More than half of B.C.’s most expensive homes owned by secret shell companies spurring money laundering fears
Almost half of Vancouver’s 100 most expensive homes are bought using shell companies or other financial tools that obscure who the identity of the true owners

Almost half of Vancouver’s 100 most expensive homes are bought using shell companies or other financial tools that obscure the identity of the true owners, a report from anti-corruption group Transparency International says.

The report, which focuses on money laundering and tax evasion vulnerabilities in Canadian real estate through a study of Vancouver luxury homes, slams Canada for failing to close home-ownership loopholes related to shell companies, trusts and nominees.

The report also concludes the prevalence of non-transparent ownership in B.C. luxury real estate makes it impossible to measure how much offshore cash is invested in B.C. homes, even though B.C. is attempting to collect data on foreign ownership.

“An influx of overseas capital is one of several causes of rising property prices, (in Vancouver and Toronto) but the extent and impact of foreign investment remains unknown since very little data is collected on property owners,” the report says. “Individuals can use shell companies, trusts and nominees to hide their beneficial interest in Canadian real estate.”

Compared to other advanced economies, Canada has weak transparency laws, the report states. Transparency International is a non-government coalition that studies global corruption and advocates legal reforms to fight financial crimes.

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Exxon’s Rex Tillerson Is Top Candidate for Secretary of State
Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson has emerged as the leading candidate to become Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of state, according to two transition officials, marking the latest twist in a multi-week search.
By Peter Nicholas and Bradley Olson

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Holiday Gift Guide (on a budget)

Everyone we love deserves amazing gifts, right? Of course they do. But holidays can be hard because we don’t all have hundreds or thousands of dollars lying around to just drop on every single person we know. That’s why I, someone who gets awesome gifts for my loved ones with a limited budget, have compiled a list here so you can do the same. I always use Amazon because most items are marked down and with free shipping on most orders.

Kylie Cosmetics Holiday Mini Kit Matte Liquid Lipsticks - $14.32. It’s a mini kit, but it’s inexpensive, and perfect for a friend or sister.

All-New Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote - $39.99. I have a Fire Stick. They are amazing, if you like Smart TVs without the price. 

George Foreman GR20B 4 Serving Classic Plate Grill - $29.99. For the cook in your family. Depending on your budget, you can even buy one with interchangeble plates for making paninis, waffles, and more. 

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay - $14.99. We all know a Harry Potter/JK Rowling fan. Get them this newest addition to the magical wizarding world.

Glow 30 Pc Professional Wooden Handle Make up Brushes Set - $11.99. This makeup brush set is currently 60% off, and perfect for the makeup lover you know.

French Vanilla Bath Gift Set - $23.99. This set comes in a beautiful jewelry box and includes lotion, shower gel, bubble bath, and more. It is 64% off.

Van Der Hagen Premium Shave Set - $9.49. Comes with shave soap, bowl, and brush. An inexpensive gift that is perfect for the man in your life.

Del Rossa Women’s Satin Pajamas, Long Button-Down Pj Set and Mask - $21.99. Every woman needs warm pajamas in the winter. And these are satin!

Iceland on a Budget(ish)

I really only wanted to write this entry as an opposition of sorts to the widespread misconception(ish) that Iceland is a maddeningly unaffordable country to visit as a Brit.  

Yes, to a degree, Iceland is much more expensive than a lot of other countries; especially England. And yes, I would not recommend Iceland as an ideal getaway destination to someone who hasn’t any expendable budget for their trip. But I would have to disagree with all of the concerned looks, intakes of breath and hushed words of caution which I received on mentioning to, almost anyone really, that I was planning a trip to Iceland’s capital- Reykjavik. With a minor amount of googling, and a few essential apps, we headed off on our trip positive that we would be the ones to conquer Iceland on a budget(ish). I say budget with an ‘ish’ because truthfully Iceland really is an expensive country in terms of what we’re used to. So unless you’re willing to subsist on air and determination alone, then you’ll need to be willing to part with a little more than you’re used to for almost everything. 

Here we were on day one, obligatory bobble hats in place, naive perhaps, but ready to tackle Reykjavik on our ‘ish’ of a budget. 

Before we left for Iceland we had decided that we’d treat ourselves to one fancy meal during our four night trip. However, almost as soon as we arrived it became clear that in order to lessen the post-holiday blues a little more, we would give our bank balances the rest they deserved and stick to choosing from the vast selection of fast-food spots. I’d already compiled a list of Icelander approved eats from the plethora of blogs offering solutions for those not wishing to spend a weeks wages on a fillet of fish. I won’t go into detail about each place we tried, but i’ll include a list later which will hopefully help anyone else in the same situation as us.

Here is the inviting window of Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur- a firm favourite with travellers and locals alike, renowned for its simple yet delicious hotdogs. The name actually translates as the Best Sausage in Town! And I have to agree, it definitely hit the spot after our day of travelling. Note- don’t be discouraged by the dingy, littered surroundings of the missable red hut next to the Old Harbour. Get stuck in!

One thing which, despite my pre-trip research managed to evade me was how to upkeep my close relationship with wine whilst in Iceland! Another decision we made prior to leaving, was that due to the extortionate price of alcohol, we were not going to bother with drinking. Pah! Well that lasted all of five minutes. Thankfully though, with the aid of the thought provokingly named, ‘Appy Hour’ we were able to let our drinking habits remain almost at their usual levels without racking up ridiculous bills. I think the prevalence of happy hours, with ‘hour’ being an extremely loose term, would be the most glaring hole in all of the budgeting advice I came across. I’m not suggesting that alcohol is a necessity for a great holiday. But knowing that it was possible to get your frosty hands on a glass of wine or beer for under the usual £20 a round was a relief. Especially as during chilly December when the sun rises in Reykjavik at around 10am and sets at about 3pm; it meant that wandering around in the dark wasn’t really an appealing option as the dark lasted longer than the light! So if like us you don’t have the option of spending the majority of your evening dining out over a few courses, but opt for fast-food, then fear not! The happy hours range from around 4pm to as late as 11pm in some spots. You just need to keep an eye on the app, and be willing to walking a few extra steps to seek out the next hot spot. A perfect solution for your evenings entertainment, and at half the price how could you say no?

Now for the all important top 5 cheap(ish) food spots:

1. Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur- I would recommend ordering an ‘Eina með öllu’, or you can just ask in English for ‘One with Everything’. 420ISK or about £3. You might want to order two if you’re making this your main meal. 

2. Devitos Pizza- The best thing about this place is that it is open late: perfect for your post northern lights feast. They provide a selection of herbs, sauces and oils which you can add to your pizza when it’s ready, meaning you can pick the cheaper option without compromising on flavour. a 12″ Margherita costs 1200ISK or around £8.50.

3. Mai Thai Bistro & Supermarket- Don’t be put off by the somewhat intimidating army of lucky cats lining the window. If you enjoy simple, but super tasty grub then this is the spot for you. No fuss, and only a few things to choose from made us go back twice for their delicious and filling offerings. I’d recommend either the pad thai, or the chicken and basil. Around 1550ISK or 1790ISK so somewhere around the £11 region. 

4. Noodle Station- Probably the name which cropped up most when I was looking, and understandably. We opted for the veg option because it was such a bargain. It wasn’t hugely flavoursome, but it was really filling and did the job! And at 890ISK its probably some of the cheapest warm food you’ll find that will fill you up.

5. Public House Gastropub- This one doesn’t really class as cheap, but I couldn’t not mention it. We tried the #meatfreemonday four course menu and WOW! I can’t vouch for the rest of their menu, but the delighted faces of all the other diners mean that I would definitely go back to try it! Their tapas style dishes were packed full of some of the most delicious flavours i’ve tasted in a long while. And if you fit your visit into their happy hour then the wine selection is much wider than that of other bars which mostly give you the thrilling option of red or white. This place can’t be missed. Really! 

Any of the above will leave you satisfied, and you certainly won’t feel cheated out of a ‘proper’ meal. We chose to share quite a few of the dishes, spreading out our meals across the evening so that it didn’t feel like rushed fast-food, but instead as though we were simply exploring all of our possible dining opportunities!

I sadly couldn’t bring myself to add this to the list, as it was by no means cheap- but was by all means worth it! The ‘Snickers Crazy’ crepe from Eldur and Is was too much for me alone, but Liam was very chivalrous and came to my rescue! The sugar high will power anyone up the short walk up the hill to Hallgrímskirkja church.

My last two suggestions don’t really count as true money saving tips, but i’ll add them on anyway as they lessened our overall costs considerably. Firstly, the slightly naughty breakfast buffet to lunchbox transition. Which, may I add, having worked serving breakfast to guests in a chateau in France this summer I would actually advocate the stealing of breakfast foods for consumption at lunch! Based on my severe hatred of food wastage, I say as long as your subtle and not taking the biscuit, that one sandwich for lunch made from bin-worthy leftovers is fair game! I utilised Liam’s shamelessness and let him loose on the continental section of the table. The result- more money to spend on important things.. like wine!  Important to note though, we did hear stories from other hotels that they enforced rules which actually fined people doing just this. So obviously do check your hotels policy before going ahead with this one! And lastly, not one for die hard coffee lovers, but useful for if you’ve been exploring in the cold all morning and are in dire need of a hot drink. On entering one of the central banks to change our money we noticed that almost everyone had a cardboard espresso cup close to hand. Sensing a bargain, and in need of a caffeine we located the pot, took our numbered ticket, and enjoyed the wait with a slightly weak, but warming coffee. I couldn’t say if this is the same in all of Reykjavik’s banks, nor would I say that the coffee was particularly nice, but at that particular point it was just what we needed. And it ended up saving us another £10 or so. Yes I did then spend that on wine instead, but that’s not the point!

The sneaky sandwiches during the construction process, and their unblushing creator! 

As a final note, If you choose to experience Iceland using a pre-organised tour company as we did, then it is likely that your days will be rigorously planned. This meant that there really wasn’t that much time left in the day to worry about how much things cost. Instead, we were far too busy exploring all of the stunning sights that Iceland has to offer. So don’t be perturbed by the overwhelming sources that say Iceland is an unaffordable holiday destination. Instead, accept the fact that you’ll be spending more than usual, maybe visit a few of my cheap(ish) suggestions, and just enjoy wondering around the intriguing streets. Because hey, walking around and soaking up all of the beguiling charm that Reykjavik has to offer is completely free! And the other parts of Iceland that we were lucky enough to visit were truly stunning, certainly worth spending a few extra pounds to see that is.

Gullfoss Waterfall being one of the breath taking spots we visited on the Golden Circle Tour. Even I could give up a glass of red to see this!

Budget MtG Blog Seeking Budget Combos/Synergy from Community

Hey Folks! Shawn here.

For over two years (coming up on 3 this February), CommanDollar has been a blog about budget-as well as talking about some controversial issues. At the center of that idea is the means to play Magic: the Gathering while not being necessarily terrible at it. To that end, we constantly seek budget combos/synergy-and where better to get them than our followers?

If you have a budget combo-and I use the term budget loosely here, as each person’s idea of a budget can be different, submit it to us! Here are the easy steps to a 10/10 presentation of a budget combo/synergy:

1) Go to our main page, click on the menu (upper right hand corner), choose “Share your Story!”, and make it a photo submission
2) Find a budget combo/synergy that you like
3) Find pictures of the cards and slap them together into a single photo (I prefer using this site because it’s free and very user-friendly)
4) Look up the prices of the cards (using your favorite website like starcitygames, mtggoldfish, etc works, maybe use pucatrade as well)
5) Follow the format! Make sure we know the price (and the date you looked the price up), the cards and how they work together. You can even share a story of you using the cards together, what deck(s) it would work best in, etc.

Now, why do this? Simply put, the blog is in a transition period. We’re seeking new members, and a time to conduct interviews for them all, and we are also a blog about a community experience. We want you to save the $$, and we want you to have fun. This community has a lot of potential, and this is just the first of many steps I hope to take in a positive, new direction. 

If you choose to submit to us a budget combo, we will share a new one every Friday, so be on the lookout for yours to appear! Until then, commanders, game on!

The gravy for Republicans in repealing Obamacare as fast as they can—the tax cut for the rich
One of the things Obamacare did, and did effectively, was pay for providing health insurance to millions by increasing taxes on a relative handful of high-income Americans. The fact that those tax hikes will go away along with health insurance for 30...

What could be better than paying $0 to do your taxes? Absolutely nothing

This week we brought back TurboTax® Absolute Zero®, the nation’s first no-strings-attached, totally free tax preparation and filing offering. For the third year in a row, Absolute Zero gives 60 million hard-working Americans with simple tax returns the ability to file their federal and state taxes for absolutely nothing: $0.