Dalai Lama: “Now Too Many Refugees in Europe”

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The exiled spiritual leader of Tibet, the Dalai Lama, spoke to German press this week about his current situation, also commenting on the current refugee crisis in Europe.

The Dalai Lama has previously spoken in favor of sheltering all refugees in need, but in his interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine he also said that the numbers had become too great for the good of European countries:

“If we look into the face of each individual refugee, especially the children and women, we feel their suffering,” said the Dalai Lama. “A person that is doing a little better has a responsibility to help them. On the other hand, there are now too many.

“Europe — for example, Germany — cannot become an Arab country. Germany is Germany. [Laugh.] There are so many that it is difficult in practice.

“Also, viewed morally, I find that these refugees should be only kept on a temporary basis. The goal should be to return and help rebuild their own countries.”

17 Schoolgirls Die in Northern Thailand Fire

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At least seventeen girls aged five to 12 died in a fire in northern Thailand Sunday night.

The fire began at approximately 11:00 p.m. at the girls dormitory of Pitak Kiatwithaya School in Tambon Weng, Wiang Pa Pao district of Chiang Rai province. The school is a private institution for the children of rural hill tribes in the area.

Fire fighters fought the fire for three hours.

In addition to the seventeen dead, one girl is missing and two are in serious condition. Five girls were rescued.

Preliminary reports of the investigation have it that the doors of the dormitory were locked from the outside, a security measure to prevent theft and keep people from going out after hours. The practice is common in Thailand.

However, according to the testimony of one of the schoolgirls who escaped, she had warned the girls in some rooms after she had got up to go to the bathroom and discovered the fire. The girls didn’t believe her and closed the door on her. Together with other girls and the teacher who sleeps in the dorm with them, she tied cloth together to make a rope and climbed out the window.

The school will be closed for five days.

17 Schoolgirls Die in Northern Thailand Fire (1)
Wiang Pa Pao region

How to Change Currency Without Paying Exchange Rates

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This money tip was pioneered by Norbert Schlenka of Libra Investment Management on Salt Spring Island, B.C., and it’s called “Norbert’s gambit.”

The process is a 1-2 of buying stocks in one currency and selling them in another.

How it works: A person buys an inter-listed Canadian stock in Canada, then transfers the stocks over to a U.S. account and sells them on a U.S. stock exchange for U.S. dollars. Some accounts allow a person to hold multiple currencies, and in this case a person transfers them over to the other currency side of that account — called “journaling them over.”

The buy/sell commission remains, as well as any market risk involved in the transfer, but foreign exchange fees are avoided.

There’s also a stock that has been recommended by Moneysense to make this easier: Horizons U.S. Dollar Currency ETF, available in two versions — a Canadian dollar stock with the ticker symbol DLR and a U.S. dollar stock with the ticker DLR.U. The price difference between the stocks is the same as the current U.S.-Canadian foreign exchange rate.

With an account that allows multiple currencies, the Canadian purchase DLR is “journaled over,” becoming DLR.U, which is sold in U.S. dollars. This involves two commissions and a small loss on the bid-ask spread.

Great, so how do I actually do it?

For example, using a TD bank (Waterhouse, Active Trader):

Set up a U.S. funds bank account (in addition to your regular bank account. At TD, it’s called a “Borderless Account.” You have to make an appointment and go in and create the account, which will cost you around 5 or 6 dollars a month. Now forget about this new account for a while while I explain more.

Now you transfer money from your regular Canadian account to your investments (stocks) account – for TD bankers, this means transferring into your Waterhouse account (to your Canadian Waterhouse account).

Now buy the stock DLR.TO in Canadian funds. This will take up to 3 business days to settle (complete the buy).

Now call Waterhouse and have them “journal” the stock over to your U.S. Waterhouse account (if you don’t have this set up already on your Waterhouse trading account, call and have them set it up). This takes 4 business days to complete.

Now your stock is held on the U.S. side of your investments with Waterhouse, and you sell DLR.U.TO and you get U.S. money for it. You have to wait another 3 days for this to settle (complete the sale).

When it has settled, you can transfer these U.S. funds from your U.S. Waterhouse account to your Borderless Account (the new U.S. funds account you created), and there you are; you now have U.S. funds.

During this process, you will have paid for 2 stock transactions (when you bought and when you sold). If you use TD Active Trader (rather than calling in to buy and sell), each transaction costs less than $10 CAD (otherwise it costs more), but you have to download the program and learn basic use for it.

You also will notice that as the FOREX fluctuates between the Canadian and U.S. Currencies, the values you hold will go up and down.

What you don’t pay is the exchange rate. So if you do $10,000, the exchange rate will cost you around $300. You lose $300 each time you buy $10,000 worth of the other currency. Norbert’s Gambit, therefore, can save you money as long as your two trades cost less than the loss on buying foreign currency. However, it takes a couple of weeks to complete the process, and during that couple weeks, you have to do several transfers and one phone call on different days. Like many things, though, while it seems complicated before you do it, after you do it a few times, it probably will become quite easy for you.

Are State-Owned Banks a Win-Win?

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Focusing on the recent success of the Bank of North Dakota, talkshow host Thom Hartmann has raised the question of whether state-owned banks are something every state should have.

Hartmann came out in favor of state-owned banks in his opinion blog, calling them a “win-win for all.”

“You need to know this,” wrote Hartmann. “In 2014, the state Bank of North Dakota was more profitable than Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan Chase. And, that’s why every state should own their own depository institution.”

He referred to the success of the state-owned bank last year, despite the loss of what had previously been credited with the main reason for its success: the state’s oil boom.

Over the past 18 years, the Bank of North Dakota has outperformed itself year after year, and even with last years oil bust, the return on investment topped 18 percent.

He also referred to points commonly raised by proponents of state-owned banks: how they stimulate the local economy, particularly in tough times, how they save investors money by cutting out Wall Street, how they may be better at helping fund new local businesses as well as state-level projects like trains and energy plants.

“Rather than simply throwing money away in the form of interest and fees, states could protect depositors, boost local economies, and fund the new infrastructure needed for the modern era,” stated Hartmann.

“North Dakota has proven that state-owned banks are a win-win for all of us, and more states should follow their example.”

Facebook Explains How It Picks What to “Trend”

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Facebook this week published a blog post in its newsroom in response to recent accusations that the social network promotes liberal news while downplaying conservative, explaining how it picks posts for its “Trending Topics” section, a decision-making process which depends on people and machines at different stages.

Facebook’s VP of Global Operations Justin Osofsky wrote the blog post Thursday in which he explained that in Facebook’s ambition to connect people around major news events and let them together discuss ideas freely, the Trending Topics team reviews themes identified as potentially trending by the website’s algorithms, which measure Facebook user engagement. They confirm the topic is current news, find corroborating news stories, apply a label to the topic, and check if the story is getting attention from a lot of news outlets nationally and/or globally.

Osofsky further explained that because Facebook’s programs deliver posts based on what a user has demonstrated interest in, users will see different Trending Topics.

Once a user clicks to see more about a Trending Topic, however, they are seeing an organization of posts within that topic which are arranged algorithmically — the ones at the top are those that have seem to have the most social engagement because the most people have liked, shared or commented on them.

Justin Osofsky
Justin Osofsky

As far as measures Facebook takes to prevent the type of political bias that was part of the recent accusations, Osofsky wrote that it “does not allow or advise our reviewers to discriminate against sources of any political origin, period,” and that, of course, the algorithm that “surfaces” potentially trending topics has no such bias.

Facebook’s review guidelines include not permitting “the suppression of political perspectives” or “the prioritization of one ideological viewpoint over another,” and that the company regularly reviews the work of the review team members.

In a specific response to the recent allegations, Osofsky wrote, “We take these reports very seriously, and will continue to investigate the allegations. We have found no evidence to date that Trending Topics was successfully manipulated, but will continue the review of all our practices.”

In West Vancouver “Properties Doubled in Eight, Nine Months”

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According to local real estate agents for Royal LePage, property values have doubled in less than a year in some parts of Vancouver due to foreign real estate investment.

“The luxury market has been driven purely on the demand from investors and the appeal is the perfect storm of geographical appeal,” stated Jason Soprovich, who specializes in the West Vancouver market. “Low interest rates, very low active listing rates and pent up demand.”

“[In West Vancouver] we’ve seen properties double in value over the past eight, nine months,” he said. “In the British Properties, some properties we saw listed 8 months ago at $2.4 million are now selling at $4.5 million.”

Most buying was from a single source, he said, agreeing with other Vancouver real estate agents: Mainland China.

Others have noted that Chinese buyers who live in China make up at least one-third of buying in the area, which is in addition to Chinese buyers who reside in Canada — a demographic for which there are no clear statistics.

The shortage of affordable housing in the Vancouver area is causing people to leave, some creating a notable trend of buying houses as far east as Chilliwack and some moving to other provinces.

Responding to comments made by B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong, who has stated that he was himself “biased” in his belief that foreign buyers are not the main factor in what is taking place in the Lower Mainland real estate market, Soprovich said, “It’s naive to think there hasn’t been a lot of investors moving into this part of the country – there is and it has had a major affect.”

Soprovich recommended levying an extra property tax on foreign buyers, which would, he said, deter some buying, but, “If this large number of people are influxing into the city are coming to city and using infrastructure, there needs to be some level of taxation.”

BattleBots Returns to TV

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ABC’s reality robot battle show BattleBots, which first hit the air in 2000, will be returning to “BattleBox” it out again.

The seventh season premiere will be aired by ABC in a 8/7 Central Time slot, starting June 23.

The robot makers have already entered their bots in a pre-season competition to decide which bots would make it into the BattleBots season 2 series.

From the early matches, many of the old robot weapons will be seen again this summer, such as rotating saws, swinging hammers, and flame throwers. However, the new robot weapons have also been described as “explosive” by commenters present at the event.

An important consideration is that the robot targets of these weapons are metal and electronics based — other robots — rather than the targets of many other weapons being developed — people.

The robot battles are not just matters of which robot has the best weapons, according to robot builders. Tactics and strategy are also important in winning a match. The battles are round-robins, so robots must be able to continue battling in future rounds to win the prize.

For the upcoming season, BattleBot matches will again be 2-minutes long, followed by a review of the match with commentary by the judges, who determine the winner.

Will This 2,000 HP Electric Semi-Truck “Level the Playing Field” Between Owner Operators and Large Fleets?

2,000 HP Electric Semi-Truck
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According to the Nikola Motor Company, this 2,000 horsepower electric semi tractor will “even the playing field” between owner operators and large fleets.

Explaining the project, NMC founder Trevor Milton said that he wanted to try to help trucking owner-operators. His plans focus around building the Nikola Ona, a 2,000 horsepower, 3,700-plus ft. lbs. torque tractor that can travel around 1,200 miles (1,931 km) on a charge.

The 6X6 truck is capable of pulling a total gross of 80,000 pounds (36,287 kg) with its 335 horsepower motor and dual gear reduction at every wheel, according to NMC. The foot torque is around 86,000 after gear reduction.

“Torque is instant with an electric motor,” commented Milton. “There is a short window of RPM that you can get good torque from a diesel engine. The electric motor is basically providing 100 percent torque all the time.”

The truck is also lighter — around 2,000 pounds lighter — than regular diesels, according to Milton. This is because the batteries in the electric truck weight less than a diesel engine, and, of course, the truck doesn’t have a diesel engine, or transmission (there’s just an electric and a brake pedal), drive-train, and related weight.

The electric power system provides benefits to the environment, but it also means the designers can enlarge the cab and adjust its shape — in this case, making it more aerodynamic, which can translate into a quieter, more comfortable driving experience.

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It will also have the first-ever independent suspension in the industry, thanks to a partnership with Meritor.

“By working together with some of the top engineering firms in America, we were able to design vehicles that have previously been thought impossible to design,” said Milton. “We want to even the playing field and income inequalities seen between owner operators and fleets for the first time in recent trucking history.

“This is just the beginning of what’s ahead for America, our company and the electric vehicle market.”

The cost of purchasing a Nikola One: $350,000 – $415,000. The cost of operating one: 20 – 30 cents per mile.

The company is taking pre-orders for a fully-refundable down payment of $1,500. The first 5,000 orders will also come with a “free fuel program,” in which drivers will get an “allowance of 100,000 gallons of compressed natural gas.”

Scottish Police Jail Man For Funny YouTube Video … of Teaching Pet Dog Nazi Salute

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A Scottish man was arrested and put in jail for “suspicion of hate crime” after police saw a video the man had uploaded to YouTube of Meechan joking that he had trained his girlfriend’s dog, Buddha, to respond to phrases reminiscent of Nazi Germany.

The two-and-a-half minute video begins with an intruduction of a joking Meechan explaining that he was going to teach his girlfriend’s “cute” dog the “least cute thing I could think of, which is a Nazi.”

He repeats the phrase excitedly, “Gas the Jews?” and “Seig Heil” while the dog tries to lift a paw.

The video has been viewed over 1.5 million times on YouTube.


Meechan was released from jail. A report was sent to the procurator fiscal about the possibility of a breach of the electronic communications act of 2003.

Police commented on the arrest, saying, ‘This arrest should serve as a warning to anyone posting such material online, or in any other capacity, that such views will not be tolerated.”

Detective Inspector David Cockburn also commented, “I would ask anyone who has had the misfortune to have viewed it to think about the pain and hurt the narrative has caused a minority of people in our community.

“The clip is deeply offensive and no reasonable person can possibly find the content acceptable in today’s society.”

“This clip has been shared and viewed online, which ultimately has caused offence and hurt to many people in our community.”

“There is no place for hate crime in Scotland and police take all reports of incidents seriously.”

Meechan later posted another video where he expressed concern that the accusations would make people think he was actually a racist, while his friends and small YouTube following generally know him for his sense of humor, and the video had just unexpectedly gone viral. The video included lengthy apologies and explanations by both Meechan and his girlfriend that the video was not intended to offend, and Meechan was not racist.

News of Another Self Immolation in Tibet Reaches Outside World

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March protest just confirmed due to communications clampdown in area

Sonam Tso, a mother of five, carried out a self-immolation protest on Wednesday 23 March 2016, in Dzoege County, Ngaba Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. News of the protest only emerged from Tibet yesterday due to communication restrictions in the area.

The protest took place around midday near Sera monastery in Dzoege County in Ngaba Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. Sonam Tso and her husband, Kalsang Gyaltsen, were walking around the monastery. At one point she asked him to go ahead and said she would join him later. A few minutes later one of the monks heard someone calling for the return of the Dalai Lama and freedom for Tibet. He then saw Sonam Tso on fire and calling out the slogans. He called for help then he and Sonam’s Tso’s husband tried to put out the flames. With the help of another monk named Tsultrim, who was also Sonam Tso’s uncle, they brought her body inside the monastery and arranged a vehicle to take her to hospital. However, she died before they were able to leave the monastery.

Sonam Tso was around 50 years old and the mother of five children, three daughters and two sons. She was from Dotsa village, within the same township as Sera monastery.

Tsultrim was arrested after the protest on charges of having shared information about Sonam Tso’s self-immolation. He was released after eight days in detention and was forced to delete the photograph he had taken of the protest. Kalsang Gyaltsen was also called in for questioning three times.

Sonam Tso’s is the second self-immolation to take place inside Tibet during 2016. The earlier protest was carried out by a monk named Kalsang Wangdu on 29 February 2016. To date, more than 140 Tibetans have set themselves alight protesting China’s rule in Tibet.

Free Tibet director Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren said:

“The time that it has taken for this news to reach us is indicative of the repressive conditions that Tibetans inside Tibet are forced to live under. That same repression is responsible for Sonam Tso’s death. China continues to try and blame the self-immolations on outside influence or to attribute them to non-political causes. It is long past time that other governments and the world’s media were willing to acknowledge the ugly truth: every Tibetan who dies in a self-immolation protest has been killed by China.”

Information confirmed and supplied to Free Tibet by Tibet Watch.

By Alistair Currie
Tibet Watch

Islamist Violence Numbers This Month: March

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In the month preceding April 1, 024 people were killed and 1,498 injured.

The attacks — 133 total — took place in 20 countries around the world, according to The Religion of Peace, which records Islamic attacks.

Among the 133 attacks were 25 suicide attacks.

Largescale attacks took place in Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Thailand, Israel, Egypt, Libya, Turkey, Somalia, and Philippines.

Norway Appealing Ruling in Favor of Breivik

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The government of Norway is appealing the verdict delivered last week that found that the state did violate political mass killer Anders Breivik’s human rights guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights.

The state had, in the eyes of the court, subjected Breivik to inhuman and degrading treatment.

“The prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment represents a fundamental value in a democratic society,” Judge Helen Andenaes Sekulic stated. “This applies no matter what – including in the treatment of terrorists and killers.” Breivik had complained about solitary confinement, unpleasant treatment by prison staff, and unpleasant prison services.

However, the judge found that Breivik’s rights to marry had not been violated by the state, which had monitored and censored Breivik’s communications with the outside world.