The World’s Wealthiest Family Gets $4 Million Richer Every Hour

The 25 wealthiest dynasties on the planet control $1.4 trillion

The WaltonsFrom left: Jim Walton, Alice Walton, Jim’s wife Lynne McNabb Walton, Rob Walton’s wife Melani Lowman Walton and Rob Walton. PHOTOGRAPH: RICK T. WILKING / STRINGER

The numbers are mind-boggling: $70,000 per minute, $4 million per hour, $100 million per day.

That’s how quickly the fortune of the Waltons, the clan behind Walmart Inc., has been growing since last year’s Bloomberg ranking of the world’s richest families.

At that rate, their wealth would’ve expanded about $23,000 since you began reading this. A new Walmart associate in the U.S. would’ve made about 6 cents in that time, on the way to an $11 hourly minimum.

Even in this era of extreme wealth and brutal inequality, the contrast is jarring. The heirs of Sam Walton, Walmart’s notoriously frugal founder, are amassing wealth on a near-unprecedented scale — and they’re hardly alone.

The Walton fortune has swelled by $39 billion, to $191 billion, since topping the June 2018 ranking of the world’s richest families.

Other American dynasties are close behind in terms of the assets they’ve accrued. The Mars family, of candy fame, added $37 billion, bringing its fortune to $127 billion. The Kochs, the industrialists-cum-political-power-players, tacked on $26 billion, to $125 billion.

So it goes around the globe. America’s richest 0.1% today control more wealth than at any time since 1929, but their counterparts in Asia and Europe are gaining too. Worldwide, the 25 richest families now control almost $1.4 trillion in wealth, up 24% from last year.

To some critics, such figures are evidence that capitalism needs fixing. Inequality has become an explosive political issue, from Paris to Seattle to Hong Kong. But how to shrink the growing gap between the rich and the poor?

As the tension increases, even some billionaire heirs are backing steps such as wealth taxes.

“If we don’t do something like this, what are we doing, just hoarding this wealth in a country that’s falling apart at the seams?” Liesel Pritzker Simmons, whose family ranks 17th on the Bloomberg list, said in June. “That’s not the America we want to live in.”

A notable addition this year: the Saudi royal family.

The House of Saud is worth $100 billion, based on the cumulative payouts royal family members are estimated to have received over the past 50 years from the Royal Diwan, the executive office of the king.

That’s a lowball figure. After all, oil giant Saudi Aramco, the linchpin of the Saudi economy, is the world’s most profitable company. The kingdom is hoping to take it public at a $2 trillion valuation.

Tallying dynastic dollars isn’t an exact science. Fortunes backed by decades and sometimes centuries of assets and dividends can obfuscate the true extent of a family’s holdings. The net worth of the Rothschilds or Rockefellers, for instance, is too diffuse to value. Clans whose wealth is currently unverifiable are also absent.

But of those we can track, most are reaping the rewards of ultra-low interest rates, tax cuts, deregulation and innovation. Koch Industries, for instance, has a venture-capital arm. The latest generation of Waltons is establishing its own enterprises. MORE


Ontario and drug companies criticize new federal drug-pricing plan but experts say it’s a key improvement

Image result for canada drug regulations

Prescription pills are shown in Toronto, Dec. 23, 2017. The federal government says it is making changes that will give a quasi-judicial body the tools to better protect Canadians from excessive drug prices and make patented medicines more affordable. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy

The Ontario government says Ottawa’s overhaul of drug-pricing regulations will damage the province’s pharmaceutical industry, as the head of an association of drug companies warns that the new framework could have dire consequences for patients.

However, several drug-policy experts say the federal changes will lead to meaningful savings for Canadians and will make the country a world leader in setting drug prices.

On Friday, the federal government revealed its long-awaited changes to the country’s patented medicines regulations, which are designed to help reduce the high cost of prescription drugs in Canada. Under the new framework, the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board (PMPRB) will no longer consider drug prices in the United States or Switzerland, which have some of the world’s highest drug prices, when trying to set the maximum prices companies are allowed to charge for prescription medications.

Drug manufacturers will also have to provide the price-setting regulator with the actual cost it charges for drugs in Canada, including any discounts or rebates. Currently, most manufacturers only disclose the list or “sticker” price, which is typically higher than what large insurance plans, such as provinces or private companies, pay. The new requirement on companies to disclose confidential market prices that include all deductions will help the PMPRB set maximum prices based on the actual amounts those companies are charging.

The PMPRB will also have the authority to consider whether a drug’s price matches its value to patients. For instance, some drugs may represent a major advance in the treatment of a disease and may have been costly to develop, which could lead the PMPRB to set a higher maximum price.

The changes are scheduled to take effect July 1, 2020, and will apply to all new drugs that come on the market after that date. The regulations will also apply to existing drugs, with a caveat. Drugs that are already on the market won’t have to complete the value-for-money equation, but they will have to meet the other new drug-pricing rules.

In a statement, a spokesman for Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said the government is “disappointed” Ottawa moved ahead with changes without further stakeholder consultation. MORE


Health Canada says drug pricing changes will save Canadians billions


Insect ‘apocalypse’ in U.S. driven by 50x increase in toxic pesticides

Bees, butterflies, and other insects are under attack by the very plants they feed on as U.S. agriculture continues to use chemicals known to kill.

America’s agricultural landscape is now 48 times more toxic to honeybees, and likely other insects, than it was 25 years ago, almost entirely due to widespread use of so-called neonicotinoid pesticides, according to a new study published today in the journal PLOS One.

This enormous rise in toxicity matches the sharp declines in bees, butterflies, and other pollinators as well as birds, says co-author Kendra Klein, senior staff scientist at Friends of the Earth US.

“This is the second Silent Spring. Neonics are like a new DDT, except they are a thousand times more toxic to bees than DDT was,” Klein says in an interview.

Using a new tool that measures toxicity to honey bees, the length of time a pesticide remains toxic, and the amount used in a year, Klein and researchers from three other institutions determined that the new generation of pesticides has made agriculture far more toxic to insects. Honey bees are used as a proxy for all insects. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency does the same thing when requiring toxicity data for pesticide registration purposes, she explained.

The study found that neonics accounted for 92 percent of this increased toxicity. Neonics are not only incredibly toxic to honeybees, they can remain toxic for more than 1,000 days in the environment, said Klein.

“The good news is that we don’t need neonics,” she says. “We have four decades of research and evidence that agroecological farming methods can grow our food without decimating pollinators.”

In 2018, the European Union banned neonicotinoids for field use based on their harm to pollinators. In 2019, Canada also passed restrictions on the use of the most widely used neonicotinoids.

Farms using neonics had 10 times the insect pressure and half the profits compared to those who use regenerative farming methods instead of insecticides according a 2018 study.

Like agroecological farming, regenerative agricultural uses cover crops, no-till and other methods to increase on-farm biodiversity and soil health.

Farmers who are dependent on chemicals are going out of business, said Lundgren, who is also a grain farmer in South Dakota. “It’s painful to see when we have tested, scientifically sound solutions. Working with nature is a good business decision,” he says.


Communities sacrificed – Mount Polley five years later

OPINION: Imperial Metals Corp. and the Mt. Polley Mine have shut down operations for an indefinite period.

Quesnel Lake. PNG

We are a community that was sacrificed by a mining company and the B.C. government for the sake of jobs, which after two years no longer exist.

Three hundred and fifty jobs have disappeared in the small Interior communities of Likely and Williams Lake in the Cariboo, and left behind are 25 million cubic metres of mine waste and two 24-inch pipes that deliver an average discharge of up to 29,000 cubic metres per day of mine waste into a once pristine salmon-bearing waterway, Quesnel Lake.

It is now five years since the worst mining disaster in Canadian history and no charges have been laid against the mining company. Not one dollar in penalties has been levied. This doesn’t appear to be “normal” practice in other provinces.

Imperial Metals Corp. and the Mount Polley mine have shut down operations for an indefinite period, which is unfortunate for employees, suppliers and the Williams Lake and Likely economies. And yet many outstanding questions and concerns remain about how we ended up where we are now, particularly in regards to what the mine closure means to the once-pristine environment in and around Quesnel Lake.

Despite the promises made by the mine in the 1990s — that there would be no mine-water discharge from the mine site, and particularly into Quesnel Lake — the B.C. government has allowed it to discharge basically untreated mine effluent (at best filtered only) directly into the depths of the west arm of Quesnel Lake — a critical habitat for wild salmon in the Fraser River watershed and a source of drinking water and enjoyment for British Columbians.

The refined and improved copper and aluminum removal system should have been in place before the end of 2017, a deadline ignored by the mine for over two years. Now they are requesting an indefinite extension — no deadline date provided. The Mount Polley mine is out of compliance with the permit, and has had more than a dozen (and growing) non-compliance issues since.

At what point will the B.C. government stop granting this company special treatment?

It is obvious now that the Mount Polley Mine is planning to use the pipeline into Quesnel Lake as part of its indefinite future wastewater treatment system. Where is the B.C. government with its duty to protect the previously pristine waters of Quesnel Lake?

The Concerned Citizens of Quesnel Lake believe that the rationale behind why we vehemently disagreed with the permit approval to discharge mine waste is now being proven, by the simple fact that the mining company has not complied with the permit for over two years. MORE


B.C. failing to protect drinking water: auditor general

Trudeau pressed to give update on review of Canada’s arms deal with Saudi Arabia

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses supporters during a Liberal Party fundraiser in Surrey, B.C., Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is facing pressure from civil society groups to update Canadians before the October election on his government's review of a multibillion-dollar arms deal with Saudi Arabia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses supporters during a Liberal Party fundraiser in Surrey, B.C., Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is facing pressure from civil society groups to update Canadians before the October election on his government’s review of a multibillion-dollar arms deal with Saudi Arabia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is facing pressure from civil society groups to update Canadians before the October election on his government’s review of a multibillion-dollar arms deal with Saudi Arabia.

The Liberals launched a review of the $15-billion contract to ship light armoured vehicles to the Middle East kingdom last fall after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey.

The announcement was also made at a time of deep concern over the risk Saudi Arabia could use the weapons in the ongoing war in Yemen, which has been devastating for civilians.

A letter sent this week to Trudeau from a dozen organizations says the public has a right to know the status of the review now that more than nine months have passed since the government first announced the probe.

“No update with respect to the progress of the review has been offered, bringing the sincerity of the effort into question,” said the letter, signed by organizations including Amnesty International Canada, Oxfam Canada and Save the Children Canada.

“Canadians are entitled to know the outcome of the government review, and a clear answer with respect to your government’s position on the export of LAVs from Canada to Saudi Arabia.”

The Liberal government halted all new export permits to the kingdom last fall, sanctioned 17 Saudi nationals and started the review of arms sales to the country amid concerns about a lack of a credible, independent investigation into Khashoggi’s killing and Saudi participation in the conflict in neighbouring Yemen.

The letter said any further delays to the review or the government’s eventual decision might mean that consequential actions will come too late, especially since Canada has continued to ship the vehicles to Saudi Arabia – including 127 last year alone, according to federal numbers.

Over the six months of 2019, government data show Canada has sold $1.2 billion worth of “tanks and other motorized armoured fighting vehicles (including parts)” to the kingdom.

The co-authors called on the government to suspend the LAV sale, and also spelled out the steps taken to date by other Western countries to stop or suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia, including the United Kingdom.

A British court ruled in June that it was unlawful for the U.K’s government to export arms to Saudi Arabia. The British government intends to appeal the ruling, but new sales have been suspended in the interim. MORE

Benefits agreement asks First Nation to discourage members from hindering B.C. pipeline project

‘No municipality would be allowed to sign off on such civil restrictions,’ says band member

A man stands at a Coastal GasLink worksite in February 2018. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

Community members and legal experts are concerned about provisions in a signed benefit agreement between a B.C. First Nation and a pipeline company that asks leadership to dissuade their community members from speaking out against the project.

The specific provision appears in a leaked benefits agreement between Nak’azdli Whut’en, a First Nation located roughly two hours northwest of Prince George, and TC Energy’s Coastal GasLink pipeline.

The $6.2-billion Coastal GasLink pipeline will transport natural gas along a 670-kilometre route, from northeastern B.C. to a yet-to-be-constructed liquefied natural gas facility on the coast in Kitimat. The pipeline is a key part of a larger $40-billion project being headed up by LNG Canada that aims to open Canada up to the growing global LNG market.

Coastal GasLink often promotes the fact it has signed agreements with the elected leadership of 20 First Nations along the proposed pipeline route as evidence of support for its project.

But the specifics of these individual agreements have been kept out of the public eye.

“We’re just in the way — like the spotted owl or the caribou. I have no idea how somebody could put that in writing. No municipality would be allowed to sign off on such civil restrictions.”

Among the benefits to Nak’azdli in the leaked agreement are education and training, contracting and employment opportunities, annual legacy payments over the lifetime of the pipeline, and “general project payments” to be paid in three instalments.

But there’s also a condition that the band will “take all reasonable actions” to dissuade its members from doing anything that could “impede, hinder, frustrate, delay, stop or interfere with the project, the project’s contractors, any authorizations or any approval process.” MORE


Oil Tanker Ban: A Step Toward Sustainable Coastal Economies
NEB Declines Jurisdiction Over Coastal Gaslink Pipeline But Leaves Open Question Of Jurisdiction Over The LNG Facility
Island Voices: Bill C-48 and the ecological legacy of B.C.’s coast

‘This is not Canada’: inside the Tsilhqot’in Nation’s battle against Taseko Mines

A proposed copper and gold mine has been rejected twice by the federal government for its impacts on Fish Lake, an area considered sacred by the Tsilhqot’in. But B.C.’s mining laws allow the company to move ahead with exploration work anyway. That doesn’t square with Tsilhqot’in law and the community says it won’t back down

Image result for the narwhal: ‘This is not Canada’: inside the Tsilhqot’in Nation’s battle against Taseko Mines
Xeni Gwet’in Chief Jimmy Lulua sits in a pit house built as part of the Xeni Gwet’in traditional village near the shores of Chilko Lake in the Nemiah Valley. Photo: Louis Bockner / The Narwhal

The brand-new, 21-foot Highfield boat, bought by Xeni Gwet’in First Nation to enforce Tsilhqot’in laws on Chilko Lake, docks at the pebble beach on a small island and Chief Jimmy Lulua dives in.

Chilko Lake Louis Bockner Taseko New Prosperity Tsilhqot’in Nation
Where the road through the Nemiah Valley in Tsilhqot’in territory ends, Chilko Lake begins. The mountains that rise from its shores offer a stark contrast to the open landscape of the Xeni Gwet’in traditional territory. Photo: Louis Bockner / The Narwhal

A quick dry-off and Lulua is ready to give a history lesson.

“We have always owned this land. Everywhere you look belongs to us. The land is who we are as Tsilhqot’in people. We say we are people of the river, people of the blue water,” he said.

“This is not B.C., this is not Canada. The jurisdiction is ours,” he said.

Chief Jimmy Lulua of the Xeni Gwet'in Louis Bockner Taseko New Prosperity Tsilhqot’in Nation
Chief Jimmy Lulua of the Xeni Gwet’in was elected in a 2018 landslide victory and is continuing the band’s decades-long fight against Taseko Mines’ proposed New Prosperity Mine at Fish Lake. Photo: Louis Bockner / The Narwhal

Neither is it the Wild West, Lulua emphasized and, as Tsilhqot’in communities master the complexities of writing laws and generating revenue, they are also figuring out how to control activities in a vast territory that, for the first time in Canadian history, has been legally acknowledged as belonging to Indigenous people who have used the land for thousands of years.

In a precedent-setting 2014 decision, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously ruled that the Tsilhqot’in Nation held Aboriginal title to almost 1,800 kilometres of land in central B.C., southwest of Williams Lake. The title land covers the Nemiah Valley and stretches north into the Brittany Triangle, along the Chilko River and part of Chilko Lake. That means the Tsilhqot’in Nation, made up of six communities including Xeni Gwet’in, has the right to exclusive use and control of the land.

Dezine Studio Tsilhqot'in Nation New Prosperity Taseko Fish LakeIn 2014 the Tsilhqot’in won a 25-year legal battle when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled the nation held Aboriginal title to almost 1,800 kilometres of land in central B.C. A larger area has been legally declared as a place where Tsilqot’in have rights to hunt, trap, fish and trade. Taseko Mines’ proposed New Prosperity mine is within this larger rights area, and also within an area the Tsilqot’in delcared as a tribal park in 2014. Map: Dezine Studio / The Narwhal

A larger area claimed by the First Nation, including Dasiqox Tribal Park, has been legally declared as Tsilhqot’in rights land, giving the right to hunt, trap, fish and trade. But, it remains a grey area where rules can be unclear.

The rights land includes Fish Lake, known as Teztan Biny, an area of profound cultural and spiritual significance, and ground zero for an almost 30-year fight against Taseko Mines Ltd.. That fight is reigniting as the mining company pushes to conduct extensive explorations while the Tsilhqot’in Nation remains adamant that Taseko equipment will not be allowed into the territory. MORE


Supreme Court rejects Tsilhqot’in appeal in Taseko mine case

The Tsilhqot’in Nation calls mine exploration a violation of human rights

First Nations protest Taseko Mines outside of federal court in Vancouver in 2017. (CBC)


California Gov. Jerry Brown casually unveils history’s most ambitious climate target

Full carbon neutrality is now on the table for the world’s fifth largest economy.

California Governor Jerry Brown Speaks At The National Press Club
California Gov. Jerry Brown is going out with a bang. Alex Wong/Getty Images

California Gov. Jerry Brown kicked off a week full of climate change news with an announcement, and boy was it a doozy: at once surprising, strange, and stunning. It was so out of left field and yet so profound in its implications that few in the media, or even in California, seem to have fully absorbed it yet.

To explain, we must begin with a little backstory.

This week, from September 12 to 14, the Global Climate Action Summit will take over San Francisco. The big climate shindig — three days of meetings, exhibitions, and glad-handing with big names in climate policy from around the world — will, among other things, serve as a kind of capstone celebration of Brown’s climate legacy.

Brown had hoped to begin the week by signing a high-profile package of energy bills. The one he most wanted to sign, into which he had poured the most political capital, was a bill that would link California’s energy grid to a larger Western power market. The one for which he had shown the least enthusiasm, into which he had put the least capital, was a bill that would commit California to 100 percent use of zero-carbon electricity by 2045.

That is big news in and of itself; 100 percent clean electricity is a difficult and worthy challenge.

But Brown didn’t stop there. Much to everyone’s surprise, on the same day, he also signed an executive order (B-55-18) committing California to total, economy-wide carbon neutrality by 2045.

Wait, whaaat? Zeroing out carbon entirely in California? In just over 20 years? In my expert opinion, that is … holy shit.

Let’s remember that this is only an executive order, not a law, and there are reasons to greet it with some skepticism, or at least hedged expectations. We’ll get to them in a second.

But y’all: If California really did this — if the world’s fifth-largest economy really targeted economy-wide carbon neutrality by 2045 — it would be the most significant carbon policy commitment ever. Anywhere. Period. It would yank the Overton window open, radically expanding the space of climate policy possibilities.

Economy-wide carbon neutrality, explained

The key to understanding the significance of the goal is grokking the difference between “electricity” and “energy,” which has continually been blurred by the mainstream press (and by some enthusiastic environmentalists).

SB 100, the bill Brown signed on Monday, commits the state to clean electricity by 2045, but electricity only accounts for about 16 percent of California’s greenhouse gas emissions. Brown’s executive order would commit the state to doing something about the other 84 percent — transportation, building heating and cooling, industry, all the many and varied energy services that rely on direct fossil fuel combustion rather than electricity.

This is the holy grail of climate policy: a large, modern economy getting to zero net carbon. It came into view faster than I ever would have predicted 10 years ago. Or five years ago. Or, uh, 24 hours ago! MORE