Democracy Gone Astray

Democracy, being a human construct, needs to be thought of as directionality rather than an object. As such, to understand it requires not so much a description of existing structures and/or other related phenomena but a declaration of intentionality.
This blog aims at creating labeled lists of published infringements of such intentionality, of points in time where democracy strays from its intended directionality. In addition to outright infringements, this blog also collects important contemporary information and/or discussions that impact our socio-political landscape.

All the posts here were published in the electronic media – main-stream as well as fringe, and maintain links to the original texts.

[NOTE: Due to changes I haven't caught on time in the blogging software, all of the 'Original Article' links were nullified between September 11, 2012 and December 11, 2012. My apologies.]

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Military intelligence unit spies on native groups

The Canadian military is keeping a watch on aboriginal groups through an intelligence unit that is meant to protect the Forces and the Department of National Defence from espionage, terrorists and saboteurs.

The Canadian Forces’ National Counter-Intelligence Unit assembled at least eight reports on the activities of native organizations between January, 2010, and July, 2011, according to records released under access to information law.

When told of the documents, one aboriginal leader said the thought of the military keeping tabs on natives was “chilling.”

The Department of National Defence denies it obtained the intelligence itself, and says the information, which cites confidential sources with apparent inside knowledge of native groups, came from other government agencies.

Referred to as Counter-Intelligence Information Reports, the documents alert the military to events such as native plans for a protest blockade of Highway 401, and the possibility of a backlash among aboriginal groups over Ontario’s introduction of the harmonized sales tax.

Tories talk tough on labour

OTTAWA—The Conservatives’ tough-on-labour approach is running into turbulence in the skies and in the courts.

As the clock ticked down to a 12:01 a.m. Thursday strike deadline Wednesday, Air Canada flight attendants grudgingly bowed to Ottawa’s efforts to keep them on the job. And in a separate move, postal workers launched a court challenge charging that Conservatives’ back-to-work legislation introduced in June was unconstitutional and trampled on long-standing labour rights.

“This is a government which appears to be addicted to back-to-work legislation. If workers’ rights are going to be trampled on so cavalierly, then I think workers have to stand up,” said Paul Cavalluzzo, the lawyer acting for the postal workers.

But making war with the unions might not be bad politics, according to EKOS pollster Frank Graves. He suggested the Tory moves are less about ideology and more about politics and the fact that playing tough with labour plays well with their Conservative constituency.

“I do think that right now, the attitudes to organized labour and unions are probably not that favourable,” said Graves.

APEC protester in front line

Millions of Canadians have seen the videotapes and photographs showing police blasting pepper spray into Elise Thorburn's face. With every new revelation about the treatment of APEC protesters at UBC last November those photographs and videos are shown as a backdrop.

However, few people know how the 19-year-old SFU arts student found herself in the front line and on the front page.

SF News contacted Thorburn and asked her to share her experience and thoughts on the story everyone is talking about.

"People all around me were shouting and screaming -- police, protesters, the media," she says remembering the moment after an RCMP officer allegedly punched her in the face to lower her arm, which was shielding her eyes from the spray. "I've never experienced that kind of pain, as if large rocks were being shoved behind my eyes scratching my eyeballs, completely blinding me. My throat was closing up and I was hyperventilating."

Thorburn says she doesn't want the limelight. "It's ridiculous that so much attention is being focused on a bunch of poor, middle-class white kids," she says. "Rather than whine about what happened, I think about what could have happened if we lived in Indonesia, for instance -- torture, beatings, arrest without reason and in prison many women would likely suffer rape, a growing act of torture in these times."

‘Buffett Rule’ May Be Broken by 25% of Millionaire Taxpayers, Study Finds

About 25 percent of millionaires in the U.S. pay federal taxes at lower effective rates than a significant portion of middle-income taxpayers, according to a legislative analysis.

Preferential treatment of investment income and the reduced impact of payroll taxes on high earners lets about 94,500 millionaires pay taxes at a lower rate than 10.4 million “moderate-income taxpayers,” representing about 10 percent of those making less than $100,000 a year, according to the report by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service dated Oct. 7.

The findings put the U.S. tax system in conflict with the so-called Buffett Rule, which says households making more than $1 million annually shouldn’t pay a smaller share of their income in taxes than middle class families, says the report, which analyzed 2006 Internal Revenue Service data.

The Buffett principle was proposed by President Barack Obama in September after billionaire Warren Buffett, the 81- year-old chairman and chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., said it was wrong that he paid taxes at a lower rate than 20 other people who worked in his office.

Obama has said the Buffett Rule should be a guiding principle of efforts to reform the U.S. tax code.

Florida AG Pam Bondi Pressured By Targets Of Investigations To Soften Approach, Critics Say

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Last December, when she was still investigating foreclosure fraud as a top lawyer in the Florida attorney general's office, June Clarkson gave a PowerPoint presentation to a legal association.

Her presentation amounted to an indictment of Lender Processing Services, or LPS, a company near the center of ongoing state investigations into claims that foreclosures have been rushed en masse through the legal machinery, without proper documentation. She flashed images of paperwork on a screen under the heading "forgeries," asserting that LPS' former subsidiary, Docx, had produced phony documents to justify unlawful foreclosures.

The legal association later sent Clarkson a thank-you note, calling her tutorial "invaluable." Word of her presentation reached New York, where a state Supreme Court judge cited it in a harshly-worded ruling that a bank lacked the right to foreclose on a Brooklyn home.

But the Jacksonville-based LPS was furious, particularly about one slide in the presentation: an image of the children's board game Candyland, a satirical reference to the mortgage securitization process. The following month, a lawyer for LPS sent a letter to Clarkson and Theresa Edwards -- a colleague who co-authored the presentation -- calling their PowerPoint display "irresponsible" and "inflammatory," adding: "The legitimate question at this point is whether you are still capable of conducting this investigation."

Baird brings big business on trip to Libya

John Baird brought Canadian funding for efforts to build democracy and control weapons in Libya, but it was the guest list for his trip to Tripoli that pointed to another priority: Executives from big Canadian companies travelled with him.

The foreign minister flew to the Libyan capital with heavy security and secrecy, but also executives from Montreal engineering giant SNC-Lavalin, Alberta oil giant Suncor and Calgary-based pipeline-technology firm Pure Technologies.

Libya’s interim government, still struggling to control and secure the country, wants foreign companies to rush back to get the economy rolling. Canada, like other nations, wants its firms to get business. And Mr. Baird has the calling card of a staunch ally to use in efforts to smooth the resumption of business and exchanges with Libya.

Mr. Baird isn’t the only Western minister to organize a trek to Tripoli in the company of business leaders. Austrian foreign minister Michael Spindelegger was there on the weekend with executives from oil firm OMV. Germany’s economy minister, Philipp Roesler, arrives with business leaders on Wednesday amid concerns in his country’s coolness to the NATO mission in Libya could hurt its firms.

Occupy Bay Street: Spectre Of G20 Violence Haunts Planning For Protest

TORONTO - The orgy of vandalism and mass arrests of the G20 summit 16 months ago are casting a chill as protesters prepare to "occupy" Bay Street this weekend in a call for more economic equality.

For many involved in the pending protest, memories of the violence on that weekend in June last year remain fresh.

"It's definitely a concern," said Kevin Konnyu, who has been involved in the protest planning.

"A lot of people are quite fearful of an overreaction by the police."

Hundreds and possibly thousands of people are expected to descend on downtown Toronto on Saturday as part of a global protest spawned by the almost month-old Occupy Wall Street movement.

In Toronto, demonstrators plan to gather initially at the stock exchange at King and York streets in the heart of the city's financial district.

Like its American counterparts, the Toronto protest — one of several planned across Canada — aims to decry what demonstrators say is the growing gulf between rich and poor, and the immense political power wielded by greedy corporate elites.

Those involved stressed they intend to protest peacefully and cause minimal disruption.
Sarah Jensen, 28, of Barrie, Ont., said those driving the Occupy movement "aren't criminals, thugs or troublemakers."

"After G20, there is a bit of a mistrust of the police," said Jensen, who's main concern is gender equality.

Tories heap scorn on budget watchdog’s ‘lapse in judgment’

Stephen Harper’s Conservatives are attacking Kevin Page, calling into question the fiscal watchdog’s impartiality and judgment after he accepted an invitation to attend a Liberal fundraising function.

In a memo to supporters, Tory strategists pose a number of pointed questions that raise doubts about the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s character.

“Mr. Page needs to explain how he came to make such a major lapse in judgment,” the Tories say. “Why did he feel that speaking to a Liberal Party group was appropriate? Were his travel costs paid from taxpayer funds or was he subsidized by the Liberal Party? Why did he agree to speak at an event intended to raise funds for a partisan organization?”

The Globe reported Tuesday that Mr. Page accepted an invitation to attend a Young Liberal event in Nanaimo, B.C. Event organizers eventually decided to donate proceeds from the evening appearance to a food bank after Mr. Page’s attendance raised eyebrows. In the end, he opted not to participate.

Paul Ryan's Newest Tax Policy Talking Point Trips Over Reality

WASHINGTON -- Joseph Rotella is president and owner of the Spencer Organ Co., a small business with 10 employees that specializes in rehabilitating pipe organs from churches and communities around the country. The operation does quite well, with roughly $2 million in revenue a year and enough profit to land Rotella squarely in the top tax bracket that benefits most from the Bush tax cuts.

That makes Rotella Exhibit A in a new effort from Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, to convince voters that in little more than a year, President Barack Obama will oversee a job-killing crush of tax hikes. Over the past week, the Wisconsin Republican has raised the frightening specter that under Obama's tax policies, small-business owners will soon be turning over half of their annual paycheck to the government.

"In 15 months' time, the top tax rate on small businesses goes to 44.8 percent. Now they are going to throw another tax increase on it," Ryan said during an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" this past Sunday. "We are going to be taxing small businesses at about 50 percent. According to the Treasury Department, 80 percent of businesses file as individuals. Sixty percent of [small] businesses in this country file their tax rates as individuals and will get hit by this new tax that goes to 50 percent in 15 months. Why would we do that?"

Vikram Pandit, Citigroup CEO: Occupy Wall Street's Sentiments Are 'Completely Understandable'

Vikram Pandit, CEO of one of the most visible Wall Street institutions in Citigroup, said he thinks the sentiments of the Occupy Wall Street protesters are "completely understandable."

"Their sentiments are completely understandable," Pandit said in an interview Wednesday with Andrew Serwer of Fortune Magazine. "The economic recovery is not what we all want it to be, there are a number of people in our country who cant achieve what they are capable of achieving and that's not a good place to be."

Demonstrators have been camped out in Manhattan's financial district since September 17 protesting against income inequality, corporate greed and the power of financial institutions, among other topics. The protests have inspired similar demonstrations across the country.

Corporate Citizenship: How Public Dissent In Paris Sparked Creation Of The Corporate Person

WASHINGTON -- Of all the Occupy Wall Street refrains, one of the most memorable is, "I refuse to believe that corporations are people until Texas executes one." But, clever as it is, the quip looks to the wrong end of the life cycle: The only thing more corrupt than the legal concept of corporate personhood is the way a Gilded Age judge birthed it.

The discontented have been occupying the streets for a long time. But the convulsions with which the ruling class in America reacted to the Paris Commune of 1871 make Fox News' coverage of Occupy Wall Street sound fawning.

The Paris Commune was the first international incident followed daily in the United States. While President Barack Obama complains about the 24-hour news cycle today, its roots stretch back to Cyrus Field's transcontinental telegraph cable, which allowed the elites of America to focus intently on the two-month uprising and ultimate slaughter of thousands of Parisians. Cyrus Field's brother and his family were in Paris at the time, and a third brother, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Field, obsessively tracked the news back in the states. It was the Paris uprising that transformed Stephen Field from a mundanely corrupt judge in the paid service of the railroads to a zealous crusader for all corporations, with the aim of suppressing what he and other leaders saw as the threat of democracy from below.

For much of the first U.S. century, it was an accepted fact that the people, through their legislators, had the power to pass laws that businesses were required to obey. After the Civil War, Reconstruction-era statutes and constitutional amendments -- particularly the 14th Amendment -- strictly limited the ability of legislators to restrict the rights of the recently freed African Americans.

Perry Officials Censored Climate Change Report

Rick Perry takes Texas pride in being a climate change denier—and his administration acts accordingly.

Top environmental officials under Perry have gutted a recent report on sea level rise in Galveston Bay, removing all mentions of climate change. For the past decade, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), which is run by Perry political appointees, including famed global warming denier Bryan Shaw, has contracted with the Houston Advanced Research Center to produce regular reports on the state of the Bay. But when HARC submitted its most recent State of the Bay publication to the commission earlier this year, officials decided they couldn't accept a report that said climate change is caused by human activity and is causing the sea level to rise. Top officials at the commission proceeded to edit the paper to censor its references to human-induced climate change or future projections on how much the bay will rise.

How the Mission in Afghanistan Changed Canada

From the Afghan detainee scandal to our more bellicose presence on the world stage, the legacy of the mission remains inextricably tied to the future of peace in Afghanistan.

This is Part 3 in a three-part series examining the outcomes and legacy of the Afghan war. Part 1 outlined how the international intervention was lost, and described the grave consequences this failure is likely to have for a people intimately familiar with war. Part 2 offered a focused discussion of the factors that led to NATO’s breakdown, and outlined why the resurgent Taliban raises the spectre of a return to protracted war and violence in a post-NATO landscape. Concluding the series, Part 3 discusses what legacy the war has left for Canada.

The conflict in Afghanistan now has the distinction of being the longest-ever war for both Canada and the United States – longer than the first and second world wars combined. A well-travelled cliché describes Canada’s involvement in the Afghan war by saying that it has “punched above its weight.” Canada took on one of the riskiest assignments of the war: the pacification and stabilization of Kandahar, the spiritual home of the Taliban movement. Seeing some of the heaviest fighting since the Korean War, the Canadian Forces have suffered among the highest per capita casualty rates of the major NATO troop-contributing nations. Because of this bold assignment and our significant aid commitment, Canada has enjoyed a level of status and prestige among its international partners that it has not seen for some time. Canada’s voice matters in Afghanistan, and we have been present at every major decision-making table.

Mean, But Far From Lean

The Tory crime bill being imposed on Canadians is anything but fiscally conservative.

With a majority government, the Harper Conservatives have indicated that they now have electoral support for their agenda of dramatically increasing Canada’s prison population. Justice Minister Rob Nicholson told the media on Sept. 20 that his government has “ a strong mandate to move forward” on this plan.

Close attention to relevant data – or even basic arithmetic – does not appear to be a hallmark of the current government. Slightly less than 40 per cent of Canadian voters cast their ballots for the Conservatives in the federal election earlier this year, and only 61 per cent of eligible voters actually made it to the polls. The reality, then, is that the Conservatives – and many of their policies – appear to have the support of less than 25 per cent of adult Canadians.

But let’s put aside their misplaced attribution of popular support. What of the crime bill itself? There are a few positives here, but let’s look at just two elements that will cost us billions of dollars over the next five years, mostly in the form of new prison construction and the associated costs of incarceration.

Domestic violence costs Canadians $6.9 billion a year: Study

VANCOUVER — The aftermath of abusive relationships is costing Canadians an estimated $6.9 billion a year, according to new research out of the University of British Columbia.

The study, published in a recent issue of Canadian Public Policy, found that women who have ended relationships involving "intimate partner violence" continue to face persistent health issues, legal troubles and economic burdens, totalling $13,162 annually per woman — a cost spread across private and public domains.

The assumption has always been that when a woman leaves an abusive relationship "things ought to get better," said the lead researcher, UBC nursing Prof. Colleen Varcoe. "But we didn't know that."

It turns out that many consequences continue to plague abused women well after their relationships are over, disrupting their own lives, but also straining public coffers.

Varcoe said abused women make more frequent visits to the emergency room, rely heavily on food banks, require more employment insurance, and often access legal aid more regularly than others.

The cost of those services is a burden to all Canadians, Varcoe said.

Oilsands expansion jeopardized by absence of climate plan, ambassador told

OTTAWA — Opposition to oilsands expansion in "Canada's Texas" and a controversial U.S. pipeline expansion project is growing because of a failure to crack down on pollution that traps heat in the atmosphere and causes climate change, Canada's ambassador to the U.S., Gary Doer, was told by staff in newly released correspondence.

"The anti-oilsands campaign is very real and shows no sign of letting up," wrote Marc LePage, a special adviser on climate change and energy issues at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, in an email sent to Doer.

"This will not go away and will likely intensify in the absence of movement on climate change legislation."

Although Canada signed an international agreement in 1992 calling for the planet to stabilize atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gas emissions that are causing global warming, successive federal governments have repeatedly promised and delayed action to regulate or cap industrial pollution ever since. Environment Minister Peter Kent had pledged in the winter to introduce some elements of a plan to regulate oilsands pollution from Alberta and Saskatchewan before the end of 2011, but has since retreated on that commitment.

Let’s not exalt the folly of 1812

Some wars are horrible but necessary, such as the Second World War. Others are horrible but stupid, such as the War of 1812.

In the annals of war, the 1812-1814 conflict was among the dumbest ever fought. It featured largely bad military leadership, vague objectives, scattered and messy battles and, critically, sizable elements on both sides of the Canadian-U.S. border that wanted the other side to win.

In the cardboard version of history taught in Canada (and the U.S.), the war was good guys against bad guys: the noble (or ignoble) British against the freedom-loving (or aggressor) Americans. We have Isaac Brock (the only competent general on either side during the entire war) and Laura Secord; the Americans have Commodore Oliver Perry and General Andrew Jackson.

In the U.S., Republicans were eager for war against Britain, whose government had authorized the boarding of American ships seeking British nationals to be returned to the British navy. Such an affront against the sovereignty of the new U.S. republic required a response: the taking of the British colonies in Canada. U.S. Federalists disagreed mightily. Britain was fighting the greater enemy, Napoleonic France. A war with Britain was against the wrong enemy, in the wrong place, for the wrong reasons.

Thousands of Americans had emigrated to what’s now Canada to take advantage of the offer of free land. Although they were forced to swear allegiance to the British Crown, many of them sympathized with the republican ideals of their native country. They would have been happy if the Americans had won the war.

Former House leaders defend Tories' majority tactics

Depending on who you ask, the government's move to speed up passage of key budget legislation last week is an attempt to avoid public scrutiny or a valid and necessary tactic for majority governments.

Liberal critic Marc Garneau called the government's decision to limit debate on a 642-page budget implementation bill part of a "disturbing pattern ever since the Conservatives received their majority" to exclude the public and avoid oversight of its legislation.

But former Conservative House leader Jay Hill and former Liberal House leader Don Boudria say tactics like time allocation and closure, which cut off debate at different stages of a bill’s passage through Parliament, have been used for years. And they both say those tactics are necessary to push legislation through the House.

“If the opposition is entitled to filibuster, then the government is entitled to un-filibuster,” Boudria said.

'Occupy Canada' protest plans take shape

Canadian cities are expected to get their first taste of the "Occupy Wall Street" movement this weekend amid questions about what reception the north-of-the-border version of demonstrations against corporate greed, wealth concentration and other grievances will get.

While the mass demonstrations enter their fourth week in the United States, it is unclear how much public support the Canadian events will draw — or how long the planned "occupations" will last.

Toronto and Vancouver, the two Canadian cities expected to attract the largest number of participants, are still coming to terms with June's post-Stanley Cup violence and the G20 summit protests in 2010 — two highly different crowd events that nonetheless triggered intense debate over how they were policed.

Organizers in Vancouver have called for people to gather at the city's art gallery on Saturday morning to form a base of operations, where marches on other downtown locations can be organized.

Abused And Kept Like Slaves, Say B.C. Domestic Workers

Two immigrant women employed as live-in domestic help in separate homes in B.C.'s Lower Mainland say they were treated like slaves by their employers and held as virtual captives in their jobs.

One of the women, who worked as a nanny and housekeeper, said she still feared her employers and spoke to CBC News only on the condition that her identity was not revealed.

The other woman, a caregiver for an elderly man with Parkinson's disease, agreed to be interviewed, but would use only her maiden name, Lynn Jose.

Both workers ended up at the same Vancouver-area Philippine women's transition house, recovering from their ordeals and looking for new work.

Jose, in her early 30s, said she worked, "from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. in the morning. So, worked 12 hours, but you only got paid 8 hours. I haven't been paid yet for that time."

The nanny, also in her early 30s, told a similar story.

Ex-PMO Aide Carson Left Calgary School With Debt

CBC News has learned that Prime Minister Stephen Harper's former senior adviser, Bruce Carson, charged thousands of dollars in personal expenses to the federally funded think-tank he headed for just over two years.

Robert Turner, a prominent Edmonton lawyer and chairman of the Canada School of Energy and Environment's board of directors, says that in one month alone Carson charged almost $28,000 in personal expenses to the school's corporate credit card, which is supposed to be used only for business.

In an exclusive interview with CBC News, Turner said the board has simply written off about $15,000 of taxpayers' money that Carson spent on personal travel and other expenses during his last month on the job.

The school — a think-tank set up at the University of Calgary with a $15-million federal grant — withheld another $13,000 it owed Carson when he left under a cloud of controversy in March.

Turner is the first prominent insider to reveal what went on behind the scenes when the Carson scandal engulfed Stephen Harper's government on the eve of this year's federal election.

Carson is already under investigation for possible influence-peddling and illegal lobbying last year in a failed attempt to land federal contracts for a shady company employing his then girlfriend, a former escort.

This Ain't No Tea Party: A Conservative Defense of Occupy Wall Street

I stumbled on the initial Occupy Wall Street protest by accident back on its first day of September 17th walking through the financial district in lower Manhattan. While the group seemed inchoate and far smaller than the 20,000 or so initially advertised, I was intrigued by the solidarity Occupy Wall Street had expressed with protest movements in Spain or even revolutionary episodes such as the pivotal events in Cairo's Tahrir Square during the early days of the Arab Awakening. I overheard that day some bemused onlookers who may have been low-level financial sector workers mockingly saying--"so, this is it?"--but could not help thinking I would be hearing more about Occupy Wall Street in coming weeks.

I'd long suspected the financial crisis, policy foibles, chronic unemployment, and general corruption of our politics would sooner or later fuel a measure of social unrest in this country as it has elsewhere. We are not immune to a deadening of hope fused with deep-seated suspicion of having been essentially swindled via policy decisions resulting from broken politics that denies a sense of genuine progress and possibility.

Almost immediately after espying this nascent protest movement I left for a three-week business trip to Asia. I was asked on several occasions overseas about the growing movement. From afar in East Asia, I noticed Occupy Wall Street has done several things right. Some were a result of sheer luck (read: police over-reactions), while others showed a measure of tactical skill. A couple of the initial pepper spray incidents went viral on YouTube, one showing very young women screaming hysterically while penned--or is the term for this 'kettled'?--by bright orange police mesh. Here the "luck" of brute force helped create outsize publicity by a media that had mostly ignored the going-ons up to that point. These could be our own daughters, after all, and it offends basic sensibility to see hapless young women sprayed in or near their faces by male police officers twice their age (see the footage here).

Unicef criticises Britain for jailing children over riots

Unicef has criticised the UK judicial system for locking up children allegedly involved in the August riots and warned ministers that they are likely to be in breach of their UN obligations to children's rights.

The UN children's fund said official figures showing that 45% of all under 18s detained on charges of rioting and looting had no previous criminal history were "very worrying", and represented a possible breach of the 1989 UN convention on the rights of a child.

The agency is tasked with upholding the international treaty which Britain signed up to in 1991.

Under article 37, remand must only be used as a last resort in criminal proceedings, where there are no alternatives to stop a child reoffending.

Two other UK-based agencies, the Howard League for Penal Reform and the Children's Rights Alliance for England (CRAE), said they believed custodial arrangements, especially for children who had not yet been put on trial, breached the convention.

The latest Ministry of Justice figures show that more than 40% of the 269 children whose court hearings were not completed by mid-September were remanded in custody. This compares with an average remand rate of 10% last year.

G20 Report: Police Infiltrated Protest Groups

CBC -- Newly released G8/G20 summit documents reveal the RCMP and various Ontario police forces spent several months infiltrating anti-war, anti-globalization and anarchist groups with the use of undercover officers ahead of last June's summits in Huntsville and Toronto.

The reports by the Joint Intelligence Group formed by the RCMP-led ISU (Integrated Security Unit) show that various police services contributed at least 12 undercover officers to take part in covert surveillance of potential "criminal extremists" in a bid to "detect … and disrupt" any threats.

PHOTOS: G20 Protests In Toronto

The reports omit details on specific individuals or groups, nor do they offer conclusions about what, if any, crimes or plots of violence were detected.

"There's a lot of stuff that isn't in there, that's been redacted, or isn't spelled out. But it says these undercover operations were going on, that there were 12 officers," says Tim Groves, who requested and obtained the reports through an access to information request. "The problem is that, looking at these documents, police expected criminal extremism everywhere."

U.K. jobless rate hits 15-year high

Unemployment in Britain jumped to its highest level since 1994 with young people particularly hard hit as private companies failed to make up for job losses in the public sector, piling pressure on the government to boost a stagnant economy.

Deep cuts in state spending will mean more than 300,000 public sector jobs are shed in coming years, while the economy has barely grown over the past year as consumers cut back spending and key export markets are slowing, particularly in Europe.

“The figures are a disaster,” said economist Alan Clarke of Scotia Capital.

The data “shouldn’t come as a surprise because the economy is growing at half the pace it needs to keep unemployment stable. That’s not going to change any time soon, so we should get used to numbers like this,” he added.

The number of Britons claiming unemployment benefit rose by 17,500 in September, official data showed on Wednesday. Analysts had forecast a rise of 25,000.

ILO data showed youth unemployment at its highest since records began in 1992, driving the jobless rate among eligible 16- to 24-year-olds to 21.3 per cent in the three months to August 2011, up 1.6 percentage points from the three months to May 2011.

G8/G20 security company pleads guilty to being unlicensed before summit

OTTAWA—The company that won a $21-million RCMP contract for security screening at the G8/G20 summits pleaded guilty Friday to one count of being unlicensed under Ontario law and was fined $45,000.

Lawyer Howard Rubel entered the plea in an Ottawa courtroom on behalf of a numbered company that operates Contemporary Security Canada in Vancouver, relating to the offer of services while not holding a valid license.

All other charges under the Private Security and Investigative Services Act against the American-based company and 13 board members and executives were dropped.

Those counts had related to the failure to hold a license while tendering a bid for the G8/G20 contract, hiring an unlicensed guard and failing to ensure proper uniforms.

Rubel said the RCMP posted its request for proposals on Mar. 31, 2010, about 12 weeks before the summits were scheduled to start.

Voter turnout worse than it seems

The handwringing about plummeting voter turnout in Canada is legitimate, but not all the blame can be placed at the feet of the disengaged, slothful voter in this country.

This year has been remarkable for the number of federal, provincial and territorial elections, but it will also be recorded as the year of the status quo.

Status quo, if you are seeking re-election, means bland, allergic to big new ideas, a tip-toe to voting day so as not to disturb the voter, not a parade led by a brass band.

While it is too much to expect that more inspiring politicians and more inspiring campaigns would spark a stampede to the polls, votes that do not promise change are votes that do not create excitement.

The year of the incumbent also means the year of voter suppression — not in the sinister, underhanded way the term implies — but a year of governing parties happy to keep turnout low because, historically, low turnout means advantage to the incumbent.

It also explains why any radical overhaul of the voting system is met with such indifference by incumbent governments, which have just benefited from an existing system that lets the sleeping voter lie.

Goldman Sachs 'escaped paying £20m National Insurance bill in HMRC deal'

The Wall Street bank – which last year paid $15.3bn (£9.5bn) in bonuses to its employees – is understood to have made a sweetheart deal with HMRC which allowed it to avoid paying the full interest on a failed tax avoidance scheme set up in the 1990s.

Around that time, Goldman is understood to have set up an offshore company in the British Virgin Islands called Goldman Sachs Services Ltd. This employed all of Goldman's London bankers, who were then "seconded" to work there.

In 2009, Judge David Williams said the Virgin Islands company seemed to be created as "a way of keeping information about the GS accounts and payroll out of the public domain and confidential".

But the Goldman Virgin Islands employee benefit trust (EBT) was not alone; 21 other investment banks and other firms had also created offshore EBTs, which allowed bonuses to be indirectly invested into elaborate share option schemes.

However, in 2005 a court ruled in favour of HMRC that the EBTs were illegitimate tax avoidance devices. The 21 other firms accepted the ruling and compensated the revenue on what was owed.

Goldman Sachs let off paying £10m interest on failed tax avoidance scheme

Britain's tax authorities have given Goldman Sachs an unusual and generous Christmas present, leaked documents reveal. In a secret London meeting last December with the head of Revenue, the wealthy Wall Street banking firm was forgiven £10m interest on a failed tax avoidance scheme.

HM Revenue and Customs sources admit privately that the interest-free deal is "a cock-up" by officials, but refuse to say who was responsible.

Documents leaked to Private Eye magazine and published in full by the Guardian record that Britain's top tax official, HMRC's permanent secretary Dave Hartnett, personally shook hands on a secret settlement last December.

Hartnett is due to be questioned on Wednesday by the Commons public accounts committee. The leaked documents suggest that a previous PAC chairman, Edward Leigh, was misled when he was told it was illegal to reveal details of such cases to parliament.

Leaked legal advice from James Eadie QC, which the Guardian also publishes today, says the opposite. Hartnett has discretion to reveal such facts to the parliamentary watchdog, according to the advice.

Big pharmacy’s influence feared in Canada’s patient care guideline authors, says study

Too many doctors and researchers who help create guidelines for patient care have financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry, according to a study that investigated conflict of interest among a group of major Canadian and U.S. health care organizations.

More than half of panel members who develop clinical practice guidelines for the treatment of diabetes and high cholesterol — conditions which generated $70 billion in drug sales in 2010 — have received compensation by pharmaceutical companies, the U.S. researchers report. The compensation is in the form of consultancy payments, honorariums, speakers’ fees and research grants.

The study, published online Wednesday in BMJ: The British Medical Journal, found the problem was more serious in Canadian specialty organizations, with 83 per cent of panel members having industry ties. Among the American specialty organizations, 58 per cent of panel members had such ties.

“That indicates there is a potential risk of industry influence on guideline recommendations,” said Dr. Jennifer Neuman, the study’s lead author and instructor in the department of preventive medicine at New York’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

“Guidelines serve to standardize care and inform evidence-based practice and ultimately to protect patients. Their freedom from bias is very important.”

The study evaluated 14 sets of clinical care guidelines — three from Canada and 11 from the U.S. — published between 2000 and 2010. The guidelines are a key reference for physicians who screen and treat patients for high cholesterol and diabetes.

Calgary mom with cancer denied sickness benefits despite EI ruling

A Calgary mother on maternity leave who was diagnosed with breast cancer last summer has been denied additional sickness benefits despite Ottawa’s pledge to ensure new mothers who become seriously ill can access the benefit.

Jennifer McCrea was about eight months into her maternity leave with her second child last July when her doctor discovered early-stage breast cancer.

Since McCrea carries a gene mutation that makes her highly susceptible to aggressive and often fatal breast cancer, the 34-year-old mother opted for a double mastectomy.

When her doctor told her she would need six weeks to recover from the August surgery, McCrea contacted her Employment Insurance office to apply for sickness benefits. But the office told her that since she was on maternity leave and not available for work, she was not eligible for the benefit.

Coincidentally, McCrea got her cancer diagnosis the same day Toronto’s Natalya Rougas — another new mother diagnosed with breast cancer — won her appeal for additional sickness benefits while on maternity leave.

Emanuel defends secrecy of business group he chairs

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said today a city-funded group of business executives he chairs should be allowed to meet in secret to discuss luring companies to Chicago.

Emanuel defended the private dealings of World Business Chicago after a Tribune story Tuesday detailing concerns about its role in spending city incentives to encourage economic development. Emanuel said he has to balance his promise to make government more transparent with the privacy concerns of businesses he is wooing.
“If I told them all the meetings were going to be public, guess what, we wouldn't have real companies coming here to expand,” Emanuel said at a news conference to announce 500 new private jobs. “They don't want their competitors to know what they're thinking about.”

Emanuel has nearly doubled the size of World Business Chicago, which bills itself as the city’s economic development office, and said he wants to strengthen the group’s ties to City Hall. Its members donated more than $1.2 million to Emanuel’s campaign and inaugural funds.

Chicago’s inspector general in August criticized the group for recommending city subsidies for some of its own members while Richard Daley was mayor. The group refused Tribune requests for its meeting minutes and letters of recommendation for business incentives, and said there are no plans to open its meetings to the public.

D.C. Council members support rights of Stop the Machine and Occupy DC to protest

Several D.C. Council members said Tuesday they have no problem with antiwar and anti-Wall Street protesters setting up extended encampments on National Park Service property in the city, and one council member hopes they “stay for years.”

Two groups are entrenched in Freedom Plaza and McPherson Square downtown. Protesters with the Stop the Machine and Occupy DC groups have erected tents and piled up boxes and other living materials as they hold meetings, decamp for marches and protests and otherwise traverse the city.

In Freedom Plaza, Stop the Machine group organizer Margaret Flowers said Tuesday that the group and the National Park Service agreed to extend its permit to stay there through Dec. 30. At McPherson Square, Occupy DC protesters have said they have no permit and have not been bothered by authorities.

In interviews Tuesday, eight of 13 council members supported the protesters’ presence.

“Sometimes for people without means, the only way to get a message out is a public display,” said council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), a constitutional law professor at George Washington University. “Other issues could develop, such as public health, but I think we shouldn’t be too quick to sweep them off the public plaza.”

Senate blocks Obama's jobs bill

The Senate failed to advance President Obama's jobs package, as Democratic leaders are expected to begin carving the $447-billion package into individual proposals that may have a better chance at passage.

The Senate was still voting late Tuesday, but Democrats did not have enough votes to overcome a filibuster led by Republicans. Most Democrats supported the bill while all Republicans were voting to block it.

Senators rejected the legislation on various fronts. Republicans opposed spending more money to hire teachers or give workers tax breaks to spur the economy. Democrats largely rejected taxing the rich to pay for it.

A new surtax on millionaires was proposed to pay for the bill. The new 5.6% tax, which would take effect in 2013, would fully cover the cost of the jobs act.

Obama, meeting with members of his jobs council in Pittsburgh, acknowledged the White House would need to take a new approach.

"We're going to have to break it up," Obama said.

The Senate could begin taking up individual elements of the jobs package, possibly as soon as next week.

Source: L.A. Times 

Ottawa thwarts drug controls, regulators say

Pharmacy regulators say their battle against the national epidemic of prescriptionnarcotic abuse is being needlessly thwarted by an unlikely obstacle: Health Canada and its refusal to hand over key wholesale drug data for privacy reasons.

The federal department oversees pharmaceutical manufacturers and wholesalers and requires them to regularly submit figures on their sales to pharmacies. Pharmacy regulators say they need that information to crosscheck the drugstores' own records, and help determine how large volumes of such drugs as OxyContin and Percocet are winding up on the street.

Health Canada says it cannot hand over the sales information for individual drugstores because of federal privacy legislation, an interpretation of the law some pharmacy bodies are questioning.

"It's an utter frustration," said Don Rowe, registrar of the Newfoundland & Labrador Pharmacy Board. "It's pretty frustrating when you can't get information from the national body that has that information. There's times where we wonder, 'Do they really care what's happening here?' "

Regulators say they do not want a confrontation with Health Canada, only increased co-operation to help curb what some experts call a prescription-drug-abuse "crisis." They raised the issue at a meeting between the regulators' national umbrella association and Health Canada in June.

Will Conservatives make liberal cuts to the CBC?

OTTAWA — The CBC, embroiled in both a legal fight and a parliamentary probe over its record on responding to access-to-information requests, is now also bracing for deep funding cuts, perhaps $100 million or more from its annual federal allotment of about $1.1 billion.

The prospect of a severely slashed budget has emerged despite Conservative election promises to "maintain or increase" support for the public broadcaster, and amid fears now openly expressed by top executives that the coming cuts could be driven even deeper by relentless attacks from the CBC's competitor, Quebecor, and its conservative-minded network of television stations, websites and Sun newspapers.

After a Quebec arts-funding flap that may well have cost the federal Conservatives a majority government in 2008, Heritage Minister James Moore made it a mission to reassure anxiety-filled, culture-minded Canadians — right through the 2011 election campaign — that the CBC was in no danger of being de-funded or otherwise diminished.

It became Moore's mantra, a soothing message track replayed regularly in recent years despite the hopes nurtured in certain corners of his party's support base for some serious budget-slashing at the CBC, a public broadcaster generally seen as unsympathetic to the upper- and lowercase conservative causes.

Air Canada strike could lead to labour code change

The federal government will intervene if Air Canada flight attendants go on strike and may change the Canada Labour Code if it finds it necessary, Labour Minister Lisa Raitt said Monday.

"Intervention is the first piece and then the second one is taking a look at the bigger problem and determining if there's any changes that need to be made," the minister told CBC's Wendy Mesley on Monday.

The 6,800 flight attendants have rejected a tentative deal reached between their union and the airline and are poised to go on strike at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, the union has said.

It was the second time in recent months that flight attendants have turned down a tentative agreement with the airline. They voted 87 per cent against ratifying the previous effort in August.

The rejection of two consecutive agreements shows there may be something wrong with the Canada Labour Code, Raitt said.

"Maybe the union misjudged, maybe management misjudged, but to do it two times in a row is a warning bell and it's something that we have to take a look at," Raitt said.

"There's something wrong in this case, and does that mean there's something wrong in the code?" she said. "And if there is, what do we do about it? But the beginning part is analyzing the facts at hand to see if it's a one-off … or is it a case where the code, which is 100 years old, has to be taken a look at." Raitt said there are no changes planned, but that she is starting a process to see whether adjustments might be needed in the future.

Occupy protests herald a party that’s almost over

Wall Street is “occupied.” What do the occupiers want? Where to begin? How about here: The top 1 per cent income-earners in North America have appropriated most of the wealth created in the past thirty years. But what do they want, those protesters and their sympathizers?

Here's another fact on their minds. Politicians in North America engineered the good fortune of the wealthy through a systematic assault on the family incomes of everyone else. And simultaneously encouraged access to an ocean of cheap and easy credit.

So, while average families haven't seen a real pay raise in more than a generation, they have drifted into a disastrous dependence on debt (higher in Canada than in the United States). Which helped fuel housing bubbles. Followed by a financial services crisis. Followed by a sovereign debt crisis that now threatens the foundations of the world economy.

But why are they interfering with the lineups in front of the latte counters, those protesters? In Spain, unemployment teeters around 25 per cent. Catastrophically higher for young people. That is depression-level unemployment. The number of people living in poverty in the United States has reached record levels.

"News for All the People": Juan González & Joseph Torres on the Epic Story of Race & the U.S. Media

After seven years of research, the groundbreaking new book, "News for All the People: The Epic Story of Race and the American Media," examines how the media has played a pivotal role in perpetuating racist views in the United States. It recalls lives of the unsung pioneering black, Latino, Native American and Asian-American journalists who challenged the worst racial aspects of the white-owned media. It also tells the untold story of how the fight over who controls the internet is just the latest chapter in a centuries-old debate on the role of the media — and the technologies used to deliver it — in a democracy. Today, in a Democracy Now! exclusive, we speak with the book’s authors, Democracy Now! co-host and award-winning journalist Juan González, and Joseph Torres of the media reform organization Free Press. "One of the things that we’ve uncovered is that this fundamental debate that is constantly occurring is: does our nation need a centralized system of news and information, or does it need a decentralized, autonomous system? And which serves democracy best?" González says. "It turns out that in those periods of time when the government has opted for a decentralized or autonomous system, democracy has had a better opportunity to flourish, racial minorities have been able to be heard more often and to establish their own press. In those periods of the nation’s history when policies have fostered centralized news and information, that’s when dissident voices, racial minorities, marginalized groups in society are excluded from the media system." On the role of civil rights groups in the digital age, Torres notes that "the internet is an open platform. [Internet service providers], up to now, have not been able to interfere with your web traffic. You can access any site you want without being slowed down. What they want to do is ... have a pay-for-play system, where if you have a website at Democracy Now!, Democracy Now! will have to pay more to make sure the public can see your site at the fastest speeds, otherwise you’re going to be slowed down. For people of color, it is critical, because of the low barrier of entries, the internet, that we keep the internet open — a free platform — because we don’t have the economic wealth to be able to pay ISPs to make sure our sites are loaded faster."

Source: Democracy Now! 

Democracy at risk as cynicism and disengagement grows

In the last federal election, less than 60 per cent of Canadians eligible to vote went to the polls. Notwithstanding Stephen Harper’s comfortable parliamentary majority, the Conservative party got elected with only 40 per cent of the 60 per cent of people who voted. In other words, roughly one out of every four eligible voters used the opportunity to signal their desire for the Conservative government to continue in office.

Last week, only 49 per cent of eligible voters went to the polls in Ontario. Of that 49 per cent, 37 per cent voted to re-elect Dalton McGuinty’s government. What that means is that only slightly more than 18 per cent of eligible voters cast their ballots in support of the Liberal government.

Forty-nine per cent turnout is a very troubling number. When a majority of citizens make a conscientious decision not to have a say in the selection of their government, our polity has a serious legitimacy problem. There is a breach in our social contract.

There is no single cause. And although it’s tempting to make simplistic conclusions, there are no easy fixes. Respected scholars have suggested we are already in a post-politics era. They argue that governments have become powerless in this globalized era of governance.

Harper invites labour pains by clamping down on strikes

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government may think it smart politics to come down hard on unionized workers like Air Canada flight attendants. In the short term, it probably is.

Even without labour disruptions, air travel is a nightmare. So if the airline’s flight attendants do go on strike Thursday as planned, many Canadians will be cheering the government as it hustles back-to-work legislation though the Commons.

What they — and the Harper government — forget is that Canada’s messy labour relations system exists for a reason.

People don’t like being pushed around at work. They’ll put up with a certain amount of grief, depending on how fearful they are.

But at some point, enough is enough. In one way or another, they fight back.

Occupy Wall Street v. Tea Party: the further polarization of U.S. voters

Oh, oh. This could get ugly.

Or make that, uglier.

The Occupy Wall Street movement that is mushrooming across the United States (with Canadian copycats) threatens to further turn the 2012 election cycle into a shouting match between the extremes of U.S. politics.

In the early days of the three-week-old movement, Democratic leaders had been cautious about expressing solidarity with the protesters. But they now seem increasingly willing to embrace them and their inchoate cause.

The risk for Democrats in doing so is analogous to the peril Republican leaders faced in embracing the Tea Party movement. While the anger and energy that drive the Occupy Wall Street crowd could help mobilize the Democratic base for 2012, it could alienate mainstream voters.

Here’s what Wall Street bankers think about growing protests

NEW YORK — Since the Occupy Wall Street movement kicked off last month, big banks and their employees seem to have made a point of ignoring it, with some privately writing it off as no more than a badly organized nuisance.

But as the protest has expanded from a few hundred people in a little park in Lower Manhattan to thousands across at least two dozen cities, gaining support from labor unions, celebrities and politicians, it has become harder to ignore.

One Wall Street banker described the protesters as “a bunch of whiny people who are lazy or incompetent and have nothing to do with their time.” He also said he was concerned the rhetoric could escalate to violence. “Who’s to say they won’t storm NYSE or throw something at the window of Goldman Sachs, that in turn inspires them to grab an investment banker and throttle him?”

Some Wall Street employees who initially dismissed the protests as disorganized and unimportant are also starting to worry that they may lead to punitive policies in Washington, such as higher taxes for the wealthy.

Raitt intervenes to block Air Canada strike

Labour Minister Lisa Raitt has blocked a threatened strike by Air Canada’s 6,800 flight attendants indefinitely, by sending a question about the dispute to the Canada Industrial Relations Board for review.

This procedural move essentially prevents any strike or lockout pending a board decision on the question around the maintenance of activities and what essential services are affected.

“Referrals they are not an everyday occurrence. They do occur,” said Ginette Brazeau, executive director and senior registrar of the Canada Industrial Relations Board, adding it can require written submissions from the parties or an actual hearing.

This question, permitted under Canada Labour Code, focuses on what services, if any, are “necessary to prevent an immediate and serious danger to the safety or the health of the public,” Brazeau said.

Charts: Who Are the 1 Percent?

Occupy Wall Street has focused national attention on the vast majority of Americans who have been left behind by the economic growth of the past few decades. But if OWS is the voice of the 99 percent, who exactly are the 1 percent?

A quick look at the numbers reveals that they aren't all bailed-out Wall Street execs or brokers pulling down fat bonuses. That's just some of them:

Even though the richest 1 percent of Americans don't all work on Wall Street, they do control a disproportionate amount of its wealth, including nearly half of all stocks and mutual funds and more than 60 percent of securities.

But you can't beat this chart for the most dramatic measure of just how wide the gap between the tippy-top and the 99 percent has become. While incomes for the superrich have skyrocketed in the past three decades, most Americans' have flatlined. 

Source: Mother Jones 

Republican Presidential Candidates Divert Focus From Economy

(AP/The Huffington Post) MILFORD, N.H. — In an election that's supposed to hinge on jobs and the economy, the Republican presidential contest in recent months has been defined by almost everything else.

Immigration and children's vaccines. Race and religion. Homosexuality and health care. The issues range far from the economic woes that concern most voters, but they have captivated Republicans in New Hampshire and other early voting states, providing the candidates with ways to distinguish themselves from their rivals. The biggest applause lines on the campaign trail usually have little to do with a candidate's economic positions.

The dynamic was on display Monday, even as the contenders prepared for a Tuesday night debate focused solely on the economy.

New Zealand Oil Spill: Stranded Rena Leaking Oil Country's Worst Environmental Sea Disaster

TAURANGA, New Zealand — The condition of a stricken cargo ship stuck on a reef and leaking oil off the coast of New Zealand worsened Wednesday, with about 70 containers falling overboard and the vessel moving onto a steeper lean.

Meanwhile, the captain of the Liberian-flagged Rena was arrested and charged under New Zealand's Maritime Act. He could face a year in prison if convicted.

The ship has been foundering since it ran aground Oct. 5 on the Astrolabe Reef, about 14 miles (22 kilometers) from Tauranga Harbour on New Zealand's North Island. The government has demanded to know why the ship crashed into the well-charted reef in calm weather, but the vessel's owner has given no explanation.

Hundreds of tons of heavy fuel oil have spilled from the hull, leading New Zealand's environment minister, Nick Smith, to call it the country's biggest maritime environmental disaster. Clumps of the oil have washed up on pristine beaches near Tauranga, and environmental officials said 53 birds were found dead and 17 were getting emergency treatment to remove oil from their feathers.

No coincidence leaks on VIP flights by MacKay, Natynczyk come on heels of Leslie Report: military observers

Theories abound as to why personal flights on Canadian Forces aircrafts by Defence Minister Peter MacKay and Chief of Defence Staff Walter Natynczyk were the subject of a series of leaks last month. While there are competing theories circulating as to the motivation for the leaks, military experts say it goes back to Andrew Leslie’s transformation report, which was the subject of leaks over the summer.

The latest row at DND in Ottawa began in August when since-retired Gen. Andrew Leslie’s report on transforming the Canadian Forces fell into the hands of national news outlets. Media attention over Gen. Leslie’s key recommendation to reduce the number of headquarters and staff to deal with 40 per cent growth in DND and Canadian Forces bureaucracy since 2004 led the government to officially release the report to the public in early September.

In a statement following the report’s official release on Sept. 9, Defence Minister Peter MacKay (Central Nova, N.S.) said that the document would “inform our approach to the Government’s Deficit Reduction Action Plan, the results of which will be presented in Budget 2012,” and praised Gen. Leslie’s work as an “ambitious and complex undertaking.”

Feds accused of creating a climate change plan ‘designed to fail’

The latest reports from the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy and the Environment Commissioner highlight fiscal and environmental mismanagement by the federal government, say opposition environment critics.

A recent report by NRTEE on the mounting costs of climate change estimates that the effects of global warming will cost the Canadian economy $5-billion annually by 2020, and between $20-billion and $40-billion by 2050.

Variations in NRTEE’s findings were based on modelling different rates of global emissions growth and economic and population growth within Canada. The report’s estimates took into account climate change related costs to health care, infrastructure, and industries.

 Given current levels of greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere, the NRTEE highlights “cost-effective” adaptation strategies to combat climate change impacts, including prohibiting further construction in coastal areas at risk of flooding, and strategic forestry resource management.

 The comprehensive report, Paying the Price: The Economic Impacts of Climate Change for Canada, also states that Canada would “benefit environmentally and economically from a post-2012 international climate arrangement that systemically reduced emissions from all emitters.”

Garda cracks down on Pearson airport security staff

Garda World Security Corp. (GW-T7.59-0.11-1.43%) says it has clamped down on security screening staff, calling them “malcontents” who ignored orders to stop a work slowdown at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport.

“While the vast majority of our 1,600 screening officers at Pearson are performing their jobs, a small number of individuals have caused disruptions and delays and their actions will not be tolerated,” Marc-Andre Aube, chief operating officer at Garda’s Security Solutions Canada, said in a statement Tuesday.

He made the comments after delays on Tuesday morning hit Pearson again, following a work-to-rule protest that postponed many flights last week by up to four hours. Hundreds of travellers ran into flight delays of roughly 30 minutes on Tuesday morning, before Garda moved to end the renewal of the work-to-rule campaign, which ran from Wednesday through Friday last week.

Let’s not repeat G20 at Occupy protest, open letter to police says

City police at this weekend’s Occupy Toronto protests should take steps to avoid a repeat of the mass arrests and kettling that occurred during last year’s G20 summit, a local blogger says.

Toronto activists say they will gather in front of the Toronto Stock Exchange at the corner of King and York Streets on Oct. 15 to protest the gap between the wealthiest one per cent of people and the rest of the world. The demonstration is one of hundreds planned in cities around the world and will mimic the Occupy Wall Street protest, which began three weeks ago.

In an open letter addressed to police chief Bill Blair and the Toronto police service, Justin Beach said the public will be watching police closely during the Occupy protest and will hold them accountable for any actions that undermine protesters’ rights.

“Neither the people of Toronto, nor I’m sure, its police force want to see a repeat of the G20 weekend,” Mr. Beach wrote, adding “all officers should have their badges visible at all times,” in a reference to some of the G20 cases in which citizens launched complaints against officers who had covered their badge numbers and were therefore difficult or impossible to identify.

Amnesty presses Canada to act after UN details systemic Afghan torture

Amnesty International is demanding that Ottawa check on the welfare of the prisoners it handed over to Afghan authorities, even though the Canadian combat mission in Afghanistan has ended.

The demand comes in the wake of a blistering United Nations report that documents the torture of suspected Taliban fighters in Afghan jails.

An Amnesty letter to Defence Minister Peter MacKay, obtained by The Canadian Press, warned that Ottawa's obligations under international law have not ceased just because troops are no longer capturing insurgents in the field.

The Canadian army handed over its portion of the battlefield in Kandahar in July as part of a withdrawal ordered by Parliament. It now runs a training mission in Kabul.

However, operations went on right up until the changeover and Canadian soldiers continued to turn prisoners over to local authorities, including the notorious National Directorate of Security, the Afghan intelligence agency named in the UN report.

Minneapolis Foreclosures Have Cost Public Schools $150 Million, Study Says

The housing crisis has cost Minneapolis Public Schools $150 million in state funding as students were forced to move from the area after their families' homes were foreclosed, according to a new report.

The report, by nonprofit advocacy group Minnesota Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, found that there have been more than 13,000 foreclosures in Minneapolis since 2006, leading to an estimated loss of 4,000 students from MPS. The majority of state funding for school districts is based on enrollment numbers.

Those figures are derived from research by the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs at the University of Minnesota that indicates 58 percent of households moved away from MPS zones after foreclosure and enrolled in other school districts.

Foreclosures in Minnesota also disproportionately affected homes with school children -- 17 percent of all Minneapolis households have children in MPS, while 39 percent of foreclosures in the city affected a household with a child in MPS, according to the CURA research cited in the NOC study.

Protesters Arrested On Capitol Hill In Hart Senate Office Building

WASHINGTON -- Several protesters were arrested late Tuesday morning on Capitol Hill, part of the ongoing demonstrations inspired by the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York City. According to TPM, protesters marched from Freedom Plaza to the Hart Senate Office Building, where they assembled in the building's large multi-story atrium:
Protesters were gathering in the atrium of the building as Capitol police officers loomed nearby and as other demonstrators in anti-war gear set themselves up in the lobbies of floors overlooking the lobby.
According to a press release from the "Stop the Machine" protesters, who have been camped out in Freedom Plaza since last Thursday:
About 75-100 protesters from the October2011 occupation of Freedom Plaza marched from the Plaza to the Hart Senate Office Building this morning to confront Congress about its refusal to represent the people who vote for them and their incompetence in the face of economic crisis and unending war.
As of 11:40 this morning, police began arresting some of the demonstrators, including Dennis Trainor from the October2011 Steering Committee.
UPDATE, 12:34 p.m.: A dispatch from The Huffington Post's Tyler Kingkade:
Madea Benjamin with Code Pink and other witnesses at the Hart Senate Office Building told The Huffington Post they could confirm at least two people were arrested with the protests Tuesday afternoon.
Dozens rolled into the Hart building and witnesses said they began chanting and waving signs, while some went to the upper levels and tried to unroll banners that said "Cut Military Spending."
Benjamin said a group from OccupyDC decided at Freedom Plaza last night to protest Congress on Tuesday. The police gave several warnings to quit yelling and chanting and some decided to continue until Capitol Police officers began making arrests.
Protesters said they wanted to make a point cuts to the Pentagon and ending the wars should be tied into the current budget debate in Congress.
"It's part of the budget debate in for the first time they are talking about cuts to the Pentagon, but they're not big enough and they're not talking about cuts from the wars, Benjamin said. "We're saying there's plenty of money to be used for Medicare, Medicaid, social security, the services that people need, if we cut the bloated Pentagon budget."
Many offices began closing their doors and police would not let protesters go beyond a certain point, relatively close to the entrance.
More protests are planned around the Capitol on Tuesday, as progressive activists are planning to urge the Senate to pass the jobs bill.
UPDATE, 6:06 p.m.: Four more "Stop the Machine" protesters were arrested at the Senate this afternoon. According to a press statement released by the group, the protesters were arrested at the Dirksen Senate Office Building while interrupting a Senate Finance Committee Meeting on free trade agreements that the protest group opposes.

Source: Huffington 

Occupy Wall Street Protests Target NYC Millionaires

NEW YORK -- Hundreds of protesters, emboldened by the growing national Occupy Wall Street movement, streamed through midtown Manhattan on Tuesday in what they called a "Millionaires March."

They marched two by two up the sidewalk, planning to pass the homes of some of New York City's wealthiest residents. An organizer said they didn't have a permit and wanted to avoid blocking pedestrian traffic.

"No Billionaire Left Behind," said a placard hoisted by Arlene Geiger, who teaches economics at Manhattan's John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Protesters expressed concern about how much less the wealthy will pay - and who would be negatively affected - when New York's 2 percent "millionaires' tax" expires in December.

In the closest they've come to naming names, the protesters planned to visit the homes of News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch, JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and oil tycoon David Koch, among others.

FDIC Backs So-Called Volcker Rule Banning Proprietary Trading

WASHINGTON — Banks would be barred from trading for their own profit instead of their clients under a rule federal regulators proposed Tuesday.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. backed the draft rule on a 3-0 vote. The ban on so-called proprietary trading was required under the financial overhaul law.

Critics on the left dismissed the effort as weak and marred by loopholes. And banks argued that it would hurt the economy. The FDIC's vote now puts the rule out for public comment.

The Federal Reserve has also approved a draft of the proposal, called the Volcker Rule after former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker.

The Woman Who Knew Too Much

On the afternoon of July 18, in remarks from the Rose Garden amid the bruising showdown with congressional Republicans over the debt ceiling, President Obama made what the White House billed as a simple “personnel announcement.” In a brief speech, the president announced that he was nominating Richard Cordray, the former attorney general of Ohio, to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the new government agency set up to protect consumers from abusive lending practices. In his remarks he described the agency, part of the massive 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, as creating “the strongest consumer protections in history,” set up “so ordinary people were dealt with fairly.” After which he turned to thank the woman standing to his right, Elizabeth Warren.

A Harvard law professor, one of the nation’s leading bankruptcy experts and consumer advocates, the 62-year-old Warren had come up with the idea for the agency in 2007. She had advised the Obama administration on its creation in the aftermath of the 2008 financial collapse and helped to push it through Congress. Warren had also spent the last 10 months working tirelessly to build the agency from scratch—hiring its staff of 500, including Richard Cordray, organizing its management structure, and getting the C.F.P.B. up and running for its opening on July 21.

Deeper cuts mean bigger bonuses, senior bureaucrats told

Axe-wielding executives in the public service stand to earn big bonuses based on how much they cut in the run-up to the 2012 federal budget.

Treasury Board President Tony Clement says 40 per cent of “at risk” pay for senior managers will be based on how much they contribute to the Conservatives’ target of finding at least $4-billion a year in permanent savings.

This is the first year the performance-based incentive has ever been tied to government cuts, and Mr. Clement says the 2012 budget – likely to be tabled in February or March – will be the ultimate yardstick for doling out the rewards.

“In terms of measuring the goal [for receiving extra pay] in terms of our government-wide objective of deficit reduction, that crystallizes with the 2012 budget,” Mr. Clement said in an interview with The Globe and Mail.