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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

RELATED: Identity theft on the rise, experts warn

Password savvy: How to protect yourself from hackers

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.”

More:

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

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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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04/11/2014 (10:40 pm)

A look at Ukraine’s fast-growing Russian gas bill

Filed under: real estate, uk |

MOSCOW (AP) — The amount Russia says it is owed by Ukraine’s cash-strapped government for natural gas has ballooned as if by magic — from $1.7 billion at the beginning of April to a staggering $35.4 billion, according to a letter sent by President Vladimir Putin this week to 18 European leaders.

Here’s a look at how Moscow got those figures, and what options Ukraine has.

MOSCOW’S CLAIMS

On April 1, Alexei Miller, the head of Russia’s energy giant Gazprom, estimated that Ukraine owed $1.7 billion in unpaid gas bills to Russia.

Two days later, Miller added $500 million more for unpaid gas supplies in March. Gazprom then announced it would be scrapping all gas discounts, meaning an 80 percent price hike that would further increase the debt in coming months.

The bill further increased after Russia moved to annul agreements with Kiev on Russia’s navy base in the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in March. In 2010, Ukraine extended the lease of the base for an annual rent and discounts on gas, but Moscow revoked that agreement after Crimea effectively became Russian territory. Now Moscow says Ukraine owes it $11.4 billion in gas discounts given in advance for the base.

In his letter on Thursday, Putin said that the gas-related debt was actually $17 billion, although it’s unclear how he reached that figure.

He also said Ukraine owed Russia an additional $18.4 billion in past fines on its gas contracts. The contracts, called take-or-pay, say Ukraine has to pay for all the gas it imports for domestic use, whether it actually uses it or not.

Putin then mentioned $3 billion Russia loaned Ukraine in December, bringing the grand total to $38.4 billion.

“It’s kind of like the drug dealer and the addict here. The Russians kept lending (Ukraine) money and knowing they’re not going to pay,” said Andrew Neff, an analyst at IHS Energy.

UKRAINE CAN’T PAY

The money Russia is demanding is far greater than the $14 billion to $18 billion bailout expected from the International Monetary Fund over two years. It would also exceed the $15 billion the European Union has said it will help with.

Analysts like Valery Nesterov, of Sberbank CIB, warn that Putin’s figures should not be taken at face value no fax payday advance. “They’re a means of showing the seriousness of the problems between the two countries.”

But if relations worsen, Moscow could push for repayment of some of that money, and Ukraine would be in trouble.

Ukraine will try to get some money from its own citizens — it will hike domestic gas prices by 50 percent on May 1. But that will not raise any new money, as it will barely match the gas price hike Russia made.

Ukraine’s options are limited at this point.

GOING TO COURT

Kiev could sue Gazprom in an international arbitration court for retroactively annulling the Black Sea navy base deal. Ukraine has said it was considering legal action.

But going to court could open a Pandora’s box of litigation: Russia and Ukraine have bickered over gas and finances for years, and many previous debts have been swept under the rug or settled out of court. The finances and politics of the two neighboring countries have been so entwined that Russia has countless scores that it could settle, if Ukraine chose to take the legal path.

SELLING THE CROWN JEWELS

If desperate, Ukraine could opt to sell the pipeline system that brings gas across its territory from Russia to Europe. Moscow has coveted the pipeline for years, making multiple offers to buy it to settle Ukraine’s debts.

But for Ukrainian politicians, the idea of selling the pipeline has so far been unpalatable.

“The Ukrainians have made the pipeline system into this national strategic asset that is a symbol of sovereignty,” said Neff. “When you’re in desperate straits, you sell the family jewels. It’s one of the few assets the Ukrainians have that has value.”

In the end, Ukraine will most likely have to call Russia’s bluff and hope it will accept to be repaid little by little. Experts say that considering Ukraine’s cash problem, Russia is likely to be realistic about the issue if it wants to get its money back at all.

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04/05/2014 (10:56 am)

Will politics force down excessive CEO pay?: Olive

Filed under: real estate, uk |

Excessive pay for corporate CEOs is shaping up as a political issue at home and abroad.

This week’s Question Period was marked by accusations of Harper government callous regard for hard-pressed middle-class Canadians by a tag team of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair.

There were echoes of the Occupy movement in the opposition leaders’ critiques of a government they say has presided blithely over a shift of society’s resources to the 1 per cent at the expense of the rest of us.

To be sure, globalization plays a role in our income inequality crisis. But unwinding trade pacts and the Industrial Revolutions underway in the developing world are a practical impossibility. Which means if there is to be a battle over income inequality, it will be fought on the playing fields of Corporate Canada.

CEOs make easy targets for politicians eager to be seen as populist champions. Last year, average total compensation for Canada’s 100 highest-paid corporate CEOs was $7.9 million. That’s 171 times more than the average pay of their workforces. (The U.S. figure is 354 times. In Britain it is 133 times.)

Fairness and common sense dictate that no man or woman is “worth” 171 times the value of those in the front lines, where the day-to-day work gets done.

Nor is it explainable that in the 1980s, when Nortel Networks Corp. was pioneering the fibre optics that are the backbone of today’s Internet and Magna International Inc. was placing the bets that would make it the world’s third-largest auto-parts maker, the pay ratio was about 20 to 1.

Have CEOs become 151 times smarter since then? Consider the tragedies of Lac Megantic and the oil-spill catastrophe wrought by BP PLC in the Gulf of Mexico, the implosion of Wall Street that triggered the Great Recession or the demise of Nortel through chronic incompetence and the answer is obvious.

U.S. financier J. Pierpont Morgan and, much later, management guru Peter Drucker, each thought the pay ratio should be set at 20:1. CEO pay restraint was appropriate, said Drucker, since “So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work.”

Instead, the compensation rewards reaped by Canada’s business elite are way out of line.

Canada’s economy grew by a substandard 1.7 per cent in 2013. Wages for everyday Canadians inched up by just 2.5 per cent. Our anemic export growth came in at 1.4 per cent. Canadian rates of industrial productivity growth remain among the worst in the industrialized world. And the average investor in Canadian stocks saw a modest 6 per cent gain in the S&P/TSX last year.

Yet CEO pay growth outpaces all those leading indicators. For the top 100 highest-paid Canadian CEOs — who set the benchmark for all of Corporate Canada — 2013 average pay jumped by 52 per cent in what by most measures was a lousy year.

Corporate pay routinely outpaces economic growth and corporate performance. Economics 101 tells us that this is unsustainable, except that the 1 per cent’s haul comes at the expense of everyone else.

The European Union, the world’s biggest economy, will soon adopt measures requiring that the EU’s 10,000 publicly traded businesses reveal the pay ratio between CEOs and average workforce pay. The U.S. already requires that pay ratios be disclosed, as part of the Great Recession’s Dodd-Frank Act.

Excessive CEO pay is a comparative anomaly in Germany, with its two-tiered structure of traditional and supervisory boards. The latter are made up of everyday shareholders and of directors elected by rank-and-file employees.

In 2012, the supervisory board of Volkswagen A.G. imposed a 20 per cent pay cut on the CEO, despite record VW profits, feeling that his pay out of line with stagnant shop floor pay, and that his bonus targets were set too low — a trick that’s long been a mainstay of complaisant corporate remuneration committees.

British reforms in corporate governance in 2013 give shareholders a binding vote on executive pay every three years. And the pay of the total workforce must be shown to influence how pay is set for top executives.

The pro-business Conservative government headed by British Prime Minister David Cameron is irate over foot-dragging by Corporate Britain on those reforms. It is feeling the heat after recent disclosures of huge bonuses even at British companies whose profits have fallen or remain on government life support dating from taxpayer-funded bailouts during the Great Recession.

Vince Cable, Cameron’s business secretary, told a gathering of British corporate CEOs in late March that “If companies and investors are unable or unwilling to act responsibly, the pressure for stronger measures will be hard to ignore.”

The pressure on politicians, that is. No amount of corporate lobbying will dissuade a government from action that will save its skin in a forthcoming election.

Cable got specific about his intended corrective measures. They include punitive action against firms that fail to comply with the reforms, naturally, but also include the unprecedented step of requiring shareholders to disclose how they voted on executive pay.

Will it come to that here? Conditions are ripe for it. Resentment is growing among financially struggling Canadians that a select few are getting much more than their fair share. Even the major institutional investors are restless over the disconnect between pay and performance.

Members of the family that controls Rogers Communications Inc. enjoyed an 18 per cent gain in their net wealth in 2013, while ordinary Rogers shareholders eked out an 8.7 per cent gain in a year in which Rogers’ profits actually dropped slightly.

If the U.S. president gets by with $400,000 (U.S.) in pay to run a $16-trillion economy, how is it that a crippled BlackBerry Inc. must pay fired CEO Thorsten Heins a reported $22 million in severance pay for a job poorly done?

The Harper government delights in cost-free populist measures. A Cameron-style Fairness in Business package of corporate governance reforms would cost the federal treasury nothing and be mighty appealing as an election promise.

It was sadly amusing to hear British shareholder advisory expert Sarah Wilson urging caution in forcing shareholders to vote on executive pay. “Voting is just one tool and sometimes it can be a blunt one. Sometimes a quiet conversation can achieve more.”

This is a bald fear of genuine shareholder democracy, of course. And really, what are the chances of Wilson or I having a quiet one-on-one with the head of a hulking multibillion-dollar enterprise — with, say, CEO Mary Barra about the faulty GM ignition parts tied to 13 deaths and millions of costly vehicle recalls?

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04/03/2014 (6:40 pm)

John Tory vows not to make

Filed under: business, real estate |

If elected mayor of Toronto, John Tory has promised he won’t make “an enemies list.”

He’s promised to “show up for work each day” and “defend our laws, not break them.”

And he will “answer questions — not (run) from them” and release a “weekly schedule that is public.”

Each of these pledges is part of Tory’s 10-part “Code of Personal and Political Conduct,” which he announced at a Thursday morning press conference.

While the policy is largely an attack on Mayor Rob Ford’s work ethic, Tory also introduced other ideas, such as requiring “all lobbyists” to register — including union lobbyists in some situations, and expanding the number of penalties misbehaving elected officials and public servants can face. (Currently under council’s Code of Conduct, members can only be given a reprimand or a suspension of pay for up to 90 days guaranteed pay day loans.)

“Many Torontonians, myself included, supported elements of Mr. Ford’s fiscal plan when he was first elected. But things have changed with this mayor. Torontonians did not know they were electing a mayor who would hang out with criminals and people involved in drugs. The very people he should be trying to get off our streets,” Tory said.

“Today I want to leave no doubt about the conduct Torontonians can expect from me as their mayor.”

Shortly after Tory’s announcement, Olivia Chow’s campaign released a list of Tory’s “10 most-notable lapses” in terms of “questionable behaviour.”

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