Pass “Buy U.S.” laws? Other countries pass “Don’t Buy U.S.” laws

In response to the ‘Buy American’ provisions of the U.S. stimulus package, Canada’s mayors have narrowly passed a resolution that could potentially block U.S. companies from bidding on city contracts.

The resolution was passed at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference in Whistler, B.C., by a vote of 189-175.

The resolution says the federation should support cities that adopt policies that allow them to buy only from companies whose home countries do not impose trade restrictions against Canadian goods.

“Today, Canada’s cities and communities joined the federal and provincial governments in a common front to try and stop American protectionism,” Jean Perrault, FCM president and mayor of Sherbrooke, Que..

“We stand united in the belief that fair trade and an even playing field are in the best interest of our country, our communities and our citizens…”

The resolution was initiated by the Ontario community of Halton Hills, where two local companies have lost contracts they previously had in the U.S.

Of course. This is what trade wars and protectionism always are about. Opportunist politicians trying to ingratiate themselves with populist slogans.

There is a special attitude in the United States about all of this. Since we’re the rulers of Earth, we should make all the rules.

Free daily newspapers join the death spiral

Another bubble has burst. Instead of dot-com stocks or debt securities, this one involves a very different kind of paper, the free newspaper.

Starting in Stockholm in 1995 with a daily called Metro, free newspapers spread to cities around the world, providing the embattled print media business a rare growth story. By last year, daily circulation of free papers had climbed above 40 million worldwide, according to Piet Bakker, a professor in Amsterdam who tracks the business. In some countries, like Spain, more people were reading freebies than papers they had to pay for.

Since the economic crisis deepened last autumn, however, the free newspaper business has gone into free fall. Circulation in Europe, which accounts for more than two-thirds of the global total, has fallen by more than 10 percent, Mr. Bakker said, and dozens of titles have closed…

While paid-for newspapers are suffering, too, free newspapers have been hit even harder by the economic downturn because they rely entirely on advertising, which is more volatile than revenue from newsstand sales and subscriptions. Analysts say ad revenue at many free newspapers has fallen by more than a third in recent months, compared with a year earlier…

One thing that divides freesheet publishers is their approach to the Internet. Metro International, for instance, has invested little on the Web.

Will you ever be able to make money on general-interest news on the Internet?” Mr. Kronborg said. “We think it will be very difficult.”

But Schibsted, an Oslo-based publisher of freesheets like 20 Minutes in France (in partnership with a local newspaper company, Ouest France) and 20 Minutos in Spain, sees things differently, saying there is a natural synergy between free papers in print and the predominant free model for news on the Web.

While these two papers’ Web operations lose money, the print editions of 20 Minutes and 20 Minutos were profitable until the economic crisis deepened this year, said Sverre Munck, head of international operations at Schibsted.

The business model may be promising – and I agree that it is – but, investors are so cranky and conservative they inevitably consider one round of failures to be struck in stone.

And then Mr. Fun Guy comes to your teller window….

Imagine having this nutball show up at your teller window:

According to the complaint, [Daniel James]Murray opened an account at Zions First National Bank on May 19 with an $85,000 check….

On May 27, he returned to the bank and tried to withdraw $12,000, but lacked proper identification.

“Not to be disrespectful, but if I don’t get this money, someone is going to die,” Murray said, according to the complaint.

With this last line, I am torn between picturing Clint Eastwood, or Politeness Man.

A bank manager was summoned and Murray was allowed to withdraw the money without proper identification.

Murray would not accept a check and demanded bills no larger than $50, the complaint says.

“We are 94 million miles from the sun, and are in-between the sun and moon, and the eagle that flies between them and it’s a giant step for mankind. … I have traveled thousands of miles to be here and know things that are going to happen. … the banking system will fail and people will die. … there will be chaos in the world,” Murray said, according to the complaint.

He also reportedly made threatening statements against the President, which necessarily becomes the news headline, although his other ramblings are far more blogworthy. We’ll say it again: News sites and blogs work differently.

Drug war shootout kills 17 in beautiful Acapulco

Mexican soldiers holding position during the gun battle
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Fifteen drug hit men and two soldiers were killed in a shootout in the Mexican beach resort of Acapulco, says an army source.

Gunmen battled troops from a house, throwing hand grenades at soldiers who had surrounded them and spraying gunfire into military vehicles and nearby homes.

The firefight, near tourist hotels, began late on Saturday and went on until after midnight.

Four policemen were found inside the home but it was unclear whether they had been kidnapped or were there voluntarily. Soldiers also confiscated dozens of rifles and other weapons…

The Beltran Leyva gang, rivals of the powerful Sinaloa cartel, is believed to dominate the drug trade around Acapulco, a popular destination for vacationing U.S. college students.

Sorry, folks. I ain’t coming down anytime soon for a holiday.

Dodging bullets is one of the reasons I left the delights of urban America a long time ago. I don’t care to recall the experience on vacation.

Health insurers want you to keep smoking – WTF?

Health and life insurance companies in the US and abroad have nearly $4.5 billion invested in tobacco stocks, according to Harvard doctors.

It’s the combined taxidermist and veterinarian approach: either way you get your dog back,” says David Himmelstein, an internist at the Harvard Medical School and co-author of a letter published in this week’s issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The largest tobacco investor on the list, the 160-year old Prudential company with branches in the US and the UK, has more than $1.5 billion invested in tobacco stocks. The runner-up was Toronto-based Sun Life Financial, which apparently holds over $1 billion in Philip Morris (Altria) and other tobacco stocks. In total, seven companies that sell life, health, disability, or long-term care insurance, have major holdings in tobacco stock.

Why is it a big deal? “If you own a billion dollars [of tobacco stock], then you don’t want to see it go down,” says Himmelstein, “You are less likely to join anti-tobacco coalitions, endorse anti-tobacco legislation, basically, anything most health companies would want to participate in.”

But with $4.5 billion still invested in Big Tobacco, many insurers are reaping profits from a cancer-causing industry. As Himmelstein puts it, “Is this who we want running our healthcare system?”

Well Surprise, Surprise! Citizens of the United States might want to keep this sort of thing in mind when evaluating the upcoming debate on universal health care. These are the exact same “conservative thinkers” who are dead set against Obama’s push toward universal health care.

One of these days, Americans are going to wake up and start smelling the coffee. These jerks, spending hundreds of millions of your very own health dollars to convince you adequate health care coverage is some sort of Communist plot, actually do have an unbelievably large financial incentive to keep you sick and paying ridiculous amounts of greenbacks to get well.

Thanks, Cinaed

Burn armed robbers says Guinea crime chief – Jails already full!

Guinean citizens should burn any armed robbers they catch to avoid filling the country’s prisons, says the military government’s anti-crime chief…

“I’m asking you to burn all armed bandits who are caught red-handed committing an armed robbery,” said Captain Moussa Tiegboro Camara, appointed by the military junta to oversee the fight against drugs and serious crime.

“The prisons are full and cannot take more people, and the situation cannot continue like that,” he told a meeting of city officials, adding that residents should form self-defense committees to protect themselves against crime.

The National Council for Democracy and Development (CNDD), seized power in the world’s biggest bauxite exporter last December after long-serving President Lansana Conte died…

Rights groups were unhappy with Camara’s suggestion on cutting crime.

No kidding.

Can we send them Dick Cheney? Nah. He’d probably take over.

Clean tech still hot – and growing

Total investments in clean technology – including wind, solar, bio-fuels and a host of related technologies – totaled $4.09 billion through the end of 2008, compared to just $1.44 billion in 2006, according to the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA). That’s still just a fraction of the overall $28.2 billion in venture capital investments but the area is steadily gaining momentum.

In a recent interview with, Mark G. Heesen, president of the NVCA, the leading trade association for venture capitalists in the United States, representing the interests of more than 450 member firms, discussed the growing interest in clean technology and how this fast-growing sector will shape the future of early-stage investing.

Despite a fall-off in interest in the sector in the first quarter of 2009, Heesen expects clean-tech to eclipse the traditional VC mainstays such as information technology and medical devices, within five years, helped in part by the federal government’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on foreign oil.

RTFA. Consider what real players have to say.

It gives me a special chuckle to see and hear the skeptic-bots trundle around political sites – especially those masquerading as somehow science-based – parroting political pundits who make their living preaching to the neocon choir.

I pay attention to sci-tech experts who actually concern themselves 24/7 with technology and the relevant economic machinery involved with growth and profit in the field. I don’t give investment tips at this site – and I don’t recommend sites to folks who want to know who I listen to.

Read this blog often enough and you’ll figure it out on your own.