08/20/2014 (2:28 am)

Private prison company pays $8M in back wages

Filed under: economics, real estate |

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The nation’s largest private prison company, Corrections Corp. of America, has paid more than $8 million in back wages and benefits to current and former employees guarding federal inmates at a prison in California City, officials with the U.S. Department of Labor said Tuesday.

The payments came after an investigation found that the federal prison subcontractor underpaid 362 employees at the California City Correctional Center under the terms of its contract, where pay rates are established by law.

In some cases, employees were paid 30 to 40 percent less than they were supposed to be paid, said Eduardo Huerta, assistant director of the department’s wage and hour division.

Many employees recouped more than $30,000 in back pay, benefits, overtime and holiday pay, officials said, and had worked at the lesser pay rate for up to five years.

The facility houses federal inmates being detained by the U.S. Marshal and federal immigration authorities, as well as state inmates. The back wages only applied to CCA employees working with federal inmates.

Jonathan Burns, a spokesman for the company, did not have an immediate comment.

“If somebody was supposed to be making $30 an hour, they were making $20 an hour instead,” Huerta said.

“The people that get these federal monies from a federal agency to get one of these contracts have to abide by the wage rates.”

The company also wasn’t making the required contributions to health and life insurance and retirement accounts, he said. The investigation also found record-keeping violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act, include inaccurate recording of breaks, lunches and overall hours worked.

Corrections Corp. of America — the fifth-largest prison system in the nation — has come under scrutiny before.

In Kentucky, it paid $260,000 last week to settle claims that it denied overtime to shift supervisors and forced them to work extra hours.

In Kansas, CCA and a group of collections officers, case managers and clerks settled in 2009 in federal court over allegations of unpaid overtime. CCA agreed to pay a maximum of $7 million but did not acknowledge fault in the case.

Idaho announced this year that it would not renew a $29 million-a-year contract with the private prison company and began the process of returning operations of the state’s largest prison, in Boise, to state control.

The facility was sued and plagued by accusations of violence, gang activity and understaffing after the private prison contractor took it over.

Corrections Corp. of America operates detention centers for federal, state and local governments in 20 states in the U.S. and houses nearly 80,000 inmates at 60 facilities.

California City is about 110 miles northeast of Los Angeles.


08/13/2014 (2:44 pm)

Urban living distracts us from driving: Hume

Filed under: management, real estate |

Oh dear. If Toronto’s much put upon drivers didn’t have enough to deal with, now they must worry about uppity BMXers.

Sunnyside Bike Park, which recently opened east of Ellis Ave. between Lake Shore Blvd. and the Gardiner Expressway, has received rave reviews from users — mainly teenage boys — but according to the Star’s esteemed Wheels editor and Motor Sport Hall of Fame inductee, Norris McDonald, the new facility is guaranteed to make a bad driving situation even worse.

“Visual distractions,” McDonald wrote last weekend, “are very dangerous because no matter how many times they are told not to, drivers will always take a gander and that . . . can create serious problems.”

That must be why whole stretches of our major highways are either lined with enormous barriers or built up with the most nondescript buildings imaginable. All that rear-lotting on the broad avenues of the postwar city is also for their benefit. Anything more interesting would be unnecessarily hard on drivers.

Lest drivers find themselves distracted, which, being human is beyond their control, the space through which they move should be pleasant but not overly so. Certainly it should not be exciting or engaging. Anything that catches the eye should be eliminated wherever possible.

McDonald didn’t address the issue of the countless billboards — digital, neon, LED, static and moving — that fill the drivers’ every view. It’s clear, however, that in the interests of vehicular safety they should go.

So what about that extraordinary white marble Hindu temple on the east side of Highway 400? Or the spectacular Ismaili Centre and Aga Khan Museum visible from the Don Valley Parkway at Eglinton? And how did all those condos next to the Gardiner get built — the ones with living rooms overlooking the highway?

They offer nothing but death, destruction and gridlock. These sorts of things should never have been allowed. Surely they could have been put somewhere out of view, on some hidden site where few would have noticed?

Of course, from a driver’s perspective the world is a place where the least distraction is welcome. As long as it’s not other cars, drivers are happy for any diversion, be it an accident, a truck with a flat tire, police activity or a beeping cell phone. Police say distracted driving happens more often now than drunk driving; so the last thing the city’s beleaguered drivers need is a biker park within view.

Perhaps it’s time city planners insist that invisibility be enshrined as a guiding principle for all future development. That would fit in nicely with the department’s fear of heights, architectural excellence and anything that isn’t a generic glass tower or a concrete box. In the name of driver safety, planners should insist that space surrounding new buildings be set aside as designated zones of emptiness, inactivity, blandness and/or strategically placed barriers.

That’s the sort of thing Toronto planners could get enthusiastic about. Look how successful that model has been in the inner suburbs. Besides, anything less would be irresponsible and unfair to drivers.

As McDonald points out, “drivers can’t help themselves . . .”

That’s also why bikes and pedestrians in general should be kept off the streets; they are distracting and make getting around unnecessarily difficult. After all, kids can ride their bikes pretty well anywhere. Cars, alas, are restricted to the roads.

Is it any wonder congestion has become such a pressing issue in Toronto? The way drivers are treated in this ungrateful burg, you’d think congestion was their fault. Whoever bears the blame, it’s certainly not them.


07/25/2014 (5:24 am)

U.S. TIPS Sale Yields Least in a Year on Inflation Bets - Bloomberg

Filed under: mortgage, real estate |

The U.S. sold $15 billion of 10-year inflation-linked debt at the lowest yield in more than a year amid wagers consumer-price growth will increase beyond the Federal Reserve

07/20/2014 (6:44 am)

Casey Kasem

Filed under: marketing, real estate |

SEATTLE—A judge has granted Casey Kasem’s daughter a temporary restraining order preventing the famous radio host’s wife from cremating his remains, but it’s unclear where those remains are or whether they’ve already been disposed of.

A lawyer for Kasem’s daughter, Kerri Kasem, said Friday that when he went to give a Tacoma funeral home a copy of the restraining order, he was informed it no longer had the remains.

“They said they could not disclose where he had gone or where he would end up,” said the lawyer, Scott Winship.

Tim Grant, funeral director at Gaffney Funeral Home & Cremation Services, confirmed Friday that Kasem’s body was no longer there.

“I cannot discuss the actual arrangements themselves, but he’s no longer in our care,” he said.

Kasem’s wife of the past 34 years, Jean Kasem, filled out a death certificate dated July 15 listing an address in Jerusalem, Israel, according to a copy filed in Pierce County Superior Court. The document listed “removal from state” as the intended means of disposing the remains, the Urgel Bourgie funeral home in Montreal as the place of disposition and July 14 as the date of disposition.

A man who answered the phone at Urgel Bourgie on Friday evening said it had disposed of no such remains and had no one by the name of Casey Kasem in its computer system Low fee payday loans.

Teruyuki Olsen, a lawyer for Kasem’s wife, refused to comment Friday or provide any information about what happened to Kasem’s body.

Kasem, the radio host of American Top 40 and voice of animated television characters like Scooby-Doo’s sidekick Shaggy, died June 15 at a hospital in Gig Harbor, Wash.

He was 82 and suffering from dementia, and his death followed a lengthy battle over his care between Jean Kasem and his three adult children from his first marriage.

Kerri Kasem asked a Pierce County Superior Court judge on Wednesday for authorization to seek an autopsy on her father as well as a temporary restraining order to ensure his body was held in cold storage and not cremated until that autopsy is completed.

Judge Ronald Culpepper ordered Jean Kasem to ensure that the radio host’s remains were preserved and that his body stayed at the Tacoma funeral home until the court decided on the autopsy petition following a July 25 hearing.


07/13/2014 (8:24 pm)

World Cup: Netherlands shuts out Brazil in third-place game

Filed under: Uncategorized, real estate |

BRASILIA, BRAZIL—Robin van Persie and Daley Blind scored early goals to help give the Netherlands a 3-0 win over host Brazil in the third-place match at the World Cup on Saturday.

Van Persie converted a penalty kick three minutes into the match after Arjen Robben was brought down by Brazil captain Thiago Silva. Blind added to the lead in the 17th with a shot from near the penalty spot after defender David Luiz made a mistake while trying to clear a cross in front of the goal low rates payday advance. Georginio Wijnaldum rounded off the win in injury time.

With the result, the Netherlands finishes a World Cup unbeaten in regular play for the first time. It lost to Argentina on penalties in the semifinals.


07/08/2014 (10:40 pm)

American’s CEO says demand for travel still bright

Filed under: bank, real estate |

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — The CEO of American Airlines says travel demand is still strong and he is not worried about airlines adding so many flights that they will drive down prices.

American Airlines Group Inc. CEO Doug Parker said Tuesday that airlines can charge profitable fares even as they add seats, which is different than in past years, when they were losing money.

Parker’s upbeat tone contrasted with comments from Air France-KLM, which lowered its 2014 earnings forecast because overcapacity on international flying is hurting profits. Last month, Deutsche Lufthansa AG issued a similar warning.

American is expected to release June traffic figures this week. Parker declined to say what the statistics will show, but he said, “We’re happy with the demand we are seeing for the product throughout the world.” He dismissed the idea that there might be too much capacity on key routes, such as between the U.S. and Europe.

“There happens to be some growth internationally from a number of carriers, including American Airlines, in response to increased demand,” he said. “That’s what should happen.”

In the past, airlines struggled when jet fuel prices rose or overcapacity caused a drop in the average fare per mile, called yield bad credit payday loans. Most carriers are profitable now despite fuel prices which are high by historical measures, and that is partly because they have been successful at controlling the number of seats and preventing prices from falling.

American, which owns US Airways, earned $480 million in the first quarter. Analysts expect net income to top $1.2 billion for the second quarter, according to a survey by FactSet.

“The airline is doing very well,” Parker said. “We expect to continue to do very well.”

Parker made the comments after a ground-breaking ceremony for a new flight operations center, the first new building at American’s headquarters complex in more than 20 years. The center will house employees who coordinate and track flights.

American Airlines shares were down 11 cents at $39.99 in afternoon trading. Its shares are up 11 percent for the past three months but are about flat for the past year.


07/02/2014 (10:29 am)

Quiznos emerges from bankruptcy

Filed under: money, real estate |

DENVER (AP) — Quiznos says it has emerged from bankruptcy after restructuring its finances.

The toasted sandwich chain filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March and reduced its debt by more than $400 million.

The Denver company owns and operates only seven of the nearly 2,100 Quiznos restaurants around the country instant payday loan lenders. The rest are owned operated by franchisees and weren’t part of the bankruptcy proceedings.


06/24/2014 (9:41 am)

Construction worker dead after falling 22 storeys

Filed under: money, real estate |

A horrifying fall cost a Toronto construction worker his life Monday when he plunged 22 storeys from a downtown highrise, according to Toronto EMS.

Paramedics pronounced the man dead at the scene at 65 St. Mary St., between Wellesley and Bloor at Bay St. at around 2:30 p.m. The Ministry of Labour will be conducting an investigation.

The dead man’s identity was not made public Monday. For hours the body of the man, thought to be in his 20s, remained at the scene and partially visible from the street, having come to rest on the roof of a shorter, four-storey building below the highrise.

The site, just north St. Basil’s Church, was a parking lot for the University of Toronto’s adjacent St. Michael’s College until sold in the mid-2000s for $34 million. The U condominium project being built there — including towers of 55 and 45 storeys — are the work of the Pemberton Group unsecured personal loans.

Despite worries about the loss of parking among other matters, Toronto council voted 37-1 in favour of the project in 2008, with then-councillor Kyle Rae noting the downtown site is near transit and well suited for high-density housing.

This is the second time in a year that a construction worker has died on the job in the downtown core. Kevin Raposo plummeted 55 floors in August of last year while working on a new condo building at 388 Yonge St.

Raposo dropped 181 metres before landing on the rooftop of an adjacent building 24 metres away. He was 29 at the time of his death.


04/18/2014 (4:24 pm)

RCMP arrests London man in Heartbleed CRA hacking

Filed under: mortgage, real estate |

A Western University computer science student has been charged in connection with a breach of the Canada Revenue Agency’s website.

The RCMP said in a news release that it has charged Stephen Arthuro Solis-Reyes, 19, of London, Ont., with one count of unauthorized use of a computer, and one count of mischief in relation to data.

“It is believed that Solis-Reyes was able to extract private information held by the CRA by exploiting the security vulnerability known as the Heartbleed bug,” said the RCMP’s National Division Integrated Technological Crime Unit in the release issued Wednesday.

“The RCMP treated this breach of security as a high-priority case and mobilized the necessary resources to resolve the matter as quickly as possible,” said assistant commissioner Gilles Michaud in the release.

A search was conducted at the suspect’s residence and computer equipment was seized, the RCMP said.

Faisal Joseph, a senior partner at Lerners law firm, which represents Solis-Reyes, said his client went to meet RCMP officers on Tuesday afternoon at the London police headquarters.

“He turned himself in voluntarily after he was threatened that if he did not, because they did not have a warrant for him . . . they would humiliate him and pull him out of exams at university, if he didn’t go voluntarily,” Joseph said in a telephone interview jail records.

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Joseph accused the RCMP of denying him access to his client, for nearly six hours after initially being advised Solis-Reyes, an A student in his second year, would be released within 10 minutes.

“To my shock and surprise, the RCMP lead investigator refused to allow me to see my own client,” Joseph said, noting Solis-Reyes was shuttled back and forth between a small interview room and a cell.

“He was interrogated for almost six hours, with his lawyer demanding to see him every half hour, for almost six hours,” Joseph said.

Joseph waited with Solis-Reyes’ father, Roberto Solis-Oba, an associate professor at Western’s computer science department, at London’s police headquarters.

Joseph said his client’s father was deeply distraught and was “an emotional wreck” during the wait to speak with Solis-Reyes.

Solis-Reyes was eventually released just before 11 p.m. and formally charged. He is to appear in an Ottawa court on July 17.

Joseph added he does not know what evidence there is, and he won’t get disclosure until July.

When asked whether Solis-Reyes would write his final exams this week, Joseph said he did not know, given he has been through a harrowing experience.

When asked whether Joseph would be filing a complaint, he said: “I will definitely be following up and taking the appropriate action with respect to how my client was treated in custody, and how I was denied access to him for hours, after he called me from the police headquarters.”

The RCMP declined to comment on Joseph’s allegations.

“The investigation is still ongoing and in order to protect the integrity of the investigation we will not be commenting any further,” RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Lucy Shorey said in an email.

The RCMP investigation was conducted with the co-operation of the London Police Service.

Heartbleed is a massive security flaw that, by some estimates, affects two-thirds of all websites.

IT security experts believe that it allowed pulses of unencrypted data — including names, passwords, credit card numbers and other personal information — to leak out of computer servers for as long as two years, undetected.

The flaw and a patch to fix the leak, one line of computer code, were released by researchers last week.

Major websites, including Google and Yahoo, along with Google smartphones and networking equipment makers Cisco Systems Inc. and Juniper Networks, said their systems were at risk.

CRA shut down public access to its website for five days last week, with the April 30 income tax deadline looming, to fix the problem and test its system criminal record checks.

This week, after it restored its website, the CRA announced it was notifying 900 Canadians that their social insurance numbers were removed from its system as a result of the Heartbleed bug flaw.

The RCMP then announced that it was investigating.

Experts say it’s too early to know to what extent the defect was used by hackers and thieves to steal sensitive personal information.

Publicity over the bug drew in security experts, would-be hackers, and those who were simply curious, Carmi Levy, a technology analyst and journalist said in an interview.

Instructions for breaching computer servers and websites compromised by Heartbleed were easily available online, Levy added.

“It’s still early days and we don’t know the details,” Levy said. “But I would be incredibly surprised if this were a case of a hardcore hacker deliberately attacking a system. This has all the signatures of curiosity and going along with the big IT security story of the day.”


Tax agency begins to ‘support and protect’ 900 people whose SIN numbers were stolen


04/18/2014 (10:52 am)

5 Mount Everest climbers feared missing in avalanche

Filed under: finance, real estate |

KATMANDU, NEPAL—Officials say about five climbers are feared missing after an avalanche swept the slopes of Mount Everest and hit a popular route used to assent the world’s highest peak.

Nepal Tourism Ministry official Madhu Sudan Burlakoti says the avalanche hit the area just below Camp 2 around 6:30 a.m. Friday. Rescuers and fellow climbers at the base camp are heading to the area to help. A helicopter is on the way from Kathmandu.

Ang Tshering of the Nepal Mountaineering Association says four or five climbers are believed to have been buried and more injured by the avalanche.

Hundreds of climbers, their guides and support guides have gathered at the base camp, gearing up for their final attempt to scale the 8,850-metres (29,035-foot) peak early next month when weather and snow conditions get favourable.

More Everest at thestar.com:

Bid to remove mountain of trash from Everest

Mount Everest fees slashed to lure more climbers to crowded peak


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