Sunday, November 16, 2014

Here are 3 things you need to read this Sunday

Posted By on Sun, Nov 16, 2014 at 8:00 AM

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It's Sunday, which is a fine time to make yourself a mimosa, kick back your feet, and read something long. Here are three suggestions to start:
It's hard to imagine, but the strawberry has a dark side. That's the point of the Center's deep-dive into the world of that sweet, delicious fruit. Want to know what to expect before you jump into the piece? The investigative outlet broke down the main takeaways from its complex investigation in a 7-step primer. A taste:

Fumigants don’t end up on the fruit you eat. But these particular pesticides pose risks to farmworkers, nearby residents and the environment.

The strawberry industry’s most popular fumigant, methyl bromide, was banned by an international treaty in the 1990s for depleting the ozone layer.

There are few studies on the long-term health impacts of fumigants. Human health risks often are extrapolated from animal studies. Last year, a group of researchers at the University of California, Berkeley found a connection between living near places where methyl bromide is used and giving birth to babies who were lighter, shorter and had smaller heads.
Remember how MT recently spent eight hours at the Creationism conference held inside Michigan State University? This is sort of the same thing, except MacLeod triples the time and spends it all locked inside Baltimore's Horseshoe Casino. Early on, MacLeod writes in one breath:

This place is all new, it’s not worn down from use yet, but the inside will never stink of stale cigarette smoke, and it’s got all these great endless-pattern rugs with horseshoes on ’em, and everything is shiny metal and high ceilings with decorative wall treatments and sleek giant chandeliers and tasteful slats of wood arranged to create divided spaces without interrupting the openness of the space and leather couches and relief-patterned ceilings, and I suggest you come here just to walk around and look at this place as if it is a Museum, it’s fucking fascinating, visually, all the crazy slot machines with goofy themes like sex and the city and omg! kittens and weird automated/video games that do not require interaction with any humans, there’s this open space right in the middle of the two-story general gambling acreage of casino floor, and when you walk through the fields of slot machines and gaming tables to get to the edge of this hole, you will reflexively look down from your spot on the upper floor, and you will see a bar, and probably the tops of the female bartender’s boobs, actually, since you are looking straight down, sorry, and behind and above the bar there’s a stage where there’s either a DJ, a band, or some hot ladies in abbreviated outfits dancing, depending on what time of day it is.
Remember interest-rate swaps? Detroit has had one hell of a time dealing with them. A sour $1.4 billion deal saddled with one of those bloodsuckers was, at one point, the center of Detroit's historic bankruptcy case. The city agreed to pay $85 million to end those deals with Bank of America and UBS. For the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department, it cost $571 million to end their nasty sour swaps. Now, under the deal to finance a new Detroit Red Wings arena, nearly half of the construction costs will be hedged with an interest rate swap — because, officials confidently assert, there's no chance interest rates will be pushed to basically nothing ever again. Ever.

Well, as it turns out, our neighbor to the southwest has had some fun with swaps, too. And although Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel swore up-and-down he never engaged in anything of the sort, the Chicago Tribune says otherwise. The result? It ain't pretty:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel this week distanced himself from the risky derivatives that are draining funds from the city's school system, declaring: "Under my tenure, there have been no swaps."

But records show the city of Chicago has entered into at least four interest-rate swaps under the Emanuel administration.

The deals brought the city nearly $20 million upfront but will require regular payments for up to 30 years, much like the derivative deals sapping Chicago Public Schools.

The Tribune series "Borrowing Trouble" this month found that CPS' decision to issue $1 billion in auction-rate debt paired with interest-rate swaps will likely cost $100 million more than what the school district would have paid for traditional fixed-rate debt. One draw of those risky deals was the hefty upfront payments that accompanied some swaps.

Have a recommendation? Send an email to rfelton@metrotimes.com or drop it in the comment section below. 


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