10/27/2014 (6:32 pm)

Small battery maker touts big prospect for NC jobs

Filed under: UK, technology |

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A small start-up company said Monday it would create hundreds of jobs when it moves into a massive, former Philip Morris USA cigarette plant to build batteries that it says will help power companies save energy and work more efficiently.

North Carolina officials on Tuesday are expected to hear Alevo Group representatives discuss plans to manufacture the utility-scale batteries at the factory site in Concord, where more than 2,000 were employed before it closed in 2009, State Commerce Department spokeswoman Kim Genardo said. Alevo believes that as the U.S. and other nations work to reduce emissions of gases that are contributing to climate change, its energy-saving technology will become more valuable.

Its battery hasn’t been seen and tested by many outsiders.

But the group said it plans to hire 500 workers next year and — if sales take off — 2,500 or more within three years at the plant in Concord.

Alevo is seeking no state or federal tax breaks or other subsidies to set up shop in North Carolina, Genardo and company spokesman James Kennedy said.

Alevo hopes to sell its big batteries to utilities and grid operators. Utilities and power generators now have to power fossil-fuel-powered plants up and down quickly to match electricity demand. That uses more fuel than just keeping the plants steadily churning out power at consistent levels.

The company had to work for years to develop the kinds of analytics that will allow the company to anticipate when to store or release energy in a way that will make enough money for the battery service to pay off, Alevo Group CEO Jostein Eikeland said in an interview. Alevo plans to guarantee its lithium ion battery’s longevity to increase its appeal to customers, Eikeland said.

But the company’s hopes hinge on solving a notoriously tricky technological problem — how to make a huge, powerful battery that isn’t too expensive and can take the punishment of being charged and discharged hundreds or thousands of times. So far, no company has been able to crack that formula at an attractive price.

“There’s a quite justified skepticism about new battery claims,” said Harrison Wellford, a Washington-based energy adviser and investor who is helping Alevo to raise money. He said he believes Alevo’s new battery chemistry has addressed the weaknesses of other big batteries.

Another obstacle to its lofty manufacturing and hiring ambitions is that electricity is regulated differently in each U.S. state, and it is not clear in many cases how utilities could make money employing Alevo’s battery.

“One of our challenges is going to be to fit this disruptive technology into regulatory systems not designed to deal with it,” Wellford said.

The company has presented its battery to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as the agency was researching technologies that might help states reach proposed targets for lower emissions. But the EPA did not do extensive testing and declined to talk about the technology other than to say in a statement that its new emissions plan “takes into account energy saving concepts such as those Alevo will provide.”

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10/26/2014 (3:40 am)

No question, John Tory is the best bet for mayor: Siddiqui

Filed under: Loans, Uncategorized |

Rob Ford (open Rob Ford’s policard) was a buffoon, a tragic figure who disintegrated in full public view. Doug Ford (open Doug Ford’s policard) is a dangerous bully. He was the puppet master of the mayor’s office and now wants to officially ascend atop the Ford dynasty at city hall. But most Torontonians want the opposite. That’s why many Olivia Chow supporters have moved to John Tory to ensure an end to the vulgar era of the Fords.

But Tory is worthy of being elected in his own right.

He brings a wealth of experience — accumulated in the office of a premier (Bill Davis) and prime minister (Brian Mulroney), as leader of the Conservative Party at Queen’s Park, as a practicing lawyer, as a private sector executive and as a volunteer extraordinaire who saved the Canadian Football League, helped immigrants and minorities, and strengthened civic society. He is not ideological or overly partisan.

It is unfair to dismiss his lifetime of participation in public life as noblesse oblige, the good-mannered obligation of the rich to do good deeds. First, he is not all that rich. Second, being decent is not a crime. We could use a heavy dose of decency at city hall.

He is the best candidate for mayor to have come along in some time.

Should he win, after what has been a most invigorating election in years, he should engage Olivia Chow to help with the issues she has so passionately advocated and which we must address — housing, child-care, youth employment and inequality.

hsiddiqui@thestar.ca

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10/19/2014 (3:56 pm)

The $2 Trillion Megacity Dividend China

Filed under: Loans, Uncategorized |

China needs a new prescription for growth: Cram even more people into the pollution-ridden megacities of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

While this may sound like a recipe for disaster, failing to expand and improve these urban areas could be even worse. That

10/18/2014 (8:44 am)

Parkdale urban farming project should be expanded: Porter

Filed under: Uncategorized, management |

Eugene Hennie rushed between the towering buildings of South Parkdale, Amy Ness and me trailing behind.

He had an important meeting to go to.

I’d have to visit the garden quick.

Their Thanksgiving harvest was more than a week ago. These were the hardy fall leftovers — some straggly eggplants, a few overgrown Brussels sprouts.

“You should have seen it two weeks ago,” Hennie said breathlessly. “There were tomatoes, cucumbers, hot peppers. Oh, it was beautiful. Seeing those plants grow from seed — it was like I was growing.”

Hennie and Ness aren’t community gardeners. They’re urban farmers. They’re employed here in the triangle garden in one corner of the Dunn Parkette. It’s their first jobs in years, since Hennie tumbled deep into addiction and Ness was diagnosed — wrongly, she says — with a mental illness.

It’s also offered them crisp produce, the likes of which they rarely saw on their threadbare social assistance paycheques. Hennie talks about making tea with a handful of fresh mint, the way most of us talk about summer vacations. Wistfully.

“I haven’t been to the food bank in 18 months, as a direct result of Co-op Cred,” he said.

Co-op Cred is officially a food security/employment program, run out of the bare-bones office of the Parkdale charity Greenest City. It is brilliant and should be replicated across Toronto.

It hires members of the Parkdale Activity-Recreation Centre to work flexible shifts, watering plants and picking weeds. All of the workers are like Hennie and Ness — extremely poor, recovering from addictions and mental health problems.

They aren’t paid with money, which might mess up their social assistance status. Instead, they are paid with credits from the West End Food Co-op, where they can shop for local, organic food that’s typically far beyond their means.

Hennie buys organic chickens and cashews. Ness buys kale and avocados for a fresh salad mixed with garlic and olive oil.

It goes without saying, they are feeling better. You are what you eat, after all. But the work has done some magic too. Ness says it’s kept her out of hospital.

“For decades, my self-esteem hovered around my ankles,” said Hennie, 58 no fax cash advances. “Now it’s almost at my waist.”

All this produce they grow, where does it go?

That’s where this program becomes a perfect, virtuous circle.

The farmers pile their vegetables into baskets and walk them down to the Parkdale Community Food Bank, the very spot Hennie used to stop by weekly, for cans of tomato sauce to heat up on his neighbour’s hot plate.

This season, the farmers have donated enough vegetables to supply 50 people every week, the food bank supervisor told me.

“It’s a feeling of great self-satisfaction,” Hennie said.

Oh, there’s more.

The program got two start-up grants from local foundations. But, the money for the farmers’ credit comes from the West End Food Co-op’s annual Ride4RealFood fundraiser, for which participants cycle up to Brampton’s McVean Farm. This September, it collected more than $32,000.

Guess who was a leading fundraiser?

“I knocked on every business along Queen from Lansdowne to Dovercourt, except the convenience stores,” Hennie said.

The resulting $2,800 was five times more than he earned at the garden this season. So, Hennie gave back that way too.

For the ride, he borrowed a friend’s bike. The first time was ugly. He hadn’t ridden in 25 years, he said. But he worked at it over five weeks.

“I was able to ride 35 kilometres to Brampton with two flat tires, too.”

The experience has got Hennie thinking about building a new career. Before he “married his addiction” and landed homeless in Parkdale, he was an airport porter and limousine driver.

He applied for a creative writing course at George Brown College. He wants to get into marketing, and figured the course would hone his skills.

That’s why he was in a rush. His entrance interview was in an hour.

He aced it, and starts next week.

To donate to the Co-op Cred program, go to:

http://parc.donorpages.com/Ride4RealFood2014/

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10/14/2014 (9:40 pm)

CSX 3Q profit rises 12 percent, tops estimates

Filed under: Business, legal |

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — CSX Corp. (CSX) on Tuesday said its third-quarter profit grew 12 percent to $509 million as it hauled more freight amid an improving economy.

The Jacksonville, Florida-based company reported profit per share of 51 cents, beating the 47-cent average estimate of analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research.

That’s up from 45 cents per share, or $455 million, last year.

The freight railroad posted quarterly revenue of $3.22 billion. Zacks says analysts expected $3.16 billion.

Shares added 65 cents, or 2 percent, to $33.26 in extended trading. The stock has risen 13 percent in 2014.

One of the biggest drivers of the stock’s jump this week has been reports that CSX may have rejected a merger offer from Canadian Pacific railroad last week.

It’s unclear whether regulators will allow any of the big railroads to merge because of competitive concerns, Edward Jones analyst Logan Purk said.

“On paper, it makes perfect sense,” Purk said. “But I think there’s a tremendous hurdle with the Surface Transportation Board in getting that approved.”

CSX’s quarterly results demonstrate the company’s earnings power when the economy is growing, although the railroad seems to have little power to increase shipping rates, Purk said.

CSX officials continue to predict modest profit growth this year before double-digit growth in earnings in 2015.

The railroad hauled 7 percent more carloads overall with the strongest growth in chemicals — which include crude oil shipments — and agricultural commodities.

CSX said its coal revenue was essentially stable in the third quarter at $721 million. That’s a positive because the railroad has been hurt by weak coal demand over the past several years as many utilities switched from coal to natural gas because of low natural gas prices and concerns about pollution regulations.

CSX Corp. operates more than 21,000 miles of track in 23 Eastern states and two Canadian provinces. It is the first major U.S. freight railroad to report quarterly results.

Norfolk Southern Corp. will release its earnings next Wednesday. Union Pacific Corp. will follow with its third-quarter report a day later on Thursday. BNSF railroad’s results will be reported later as part of Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s quarterly report.

___

Follow Josh Funk online at www.twitter.com/funkwrite

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10/11/2014 (1:16 pm)

Draghi Says Growing ECB Balance Sheet Is Last Stimulus Tool Left - Bloomberg

Filed under: Business, News |

President Mario Draghi said expanding the European Central Bank

10/08/2014 (9:56 am)

Stocks slip on economic worries

Filed under: USA, legal |

Updated at 9:45 a.m.

NEW YORK • Stocks were slightly lower in early trading Wednesday, adding to big declines the day before, as U.S. investors waited to hear from the Federal Reserve and for corporate earnings reports to start coming in.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average fell 13 points, or 0.1 percent, to 16,708 as of 10:06 a.m. Eastern. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was down two points, or 0.1 percent, to 1,933 and the Nasdaq composite fell four points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,391. All three indexes were moving between small gains and losses in early trading.

GROWTH WORRIES: Investors have become worried about the future of global economic growth after the IMF trimmed its outlook for this year and next, citing weaker economic activity in Japan, Latin America and Europe. The IMF expects the global economy will grow 3.3 percent this year, slightly below what it forecast in July. Earlier this week Germany said its industrial output fell 4 percent in August, far more than expected.

DOWN: Stocks had one of their biggest single-day declines of the year Tuesday, with the Dow falling 272 points. Stocks have been on a multi-week downward trend, mostly because of the economic concerns in Europe and Asia. With Tuesday’s fall, the Dow and S&P 500 are on pace to have their worst week in two months.

Takuya Takahashi, a strategist at Daiwa Securities in Tokyo, said the IMF forecast cuts and concerns about the world economy were the main culprit for this week’s stock declines. “I was expecting them to go down even further,” he said. Takahashi noted investors were taking a wait-and-see attitude ahead of comments from the Fed and earnings from U.S. companies.

LOOKING AHEAD: The U.S. Federal Reserve is due to release minutes from its latest policy meeting Wednesday afternoon. Investors will be looking for signs of when the Fed might raise interest rates. The first increase is not expected until mid-2015, but the U.S. labor market has been recovering at a steady pace, suggesting a hike could come sooner.

EARNINGS SEASON APPROACHES: Aluminum company Alcoa will report its quarterly results after the closing bell Wednesday. Traditionally Alcoa marks the start of Wall Street’s quarterly earnings season, but most of S&P 500 companies will not report for another week or so. Analysts are looking for Alcoa to report a profit of 22 cents a share, according to FactSet.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude fell 99 cents to $87.94 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell 83 cents to close at $91.08 on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

CURRENCIES: The euro rose to $1.2651 from $1.2630. The dollar was trading at 108.33 yen, down from 108.61 yen.

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10/05/2014 (1:28 am)

Tax on sodas eyed in San Francisco, Berkeley

Filed under: Loans, legal |

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A tax on sodas and other sugar-laden drinks that voters and courts in other parts of the country have rejected is on the November ballots in San Francisco and Berkeley, two cities that have been open to such social-engineering initiatives in the past.

Voters in San Francisco will decide whether to make distributors pay a tax of 2 cents an ounce on sugary drinks, with the revenue used to fund programs promoting healthy eating and physical activity.

Berkeley voters will decide on a proposed tax of 1 cent an ounce, with proceeds going to the city general fund.

More than a dozen attempts elsewhere in the country to curb the sweet tooth of consumers have failed after big-spending opposition campaigns and legal battles by the $76 billion U.S. soft-drink industry.

The California Legislature has made at least a half dozen attempts to impose some type of tax on sweetened beverages, all of which failed. In New York City, even Michael Bloomberg’s clout wasn’t enough to save a measure banning the sale of super-size sodas from a legal challenge.

Because no city or state has been able to get and keep a soft-drink tax, no one knows for certain whether it would actually lead to a drop in obesity or conditions such as diabetes, said initiative supporter Michael Pollan, a Berkeley resident and nationally known author who writes about food and agriculture policy.

“It’s an experiment. Somewhere in America needs to give it a trial so we can see if this works,” Pollan said. “If one of them works, and actually generates a lot of revenue for a municipality and … reduces soda consumption, I think soda has a huge problem on their hands.”

Soda has been under fire for years from health advocates, who say the beverages are uniquely harmful because people don’t realize how much sugar they’re guzzling. A 21-ounce Coke, McDonald’s medium size, has 200 calories and 13 teaspoons of sugar, for instance.

Berkeley and San Francisco have a record of embracing social change. Berkeley voters made the city a nuclear-free zone in the 1980s, and voters in both cities passed measures establishing benefits for domestic partners, also in the 1980s. Bans on plastic bags received support long before the state imposed its own ban this year.

So far, the California arm of the American Beverage Association has contributed $800,000 to defeat the sugar tax on the Berkeley ballot, spokesman Roger Salazar said quick payday loan. He declined to disclose how much opponents have contributed for the no-tax campaign in San Francisco ahead of mandatory reporting later in October.

Radio and TV ads focusing largely on the added cost to soda-drinkers started airing last month.

Supporters of the tax have raised $80,000 in Berkeley and about $200,000 in San Francisco.

The demographics of soda-drinking appear to make the measures in large part a vote on what’s best for poor people. A 2011 look at soda taxes by the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank found people with less education drink more than twice as much soda as college-educated consumers, and that people living below the poverty line get 9 percent of their daily calories from sugary drinks.

Salazar contends the tax would have a “disproportionate impact on lower-income communities, punishing the very communities they purport to try to help.”

For teens, sugary soft drinks and sports beverages are the single biggest calorie sources in their diet, according to a report by the Harvard School of Public Health.

Supporters of the tax in San Francisco hope it will reduce soft-drink consumption by nearly a third and generate more than $35 million in annual tax revenue for health education. Scott Wiener, a San Francisco supervisor who got the tax on the ballot, disputes claims by opponents that the tax is regressive.

“What’s regressive is having an artificially cheap, disease-causing product that’s being sold … disproportionately to poor people,” he said.

Opponents argue there’s no evidence that a soda tax would work the same public-policy magic as tobacco taxes and bans on public smoking.

If anything, California should tax TV, which cuts into the time children spend in healthful exercises, said Liz Applegate, director of sports nutrition at the University of California, Davis.

She says consumption of sugary soft drinks by young people is already going down. At the same time, studies show that rates of diabetes have risen from 3.5 percent of Americans in 1990 to 8.3 percent in 2012.

“It’s misguiding consumers to believe that that if we tax sodas” society will see resulting health gains, Applegate said.

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09/30/2014 (9:52 am)

Safety agency studying Toyota acceleration problem

Filed under: Finance, USA |

DETROIT (AP) — U.S. safety regulators are looking into a consumer’s petition alleging that older Toyota Corollas can accelerate unexpectedly at low speeds and cause crashes.

The inquiry covers about 1.69 million of the compact cars from the 2006 to 2010 model years. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will decide whether to open a formal investigation.

An unidentified consumer said in a letter to the agency that a Corolla surged at low speeds several times, and the brakes failed to stop the car. The consumer said the problem caused one collision with a parked vehicle on June 8.

Investigators said they found 141 consumer complaints about the problem. No other crashes or injuries were reported.

The consumer filed the petition on Sept. 11.

Messages were left seeking comment from Toyota.

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09/28/2014 (4:24 pm)

On war and trade, it

Filed under: USA, marketing |

OTTAWA—You can call it buying time, or you can call it Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition providing the scrutiny it should.

But wherever you come down on the NDP, crunch time is fast approaching for Tom Mulcair.

In the space of five minutes on Parliament Hill at the end of last week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper laid out two of the pillars of his party’s blueprint for re-election in 2015.

In so doing, the Conservative leader laid bare the realities of all three parties in the Commons.

On a major trade deal and an escalating war effort, the prime minister left no doubt where he stands.

On both files, Justin Trudeau and his Liberals have offered fuzzy support — with concerns — but would have to switch gears to formally oppose either measure.

They stand accused of offering tepid support on both questions without all the relevant information at hand.

But the trickiest manoeuvring awaits Mulcair, a shrewd politician who is again trying to avoid a crash on the shoals which have always imperiled his party — the demand from the true believers for fidelity to party roots and the need to broaden its appeal should it ever want to form a government.

On the trade deal, the NDP has always withheld judgment, demanding a text before passing judgment on the Canada-European Union deal.

Harper dug into his dusty bag of hyperbole to cast the deal as a “game changer,” a job creator that moves Canada into the big leagues.

“The Canada-EU trade agreement is deeper in substance and broader in scope than any such other agreement in Canadian history,” Harper said.

The NDP now has a text — and some wriggle room, courtesy of Germany.

The NDP did back a trade deal with Korea, but Mulcair points to a six-month escape hatch there on what is known as the investor state provision.

The European deal locks Canada in for 20 years and critics say that provision gives foreign companies undue power to fight government measures on areas such as health and the environment — a fight the NDP leader has fought during his days as Quebec environment minister.

The deal could be shaken by German opposition, but Harper will still be likely able to campaign on its benefits in 2015. New Democrats will have to carefully parse their opposition — if they go that way — to avoid being painted as anti-trade and anti-job online payday loans.

The more immediate decision rests with Canada’s increased involvement in an allied effort against the Islamic State in Iraq.

Cabinet will meet this week to discuss the use of CF-18s in airstrikes and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has stated that would be considered a combat mission and subject to a vote in the Commons.

“We do not stand on the sidelines and watch,” Harper said. “We do our part. That’s always been how this country has handled its international responsibilities and as long as I’m prime minister that’s what we will continue to do.”

The NDP has withheld any support of the so far limited Canadian role in Iraq, saying it has not received details of the mission from the government and been unable to vote.

They appear to be about to get details and that vote.

Mulcair has shifted his potential dissent, saying his party would have to weigh carefully the fact the mission in northern Iraq and Syria has not been officially sanctioned by NATO or the United Nations.

In a television interview he said he is not prepared to tell Canadians that we should repeat the wrong-headed American-British policies of 2003 which led to the present situation.

The extended Canadian involvement will likely receive broad backing in this country, but for a clue as to where the NDP is going, one should cast back to Canada’s 2011 involvement in the NATO mission in Libya.

Under the late Jack Layton, the NDP initially backed that involvement, but subsequently withdrew that support and refused to back an extension of the mission.

The first vote of support caused discomfort within the party.

When one looks at Libya today, hindsight allows us to see the futility of that mission.

Saturday in Sudbury, Mulcair told supporters that his was the “party of peace.”

Are they the anti-war party?

Are they anti-trade?

And does Mulcair play to his base or move the party to the centre?

The days of using Parliamentary process as a shield are coming to an end.

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