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2012 APA-W5 used car mystery shopper investigation


Highway 401 west of the Don Valley Parkway/Hig...

Highway 401 west of the Don Valley Parkway/Highway 404 junction. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2012 APA-W5 used car mystery shopper investigation

For this year’s investigation, the APA mystery shoppers visited 20 used car sellers in the Greater Toronto Area. The shoppers were accompanied by an expert mechanic and all visits were recorded on W5’s cameras. The APA shoppers looked for popular vehicles selling at low prices; this year, the most common models shopped were the Honda Fit and Civic, and Toyota Corolla and Matrix. Sellers were evaluated for the accuracy of their representations. Verbal and advertising representations made about the vehicles offered for sale were double checked by the APA’s expert mechanic and by searching in third-party databases.

Two of the misrepresented salvage cars came from Stark Metal and Iron – a wrecking yard. Among the so-called private sellers, four out of seven had advertised five or more cars from the same phone number over a three month period.

One was a licensed dealer who tried to slip the APA shoppers a car with a slipping clutch. One appeared to be a private party, but he concealed the fact that his car was a rebuilt insurance write-off.

Several “private” advertisers contacted by the APA quickly identified themselves as auto dealers over the phone. One “private” advertiser made an appointment to meet the mystery shoppers at a residential address in Thornhill, and showed up with a used Honda Accord sedan sporting a dealer plate. In Ontario, a dealer is not supposed to sell from a residential address.

The APA has discovered that the worst curber cars it shopped this year and in previous investigations shared some common elements:

  • Selling for a low, often below-market price on websites like Kijiji
  • Rebuilt wrecks sold by insurance companies to salvage yards and resold at auto auctions (in one case this year, the car was still registered in the name of the auction or a related company when shopped by the APA)
  • A dealer, recycler, or autobody shop in the background that appears to be working with the curbsider, who is a sort of front person for the selling activity.
  • The private seller (i.e. curber) can arrange for a safety standards certificate and emissions test for the buyer. In some cases, the curber asked only for a copy of the buyer’s driver’s licence and insurance to complete the sale.
  • The investigation raised questions about government oversight and the integrity of the salvage rebuilding and re-inspection process; two of the cars shown to the APA shoppers had yet to pass a structural inspection and were still classified as “unfit,” yet they were being shown by private individuals. For one of the cars still classified as “unfit,” the seller’s garage issued the APA shopper a safety standards certificate.

Read more: http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/WFive/20120413/w5-apa-investigation-toronto-120414/?s_name=W5#ixzz1s8CDadC1

Alaska panel:Palin Abused Power In Firing


ANCHORAGE- A legislative committee investigating Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has found she unlawfully abused her authority in firing the state’s public safety commissioner. The investigative report concludes that a family grudge wasn’t the sole reason for firing Public Safety Commissioner Walter Monegan but says it likely was a contributing factor.

Investigator Stephen Branchflower, in a report by a bipartisan panel that investigated the matter, found Palin in violation of a state ethics law that prohibits public officials from using their office for personal gain.

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Foreclosures and the Credit Crunch in America: Did God Want You to Get That Mortgage?


By David Van Biema

Pulpit Pimps

Pulpit Pimps

Has the so-called Prosperity gospel turned its followers into some of the most willing participants — and hence, victims — of the current financial crisis? That’s what a scholar of the fast-growing brand of Pentecostal Christianity believes. While researching a book on black televangelism, says Jonathan Walton, a religion professor at the University of California at Riverside, he realized that Prosperity’s central promise — that God will “make a way” for poor people to enjoy the better things in life — had developed an additional, dangerous expression during the subprime-lending boom. Walton says that this encouraged congregants who got dicey mortgages to believe “God caused the bank to ignore my credit score and blessed me with my first house.” The results, he says, “were disastrous, because they pretty much turned parishioners into prey for greedy brokers.”

Others think he may be right. Says Anthea Butler, an expert in Pentecostalism at the University of Rochester in New York: “The pastor’s not gonna say, ‘Go down to Wachovia and get a loan,’ but I have heard, ‘Even if you have a poor credit rating, God can still bless you — if you put some faith out there [that is, make a big donation to the church], you’ll get that house or that car or that apartment.’ ” Adds J. Lee Grady, editor of the magazine Charisma: “It definitely goes on, that a preacher might say, ‘If you give this offering, God will give you a house.’ And if they did get the house, people did think that it was an answer to prayer, when in fact it was really bad banking policy.” If so, the situation offers a look at how a native-born faith built partially on American economic optimism entered into a toxic symbiosis with a pathological market.

Although a type of Pentecostalism, Prosperity theology adds a distinctive layer of supernatural positive thinking. Adherents will reap rewards if they prove their faith to God by contributing heavily to their churches, remaining mentally and verbally upbeat and concentrating on divine promises of worldly bounty supposedly strewn throughout the Bible. Critics call it a thinly disguised pastor-enrichment scam. Other experts, like Walton, note that for all its faults, the theology can empower people who have been taught to see themselves as financially or even culturally useless to feel they are “worthy of having more and doing more and being more.” In some cases the philosophy has matured with its practitioners, encouraging good financial habits and entrepreneurship.

But Walton suggests that a decade’s worth of ever easier credit acted like a drug in Prosperity’s bloodstream. “The economic boom ’90s and financial overextensions of the new millennium contributed to the success of the Prosperity message,” he wrote recently. And not positively. “Narratives of how ‘God blessed me with my first house despite my credit’ were common. Sermons declaring ‘It’s your season to overflow’ supplanted messages of economic sobriety,” and “little attention was paid to … the dangers of using one’s home equity as an ATM to subsidize cars, clothes and vacations.”

With the bubble burst, Walton and Butler assume that Prosperity congregants have taken a disproportionate hit, and they are curious as to how their churches will respond. Butler thinks some of the flashier ministries will shrink along with their congregants’ fortunes. Says Walton: “You would think that the current economic conditions would undercut their theology.” But he predicts they will persevere, since God’s earthly largesse is just as attractive when one is behind the economic eight ball.

A recent publicly posted testimony by a congregant at the Brownsville Assembly of God, near Pensacola, Fla., seems to confirm his intuition. Brownsville is not even a classic Prosperity congregation — it relies more on the anointing of its pastors than on Scriptural promises of God. But the believer’s note to his minister illustrates how magical thinking can prevail even after the mortgage blade has dropped. “Last Sunday,” it read, “You said if anyone needed a miracle to come up. So I did. I was receiving foreclosure papers, so I asked you to anoint a picture of my home and you did and your wife joined with you in prayer as I cried. I went home feeling something good was going to happen. On Friday the 5th of September I got a phone call from my mortgage company and they came up with a new payment for the next 3 months of only $200. My mortgage is usually $1,020. Praise God for his Mercy & Grace.”

And pray that the credit market doesn’t tighten any further.

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PC AND NDP MPP’s call for police investigation of “slushgate”


(Toronto) – Progressive Conservative and New Democratic MPP’s joined forces today to call for a police investigation into a scandal involving $32 million in grants to multicultural groups by the McGuinty Liberal government.

Bob Runciman (MPP Leeds-Grenville), a former Solicitor General and Peter Kormos (MPP Niagara Centre), a former criminal defence lawyer, released a letter to Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant requesting a police investigation into “financial misconduct” by political officials in the distribution of “highly questionable” grants made at the fiscal year end over the last two years.

In late July, Ontario’s Auditor General released a review of the decision-making process used in the distribution of grants. His findings and scathing criticism detailing the lack of control and transparency as the money was doled out, led to the resignation of Citizenship Minister Mike Colle.

“The Auditor’s report left a basketful of unanswered questions, many beyond the Auditor’s purview to investigate and some raising issues of criminality” asserted Runciman.

“The Auditor’s report was not an investigation of civil or criminal wrongdoing rather it was a quick and narrowly scoped review that confirmed financial misconduct” said Kormos. “We still have no answers for why the misconduct occurred and how these improper benefits were sought or bestowed.”

In calling for the police investigation the veteran MPPs’ argue, citing various sections of the Criminal Code, that criminal misconduct remains a potential explanation for the actions in question and the citizens of Ontario have a right to answers.

“The Auditor General did his job, now it’s time to get to the bottom of this by having the police investigate” said Runciman.

“It’s over to Mr. Bryant to do his job” added Kormos.

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