Friday, June 28, 2013

Nevada gambling regulator says Macau junkets, triads on the decline

June 28, 2013

macau-nevada-burnettNevada Gaming Control Board chief A.G. Burnett told Congress it was ?common knowledge? that Macau?s VIP gaming rooms have ?long been dominated by Asian organized crime.? Burnett made the comments on Thursday while addressing the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, which is investigating alleged money laundering activities in the Asian gambling hot spot. Burnett suggested that since the arrival in Macau of three US-based casino companies ? Las Vegas Sands, Wynn Resorts and MGM Resorts ? ?much of those triad activities had actually decreased in one fashion or another.?

However, at least two of those operators ? Sands and Wynn ? are currently the subjects of US federal investigations regarding their Asian activities. Asked whether Nevada regulators had ever seen fit to punish a US operator for its activities in Macau, Burnett admitted they hadn?t, but suggested that the operators had nonetheless ?suffered? due to their footing the bill for Burnett and his ilk to fly out to Macau on fact-finding missions. ?Travel to China is not cheap.?

Burnett said he believes US casino operators in Macau are conducting satisfactory due diligence on their junket partners, but Burnett also claimed the junket operators? influence was on the decline thanks to the casinos? new preference for the higher margins offered by so-called ?premium mass? tables, which don?t operate on credit, eliminating the need for junkets. Burnett said there would be no need for junket operators if China would only loosen restrictions on its citizens? ability to take money out of the country. The RMB 20k (US $3,240) limit is ill-suited to the financial needs of China?s high-rollers, leaving them little alternative but to seek out junket operators or engage in some creative dealings with Macau?s pawnshops.

The political appointees conducting Thursday?s hearing were a singularly unimpressed lot. Commission member and former GOP senator Jim Talent said the truth was that ?we really don?t have any idea what?s going on in Macau,? while fellow commissioner Michael Wessel described the casino-junket relationship as ?so complex it reminds me of a Rube Goldberg-style equation.? The Commission strongly suggested that Treasury Department assistant secretary for terrorist financing Daniel Glaser should increase scrutiny of Macau?s casino industry. It?s worth noting that in 2011, the US State Department claimed a direct link between Macau casinos and terrorist financing, only to backtrack when challenged to back up these allegations with, you know, evidence.

As if on cue, Macau?s Judiciary Police (JP) have just announced the takedown of what they claim is the biggest loan-sharking gang the city has seen in over a decade. The Macau Post Daily reported that 13 suspects were arrested Tuesday, including six locals, five Hong Kong residents and two from the Chinese mainland, while the JP seized around HKD 500k ($64.5k) in cash. The investigation began in 2010 following a tip-off about loan sharks prowling casino floors looking for gamblers down on their luck. The sharks would offer loans in the form of gambling chips, while collecting commissions of 30% directly off the top, or 10% of every wager or anytime the ?lucky? baccarat gambler hit an eight or nine.


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For nationwide gay marriage, more battles ahead (The Arizona Republic)

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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Obama Looks to the Clean Air Act as Inspiration for Tackling Climate

A little while ago, President Obama revealed the details of his Climate Action Plan, which describes the first-ever federal regulations on restricting carbon dioxide (CO2).

The plan has three main prongs, and many minor ones. The first is to cut CO2 emissions stateside. The second is to ?prepare the U.S. for the impacts of climate change,? including sea level rise, fires and coastal flooding. The third is to ?lead international efforts in a coordinated assault to combat global climate change and prepare for its impacts.? He outlined these in his speech.

The cornerstone, however, of Obama?s plan for at home emissions reductions involves finalizing the creation of carbon pollution standards for new and existing power plants. These plants are the countries ?largest concentrated source of emissions, says the Plan, which details the EPA?s new role in?helping reducing these emissions through the creation of carbon pollution standards. An effort that began last year, ?but met with much resistance.

To pave a smoother road for these standards, President Obama, during his speech, recalled the creation of the Clean Air Act of the 1970?s. At the time of its inception, Congress realized that cutting air pollution and building the economy through the creation of new technologies could go hand-in-hand, and also protect human health and clean the air.?The Clean Air Act passed the Senate in an unanimous vote. Only one vote was cast against it in the House.

Obama also recalled that six years ago, in 2007, the Supreme Court ruled in?Massachusetts v. EPA that greenhouse gases (GHGs) are covered by the Clean Air Act?s definition of air pollutant. Later, the EPA determined GHGs?to be pollutants that endanger public health and welfare. This cleared the way for the possible regulation of these gases.?Today, with approximately 40% of U.S. total carbon pollution being emitted from power plants, yet ?no federal limits on how much can be emitted, Obama simply declared, ? That?s not right. It?s not safe. And it needs to stop.?

Obama then called on the EPA to put an end to limitless dumping of carbon pollution by creating carbon standards for existing and new power plants, and to develop the standards in an open and transparent way. He said doomsayers will say this will kill jobs and crush the economy. They did this with the Clean Air Act, he said, as well as with other groundbreaking environmental legislation. An example? The phase out of CFCs to stop the destruction of the ozone layer. Obama half-jokingly said this ?didn?t kill refrigerators, or air conditioners or deodorant.?

His main point about tackling climate change in the end was not to fear change, but seize it as an opportunity. The Clean Air Act can serve not only as a sort of blueprint for this, but an inspiration.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Supreme Court strikes down section of Voting Rights Act (cbsnews)

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Tsunami may have hit East Coast earlier in June

(AP) ? A storm that blew through earlier this month might have triggered a rare phenomenon for the East Coast: a tsunami.

Tsunami-like conditions were observed June 13 at more than 30 tide gauges along the East Coast, Bermuda and Puerto Rico, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said. The highest peak amplitude was recorded in Newport, R.I, where it reached just under a foot above sea level. Gauges in Kiptopeke, Va., and Atlantic City, N.J., recorded similar peaks, according to NOAA.

"From North Carolina up through Massachusetts, we can find that signal, even though it's very small, which tells us there was something going on," Mike Angove, head of NOAA's tsunami program, said Tuesday. "We're trying to piece this back together."

A strong storm moved through the region and offshore that day, and scientists were trying to determine if it played a role.

Angove stopped short of saying it was a tsunami, but acknowledged it had specific characteristics of one. NOAA's West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center posted a statement calling it a tsunami.

Brian Coen was spearfishing at Barnegat Inlet in Ocean County, N.J., around 3:30 p.m. on June 13, when he saw a strong outrush of water as the tide went out, according to a description provided by NOAA. He said it carried divers over submerged rocks that serve as a breakwater. The rocks, normally three to four feet deep, eventually were exposed, he said.

Then, according to NOAA, Coen saw an approximately 6-foot wave come in. It carried the divers back over the breakwater and also swept three people off rocks that are usually five to six feet above sea level. Two of them needed medical attention.

Chuck Ebersole, steward at Wickford Yacht Club in North Kingstown, R.I., said he saw a strong current of about 7 knots, or 8 miles per hour, going out through a channel into Narragansett Bay. Normally, he said, the current is 1 to 2 miles per hour. The current was so strong that one large boat pulled its cleat out of the dock, he said.

After a while, the current reversed at the same speed, he said. A nearby gauge recorded that the sea level changed by 1.3 feet.

Angove said it is a specific feature of tsunamis for water to be drawn out to sea and then rapidly rush back in, and the water speeds Ebersole reported in Rhode Island indicated something other than a storm surge.

He said researchers are looking for a cause. One possibility is a rare meteotsunami (pronounced MEE'-tee-oh tsoo-NAHM'-ee), which is a tsunami caused by weather. Or it could have been caused by a landslide off the continental shelf, which is less rare but still uncommon, he said.

Angove hopes to send a boat with sonar out to the shelf to look for a landslide and help determine what happened.

"If we can't do that, it's going to be tough to put this egg back together," he said.

At the yacht club, there was only minor damage to the dock and two boats, Ebersole said.

"For a little while there, I thought it might have been some runoff from the storms we had that week, but it was too much water for that," he said. "It was very exciting at the time."

Associated Press


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Saturday, June 22, 2013

At the Core: Response to Canada's Spot on the G8 Impact Investing ...

I have a lot of respect for the social finance, social enterprise, and impact investing entrepreneurs and initiatives in the UK?folks like Daniel Brewer at Resonance Limited, Servane Mouazan at Ogunte, Elisicia Moore at Petit Miracles, Theresa Burton at Buzzbnk, Suzanne Biegel at Clearly Social Angels, Rachel Sinha at the Finance Lab, the list goes on?but do not for a second credit Prime Minister David Cameron.?

The Big Society campaign was launched amidst his bid for the election win in 2010. In parallel to the various initiatives such as Big Society Capital, there were policies and plans to privatize a key social services. ?

The UK is not leaps and bounds ahead of Canada. ?

We must be mindful of the scale of the social enterprise sector compared to mainstream financial and investment services??600m in the Big Society Bank is a drop in the bucket?and the inequality that exists (and Canada is not immune to it). I would never ever wish for the concentration of wealth nor influence to lie the hands of a few elite (which Sir Ronald Cohen and David Cameron are a part of) to happen in Canada as it has in the UK. ?

In Canada, doing business in a way that takes care of individuals, their families, their neighbours, their communities, and future generations is embedded in our culture. In Canada we have businesses with purpose baked into the business models and corporate culture. Social enterprises, locally owned businesses, and purposeful ventures do business side-by-side and hand-in-hand with big corporates. It is not token. It is not just part of a big corporate's social responsibility mandate. It is because for the most part Canadians still appreciate that business and investing is about people?that it is about "taking care of the village", that investing is not a game about getting the highest score and knocking all the competitors off the field.

I don't advocate for a Canadian version of Sir Cohen, that has the ear of the PM. Instead I want a Prime Minister that is highly and actively engaged with the citizens of the country he or she leads and whose interests he or she serves, and a vocal and active citizenry.

There are lots of amazing, disruptive, creative things happening in the UK (led by people I'm proud to call my friends), but the environment there is very different. Could I do what I'm doing in Canada over in the UK (disrupt the investment sector by investing with integrated decision-making, and with the lenses of impact and gender)? Yes, I probably could (in fact I piloted an activist angel training program in the UK, espousing this more integrated approach to investing, with Servane Mouazan), but it would be a hard slog and I'd feel like I was part of a "niche" community as opposed to fully welcomed in the business community and taken just as seriously as as the bankers on Bay Street or Canary Wharf.

I was born and raised in Canada, immigrated to the UK and lived there for 12 years. I had an investment banking career in London, but I got there from humble beginnings, with unrivaled access to great education as a child. In 2009, I began to integrate purpose and my values into my work in impact investing in the UK and in 2011, I took a look at where in the world, me and my family could have the life, lifestyle, and livelihood we wanted, that was healthy and nurturing in all respects.?

We chose Vancouver and here we are. I collaborate with entrepreneurs, investors, and changemakers in Canada, the US, and the UK, helping people access the essential resources they need to live happy and thriving lives. My work is well supported here in Canada and I am fiercely proud to be a Canadian entrepreneur in the impact investment sector. Canadians - do not underestimate nor undersell yourselves!

The question is not, "where is Canada on the G8 Impact Investing totem pole?". Instead, the answer is that impact investing is at Canada's core.


Editor's note: The post to which Ms. Foley-Wongs comments refer, "Canada's Spot on the G8 Impact Investing Totem Pole: An Interview with Ted Anderson," can be found here.?


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