen in the fast food industry if a $15 minimum wage is put into place, according to a former McDonald's CEO.

In a Tuesday interview on Fox Business Network's 'Mornings with Maria', former McDonald's CEO Ed Rensi warned that an increased minimum wage would foment massive job loss thanks to the relatively low cost of replacing workers with intelligent machines.

"It's cheaper to buy a $35,000 robotic arm than it is to hire an employee who's inefficient making $15 an hour bagging French fries - it's nonsense and it's very destructive and it's inflationary and it's going to cause a job loss across this country like you're not going to believe," Rensi said.

Comment: The point behind raising the minimum wage is that people cannot live in today's society making $10/hour. While CEOs make millions doing nothing, they take advantage of thousands of workers who are working below the poverty level. THAT is nonsense and very destructive. Maybe if companies weren't so greedy and about profit above all else, they would care more about their employees' well being than in the price of their company's shares.

Even without a $15 per hour law, Rensi said that he thinks that franchising-model businesses are moving toward automation, since they are dependent upon low-skill workers to grow.

"It's just common sense. It's going to happen whether you like it or not. And the more you push this, it's going to happen faster," the former McDonald's chief said.

Comment: Sell the cheapest products possible to the largest number of people for the highest possible profit and if you can make more money by replacing the real thing with a facsimile then by all means do it whether it's the so-called "food" products or your employees. This is what happens when a society centers itself squarely around generating the most money for the fewest people instead of building society favorably for all and raising the quality of life for all. It's a clear sign of near total failure and such a society really ought not endure, after all why should it?


Poll shows 77% of Germans want Merkel to take 'strong stand' against Erdogan

The majority of Germans want to see Chancellor Merkel take a strong stand against Turkish President Erdogan.

The German public is getting fed up with Chancellor Merkel's weakness when it comes to dealing with Turkish President Erdogan. To say that Erdogan "owns" Merkel is being polite. When Erdogan orders Merkel to jump, the German leader asks how high.

Merkel has shown that she is ready to do anything to stem the flow of refugees (her NATO country helped bomb), from entering the EU. This includes 6 billion euro "aid" packages (cough cough blackmail payments) to Turkey's leader.

Talk about a great racket. Turkey continues to destabilise Syria, then funnels in refugees (with a sprinkle of ISIS terrorists mixed-in) directly towards Greece and Europe...and then orders Merkel to pay up so as to stop the flow. This is textbook mafia...like a geo-political Goodfellas.

And of course Merkel, in her infinite weaknesses, caves-in. Unfortunately for the Chancellor, her German citizens don't like Merkel's handling of Turkey one bit.

Comment: Further reading: NATO-linked think tanks control Europe's reaction to refugee crisis


Former officer of the year given a rare life sentence for child pornography charges

Micheal Edwin Harding, left.
In an unprecedented sentence for a police officer, a former cop with the Fort Pierce and Port St. Lucie police departments, was sentenced to life in prison Monday after being convicted of child exploitation.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Micheal Edwin Harding pleaded guilty in February to possession and distribution of material involving sexual exploitation of minors, attempting to coerce and enticing a minor to engage in sexual activity and production of child pornography.

This hero cop was named Officer of the Year in 2011, when he was an officer at the Fort Pierce Police Department. Shortly after he was given the award, Harding left the Fort Pierce Department to join Port St. Lucie in 2012.


Rise of the robots: Smartphone maker Foxconn eliminates 60,000 factory jobs by switching to robot workers

© SCMP Pictures
Industrial robots at work in Kunshan Daya Auto Parts Company
The manufacturing hub for the electronics industry, Kunshan, in Jiangsu province, is seeking a drastic reduction in labour costs as it undergoes a makeover after an industrial explosion killed 146 people in 2014.

The county, one-seventh the size of neighbouring Shanghai and the mainland's first county to achieve US$4,000 per capita income, was adjudged the best county for its economic performance by Forbes for seven years in a row.

However, the blaze, blamed on poor safety standards and haphazard industrialisation, dented Kunshan's pride.

More than a year on, the county, which attracts much of its investment from Taiwan, is trying to reinvent its growth strategy. It is accelerating growth by replacing humans with robots and encouraging start-ups.


Stephen King and hundreds of other American writers sign open letter decrying the rise of Trump

Stephen King is the master of horror — but even he has never experienced anything quite as horrific as Donald Trump.

That's the gist of an open letter that's doing the rounds Tuesday, signed by King and more than 600 of his fellow well-known American writers. The luminaries include Cheryl Strayed, Dave Eggers, Junot Diaz, Amy Tan, Mary Roach, Tobias Wolff, Richard Russo, Michael Chabon and Roy Blount, Jr.

"As writers, we are particularly aware of the many ways that language can be abused in the name of power," the letter reads. "American history, despite periods of nativism and bigotry, has from the first been a grand experiment in bringing people of different backgrounds together, not pitting them against one another."

"The rise of a political candidate who deliberately appeals to the basest and most violent elements in society, who encourages aggression among his followers, shouts down opponents, intimidates dissenters, and denigrates women and minorities, demands, from each of us, an immediate and forceful response."

Eye 2

Planet Aid investigation reveals fraud and cult-like behavior of founders

At first, signing up for Planet Aid's "Manager In Training" program at its Elkridge, Maryland, headquarters seemed like the perfect job, Meredith Crocker said. She answered a Craigslist ad for the charity in 2013.

"The idea that they were both working for the environment and trying to help people at the same time seemed really cool," Crocker said.

Having just received her master's degree in international development economics, Crocker said she was initially attracted to Planet Aid's message of saving the environment by recycling the clothes donated to its bright yellow bins.

Planet Aid makes as much as $42 million a year selling those clothes, according to its financial filings submitted to the Internal Revenue Service, indicating the money goes toward feeding and educating impoverished communities in Africa.