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.]

Monday, January 23, 2012

Washington Gay Marriage: Legislature Has Enough Votes To Legalize Same-Sex Marriage

OLYMPIA, Wash. — As lawmakers held their first public hearing on legalizing same-sex marriage, a previously undecided Democratic senator on Monday announced her support for the measure, all but ensuring that Washington will become the seventh state to allow gay and lesbian couples to get married.

The announcement by Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, that she would cast the 25th and deciding vote in favor of the issue came as hundreds of people filled the Capitol to advocate for and against gay marriage.

In a written statement issued at the end of a Senate committee hearing on the bill, Haugen said she took her time making up her mind to "to reconcile my religious beliefs with my beliefs as an American, as a legislator, and as a wife and mother who cannot deny to others the joys and benefits I enjoy."

"This is the right vote and it is the vote I will cast when this measure comes to the floor," she said.

The state House is widely expected to have enough support to pass gay marriage, and Gov. Chris Gregoire publicly endorsed the proposal earlier this month. If a marriage bill is passed during this legislative session, gay and lesbian couples will be able to get married starting in June unless opponents file a referendum to challenge it. Opponents have already said they will.

A referendum can't be filed until after the bill is passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gregoire. Opponents then must turn in 120,577 signatures by July 6.

Tea Party Groups In Tennessee Demand Textbooks Overlook U.S. Founder's Slave-Owning History

A little more than a year after the conservative-led state board of education in Texas approved massive changes to its school textbooks to put slavery in a more positive light, a group of Tea Party activists in Tennessee has renewed its push to whitewash school textbooks. The group is seeking to remove references to slavery and mentions of the country's founders being slave owners.

According to reports, Hal Rounds, the Fayette County attorney and spokesman for the group, said during a recent news conference that there has been "an awful lot of made-up criticism about, for instance, the founders intruding on the Indians or having slaves or being hypocrites in one way or another."

"The thing we need to focus on about the founders is that, given the social structure of their time, they were revolutionaries who brought liberty into a world where it hadn't existed, to everybody -- not all equally instantly -- and it was their progress that we need to look at," Rounds said, according to The Commercial Appeal.

During the news conference more than two dozen Tea Party activists handed out material that said, "Neglect and outright ill will have distorted the teaching of the history and character of the United States. We seek to compel the teaching of students in Tennessee the truth regarding the history of our nation and the nature of its government."

And that further teaching would also include that "the Constitution created a Republic, not a Democracy."

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp Makes a Non-Denial Denial


If corporations really were people, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation would be breaking rocks. That’s the take-away from yesterday’s astonishing ruling by Geoffrey Vos, the judge presiding over the phone-hacking civil trial here. In agreeing to settle with thirty-seven victims yesterday the company clearly hoped to be able to draw a line under the scandal, which has already seen the closure of the world’s best-selling English language tabloid, The News of the World, and both Rupert Murdoch and his son James forced to give evidence before a Parliamentary select committee. With the trial scheduled to begin on February 13, the Murdochs must have hoped that if they could make the case go away by paying off the plaintiffs then the steady drip of information about News Corp.’s criminal activities—which include phone hacking, payments to police and breaking into e-mail accounts—might stop before it lead higher up the corporate chain of command.

The company’s first problem is that the thirty-seven victims who agreed to settle include many of the most famous boldface names—actor Jude Law, who had his phone messages hacked and was himself the target of physical surveillance by Murdoch’s men for a period of years received £130,000 (over $200,000); his ex-wife Sadie Frost got £50,000 (over $77,000); last May Law’s ex-girlfriend, Sienna Miller, was paid £100,000 (over $150,000) to settle her claim—it didn’t include all of them. Singer Charlotte Church, for example has yet to settle. So far just over half of those victims who have actually filed suit have agreed to settle. And there are literally hundreds of additional victims whose names have not yet been made public.

John Kiriakou and the Real Story Behind Obama's Latest Leak Crackdown

On Monday, the Justice Department charged former CIA officer and author John Kiriakou with repeatedly "disclosing classified information to journalists, including the name of a covert CIA officer and information revealing the role of another CIA employee in classified activities." (Read the criminal complaint.)

Kiriakou began making the media rounds in late 2007, when he went on the record about waterboarding techniques used in the War on Terror, particularly in connection to the torture of Abu Zubaydah in a secret prison in Thailand. (It was later revealed that Kiriakou was not actually present for that interrogation, as he had previously implied.)

If you've been reading Mother Jones, a lot of the content in the criminal complaint against Kiriakou will seem familiar. The main charges stem from a bizarre episode we reported on a couple years ago: In 2008 or early 2009, attorneys for alleged 9/11 conspirators held at Guantanamo Bay obtained—and showed to their clients—photo lineups that included pictures of CIA officers and contractors. The source of the photos was John Sifton, a private investigator working for the American Civil Liberties Union's John Adams Project, an outfit set up to provide civilian defense lawyers to the Gitmo defendants. In some cases, Sifton clandestinely photographed CIA officers who were thought to have been involved in the brutal interrogations of the 9/11 defendants.

White House Pressured Scientists to Underestimate BP Spill Size

Back at the height of the massive Gulf oil spill in 2010, there was quite a bit of controversy about just how much crude was blasting out of the well. According to new documents that a watchdog group released on Monday, there was heated debate among the scientists who evaluated the flow rate as well.

For the first few weeks after the spill began in April 2010, BP misled the public about how big it was, and the government repeated BP's estimate without question. And when the government released its own estimate in late May of up to 25,000 barrels per day, that too was controversial—and proved to be far lower than the actual size, which was more like 53,000 barrels of oil per day.

Now, an email released by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) traces efforts to downplay the spill size in the initial weeks back to the White House. The group released a May 29, 2010 email from Dr. Marcia McNutt, the director of the US Geologic Survey and head of the government's Flow Rate Technical Group (FRTG), that was released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. The email came after scientists on the flow-rate team complained to McNutt about how the spill figures were conveyed to the press, and in response she cited pressure from the White House as the reason the numbers were low-balled. Rather than reporting that the lower-end estimate of the spill was 25,000 barrels per day, officials cited that figure as the higher-end estimate:
I cannot tell you what a nightmare the past two days have been dealing with the communications people at the White House, DOI, and the NIC who seem incapable of understanding the concept of a lower bound. The press release that went out on our results was misleading and was not reviewed by a scientist for accuracy.

What If SOPA Came to Canada?

The Internet battle against SOPA and PIPA generated huge interest in Canada with many Canadians turning their sites dark (including Blogging Tories, Project Gutenberg Canada, and CIPPIC) in support of the protest. In writing about the link between SOPA and Canada, I noted that the proposed legislation featured an aggressive jurisdictional approach that could target Canadian websites. Moreover, I argued that the same lobby groups promoting SOPA in the U.S. are behind the digital lock rules in Bill C-11.

While SOPA may be dead (for now) in the U.S., lobby groups are likely to intensify their efforts to export SOPA-like rules to other countries. With Bill C-11 back on the legislative agenda at the end of the month, Canada will be a prime target for SOPA style rules. In fact, a close review of the unpublished submissions to the Bill C-32 legislative committee reveals that several groups have laid the groundwork to add SOPA-like rules into Bill C-11, including blocking websites and expanding the "enabler provision" to target a wider range of websites.

Given the reaction to SOPA in the U.S., where millions contacted their elected representatives to object to rules that threatened their Internet and digital rights, the political risks inherent in embracing SOPA-like rules are significant.

The music industry is unsurprisingly leading the way, demanding a series of changes that would make Bill C-11 look much more like SOPA.

NDP’s 2003 decision to buy $4-million building at Laurier Avenue West and Bank Street ensures party’s ‘financial viability’

The NDP’s decision to buy the downtown building that is home to the party’s Ottawa headquarters at Laurier Avenue West and Bank Street in 2003 was a “very smart” move, and with the per-vote subsidies gradually being phased out until 2015, it’s one that will prove useful in ensuring the party’s “long-term financial viability,” says president and CEO of Abacus Data, David Coletto, an expert in political financing.

In 2003, faced with then prime minister Jean Chrétien’s Bill C-24—an act to make amendments to the Canada Elections Act which would effectively end corporate and union donations by imposing an annual limit of $1,000—the NDP decided to diversify and professionalize the party’s revenue stream, said NDP principal secretary Brad Lavigne.

Before the election financing laws changed, the NDP raised money to purchase the 279 Laurier Avenue West building.

Mr. Coletto said unions had a “last-minute chance” to contribute to the party before Bill C-24 received royal assent in June 2003, and rallied together to buy the New Democrats the downtown Ottawa building.

In 2005, Harold Jansen, a political science professor at the University of Lethbridge, Alta., and Lisa Young, a political science professor at the University of Calgary, Alta., wrote a paper about the NDP’s relationship with organized labour and, in part, looked at the NDP’s history of union financing.

China To Push Pact With Canada On Stephen Harper Visit, Envoy Says

OTTAWA - China wants to forge a "win-win" energy partnership with Canada that would set an example for the world, while also satisfying its "huge" demand for resources.

China's ambassador to Canada, Zhang Junsai, offered Beijing's view exclusively to The Canadian Press as Prime Minister Stephen Harper prepares for his return trip to the Asian economic giant in two weeks.

Not surprisingly, energy and resources will be high on the agenda for Harper's visit, the envoy said.

"China is undergoing rapid industrialization and urbanization, and its demand for energy and resources is simply huge. Canada, on the other hand, is rich in energy and resources, which also boasts for its stable political situation as well as favourable conditions for investment," Zhang wrote in a 1,100-word statement that he penned in response to an interview request.

"The two countries have every reason to forge a stable and win-win partnership in the long run in the field of resources."

The Chinese embassy said Zhang was too busy for an interview as the country enters its New Year celebrations this week.

Zhang's sweeping statement provides insights into how Beijing's communist leaders view relations with Canada, and how important Alberta's vast oil reserves are to fuelling China's booming economy.

A number of donors give to National Citizens Coalition and Conservatives

PARLIAMENT HILL—A new political fundraising trend has developed over the past five years involving Conservative Party supporters who donated as much as they could to the party under electoral law limits in the past two elections as well as intervening years and also contributed as much or thousands of dollars more to a right-wing lobby group that has indirectly supported the Conservative government in those elections, a Hill Timesreview of political financing reports to Elections Canada shows.

The practice by donors to the National Citizens Coalition, once led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.,) began after current president Peter Coleman assumed the job in 2006. Mr. Coleman was the NCC’s treasurer when Mr. Harper served as its president from 1997 to 2001, after Mr. Harper resigned as a Reform Party MP to temporarily leave politics.

A review of Conservative Party donor filings with Elections Canada and third-party election campaign reports by the National Citizens Coalition found eight Conservative supporters who contributed the maximum allowed to the party in either or both of the 2008 and 2011 election years and donated more than $1,000 to the NCC during those two elections.

At least three of the Conservative Party supporters donated $10,000, and a long-time Calgary friend of Mr. Harper’s, former Encana oil company executive Gwynn Morgan, contributed $20,000 to the Citizens Coalition during the 2008 federal election campaign while also giving the maximum possible to the Conservatives, $1,100.

For the 2004 federal election, the Citizens Coalition had only 18 donors, who gave the group a total of only $6,509, all under the $200 contribution level after which reports by contributor name and amount must be reported to Elections Canada.

NDP calls on Clement to turn himself in to police over G8 'cover-up'

The NDP is calling on Tony Clement to turn himself in to the police after disclosing documents they say show he lied and covered up his role in dispensing a $50-million G8 “slush fund” in 2010.

New Democrat MP Charlie Angus issued the call Monday based on new documents in which a senior federal bureaucrat contradicts Mr. Clement's insistence that he was not involved in choosing which projects would get funding to spruce up his riding.

“He told the Canadian people, ‘If anybody could ever prove that I would do that, I'd turn myself over to the cops.’ Well, Tony, what about it?” Mr. Angus told a news conference.

“It's clear that a cover-up happened and the auditor-general was misled.”

The Treasury Board president responded via Twitter, calling the latest revelations “another NDP drive-by slime.”

“As usual NDP confusing recommending with choosing,” Mr. Clement wrote on the social networking site.

Mr. Clement, however, has previously insisted he had no role in even recommending which projects should be funded.

He told a Commons committee last November that he simply played a “co-ordinating role,” forwarding the wish lists of mayors in his Parry Sound-Muskoka riding to John Baird, who was then infrastructure minister and had the final say on which projects would get funding.

Obama Is on the Brink of a Settlement With the Big Banks—and Progressives Are Furious

For months, a massive federal settlement with big Wall Street banks over their role in the mortgage crisis has been in the offing. The rumored details have always given progressives heartburn: civil immunity, no investigations, inadequate help for homeowners and a small penalty for the banks. Now, on the eve President Obama’s State of the Union address—in which he plans to further advance a populist message against big money and income inequality—the deal may be here, and it’s every bit as ugly as progressives feared.

The Associated Press reports that a proposed deal could be announced within weeks. Five banks—Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citibank and Ally Financial (formerly GMAC)—would pay the federal government $25 billion. About $17 billion would be used to reduce the principal that some struggling homeowners owe, $5 billion more would be used for future federal and state programs and $3 billion would be used to help homeowners refinance at 5.25 percent. Civil immunity would be granted to the banks for any role in foreclosure fraud, and there would be no investigations.

There are several reasons why this is could be a terrible deal. For one, the dollar amount is inadequate in relation to both the tremendous loss of wealth via mortgage fraud and the hefty balance sheets of these massive companies. Furthermore, the banks might be allowed to use investor money instead of their own funds—this makes the penalty even lower. Beyond all that: it’s extremely hard to justify the absence of investigations and punishment for mortgage fraud that was so widespread and so damaging to people’s lives.

There are also many other, more serious problems besides a lack of punitive action. The small amount of money—and the federal government’s recent inability to truly help underwater mortgage holders, of which there are currently 11 million—means that the victims of mortgage fraud might not see enough relief. And perhaps most importantly, with no real punishment for widespread damaging fraud, what are the incentives on Wall Street not to engage in similarly destructive practices once again?

CARC tells Pipeline Developers “Beef Up Assessment of Pipeline Impacts”

The Canadian Arctic Resources Committee is calling on the proponents of the Mackenzie Valley Gas Project to rework their assessment of the impacts of their proposed pipeline. The almost 1,400 kilometre pipeline would stretch from the Arctic Coast to the Alberta border and would be the biggest industrial development the north has ever seen. The project is in the late stages of a review by the Joint Review Panel that will make recommendations to the federal government on if or how the project should go ahead.

In giving evidence to the panel today in Yellowknife, CARC representatives told the panel that the pipeline developers have done a woeful job of predicting the cumulative effects of the pipeline. “The developers are planning a pipeline that can carry more gas than they have yet discovered,” says Chuck Birchall, chair of CARC. “Despite this fact, they are not making any real attempt at describing the massive effects of exploring for and developing additional gas deposits. If there is to be a hope of adequately planning for those effects, the proponent must do a better job of trying to anticipate them.”

CARC presented its own mapping work to the panel, mapping that shows certain development scenarios will likely have negative impacts on large animals such as caribou. CARC’s work shows that in the Mackenzie delta, the amount of disturbance from development is already approaching the level at which there is concern for the future. The loss of habitat could be catastrophic for northern peoples who traditionally rely heavily on hunting for subsistence.

The panel is set to wrap up its public hearings this fall. “We hope the panel will direct the proponents of this project to go back to the drawing board, and make a much better attempt to describe the cumulative effects of this project,” adds Birchall. “Without that information, we really do not see how the panel can make an informed decision.”

CARC’s official submission to the review panel (5MB PDF)

Original Article
Author: carc 

Resolve the treaties and complete Confederation

I was driving through the Rocky Mountains in 1997 and stopped at a little shop to buy a guidebook. Among the hiking-trail maps and postcards was a map I’d never seen before – familiar, but also different. At first, it looked like a jigsaw puzzle map of North America, with odd shapes and colours. But it was actually a map of North America before “first contact,” with all the aboriginal nations represented as countries.

Even though it couldn’t be literally accurate – many nations were nomadic and most had no defined borders – it was a strikingly effective representation of the scale and diversity of the continent’s original nations. In fact, according to the legend notes, there were scores more nations, so many they couldn’t be fitted onto the map.

The diversity didn’t exist only in the millennial past. There are more than 50 distinct aboriginal languages in Canada. The nations of the grasslands are different from the woodland nations, and the Northwest peoples are distinct from the coastal cultures. The Métis are woven into our national fabric. In the North, Inuit culture has survived for millenniums.

Our relationship was established almost 500 years ago, when Jacques Cartier sailed up the St. Lawrence River – a journey that eventually led to the earliest settlers. For three centuries after that, the relationship between Europeans and aboriginal nations was one of equals – in fact, there would have been no opening of the interior to trade, no settlement of the west, without their active collaboration. In the past 200 years, however, we have whittled a continental galaxy of nations into an archipelago of isolated, sometimes destitute, enclaves.

In 2017, Canada will mark the 150th anniversary of Confederation. Those of us who remember the 1967 Centennial will recall the explosion of pride and creative energy released by that anniversary. The lead-up to the 2017 sesquicentennial will bring moments of pride and reflection, too – we’ll mark the anniversary of the War of 1812, the 100-year anniversaries of Vimy Ridge, of Passchendaele, of women winning the right to vote. The five years leading to 2017 will give us occasion to reflect on how we became who we are.

The Confederation project has been a social and political success that has created a country out of two different languages and nationalities, French and English, replenished by constant waves of immigrants and refugees. It has become a model of national civility between differing peoples.

But there’s one major uncompleted task in this project, one failure to become whole. As we meditate on who we are in the next five years, we should consider setting ourselves a goal that’s worthy of a generation.

The five years leading to Confederation saw the great debates that stirred the ideas for union, and the Charlottetown and Quebec conferences that set the framework for a national accord. The five years leading to 2017 could lay the foundation for the next chapter – the missing chapter: the resolution of the treaties and the beginning of reconciliation and reconstruction with our aboriginal peoples. It’s the civil-rights movement of our generation.

The Confederation project is incomplete. As we approach our 150th anniversary as a nation, and as we prepare to celebrate who we are, there’s still time to imagine who we could become.

Original Article
Source: Globe 
Author: Mark Starowicz 

Tony Clement involved in choosing G8 projects, newly released documents show

OTTAWA—Conservative cabinet minister Tony Clement was involved in choosing which projects were selected for the multi-million dollar G8 legacy fund, according to documents obtained by the federal New Democrats.

“It is my understanding that MINO [the Minister’s Office] advised Infrastructure Canada which projects should be supported under the G8 Infrastructure & Legacy Fund and their staff prepared the contribution agreements for them accordingly,” said a January 13, 2010 email from Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario (FedNor) official Tom Dodds that the NDP released to the media on Monday.

The auditor general released a scathing report last June accusing the Conservative government of misleading Parliament about the purpose of the $45.7-million G8 Legacy Infrastructure Fund that was divvied up between 32 projects in Ontario cottage country hand-picked by Clement (the MP for Parry Sound—Muskoka), Huntsville Mayor Claude Doughty and a local businessman.

Clement, who was industry minister during the lead-up to the 2010 G8 Summit, told Commons committee last November that while municipalities had submitted 242 proposals through his constituency office, it was the local mayors that had whittled down the list and insisted he had no role in choosing which ones received federal funding.

“I know there is this mythology — as it was put rather interestingly during the election campaign — that I was at a bar somewhere in Muskoka with two other guys making the decisions,” Clement told the public accounts committee on Nov. 2 last year, when he also conceded the process, especially when it came to the paperwork, was imperfect. “That’s just a myth. It never happened that way. We were not involved in selecting the projects.”

Why Newt Is like Nixon

He won with a glower. After Newt Gingrich in the Jan. 19 Republican debate fought off a totally reasonable question about an ex-wife’s account of his acknowledged adultery with an attack on “the elite media,” there was little doubt about what would happen. South Carolina is the rawest of GOP states, the political embodiment of the legacy of the man Gingrich was channeling with that stare and orchestrated outrage onstage: Richard Nixon.

Like every other living Republican (and more than a few living Democrats), Gingrich longs to be seen as the heir to Ronald Reagan. That’s understandable. Reagan is the Republican FDR, an exemplar of presidential greatness. You could play a rather serious drinking game during GOP debates if you took a shot at every evocation of Reagan. Beginning with his ads in New Hampshire contrasting himself as a “bold Reagan conservative” and Romney as a “Massachusetts moderate,” Gingrich has taken the Reagan strategy the furthest.

For all of this, though, Gingrich has much more in common with the 37th President than with the 40th. His language and even some of his mannerisms (remember the glower) directly descend from the Nixon of 1968.

The analogous elements are obvious. Like Nixon, Gingrich is smart, with a wide-ranging and entrepreneurial mind. Like Nixon, Gingrich is a striver who seems insecure around traditional establishment figures even though he has achieved much more than nearly all the politicians, editors and reporters he seems to at once loathe and fear. Like Nixon, Gingrich is fluent in the vernacular of cultural populism, brilliantly casting contemporary American life in terms of an overarching conflict between “real” people and distant “elites” bent on the destruction of all that is good and noble about the U.S.

Three-Fourths Of Americans Live In States That Don't Provide Affordable Health Care, Analysis Finds

WASHINGTON -- Here's a reality check for President Barack Obama's health overhaul: Three out of four uninsured Americans live in states that have yet to figure out how to deliver on its promise of affordable medical care.

This is the year that will make or break the health care law. States were supposed to be partners in carrying out the biggest safety net expansion since Medicare and Medicaid, and the White House claims they're making steady progress.

But an analysis by The Associated Press shows that states are moving in fits and starts. Combined with new insurance coverage estimates from the nonpartisan Urban Institute, it reveals a patchwork nation.

Such uneven progress could have real consequences.

If it continues, it will mean disparities and delays from state to state in carrying out an immense expansion of health insurance scheduled in the law for 2014. That could happen even if the Supreme Court upholds Obama's law, called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

"There will be something there, but if it doesn't mesh with the state's culture and if the state is not really supporting it, that certainly won't help it succeed," said Urban Institute senior researcher Matthew Buettgens.

Clear the tracks for Stephen Harper’s free trade express

The Harper Government’s free trade express has left the station and is picking up speed. Korea has lifted its ban on imports of Canadian beef derived from cattle 30 months old or less. This has removed a major stumbling block to finalizing the long delayed Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement.

Prime Minister Harper is confident Korea’s decision will also help create a favourable climate to lead to a deeper bilateral trade relationship. South Korea is Canada’s seventh largest merchandise trading partner and its third largest in Asia. The Prime Minister has correctly identified Korea as a priority market for Canada.

And in a recent speech, Korean Ambassador to Canada, Nam Joo-hong, referred to the desire to expand two-way trade by $3 billion and to complete the stalled FTA negotiations.

International Trade Minister Ed Fast will meet his Korean counterpart on the fringes of the World Economic Forum in Davos next weekend. Revitalizing the FTA negotiations with Korea will be discussed. I have been impressed with Minister Fast and his energetic approach to his job. He had one-on-one meetings with two dozen of his counterparts during the WTO Ministerial week in Geneva.

What is next? The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is on the formal agenda – I believe that a separate FTA with Japan would be a better and faster negotiating option for Canada – and easier to do but there is no reason that both could not be done.

Over the last few months the stage has been set for Canada to engage in a major bilateral and regional negotiating offensive. Minister Fast and Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and their key officials are up to the job. Canada’s determination to do deals is clear. But it will not be all smooth sailing. There are challenges, including overcoming opposition from the automotive industry and modifying rules of origin to be able to take full advantage of market opening.

Florida Primary 2012 Likely To Shift GOP Candidates' Focus To Environment

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Four years after the GOP's rallying cry became "drill, baby, drill," environmental issues have barely registered a blip in this Republican presidential primary.

That's likely to change as the race turns to Florida.

The candidates' positions on environmental regulation, global warming as well as clean air and water are all but certain to get attention ahead of the Jan. 31 primary in a state where the twin issues of offshore oil drilling and Everglades restoration are considered mandatory topics for discussion.

"It's almost like eating fried cheese in Iowa," said Jerry Karnas of the Everglades Foundation. Drilling has long been banned off Florida's coasts because of fears that a spill would foul its beaches, wrecking the tourism industry, while the federal and state governments are spending billions to clean the Everglades.

Though most expect the candidates to express support for Everglades restoration – as Mitt Romney did in his 2008 campaign – environmentalists are noting a further rightward shift overall among the GOP field. The candidates have called for fewer environmental regulations, questioned whether global warming is a hoax and criticized the agency that implements and enforces clean air and water regulations.

"A cycle ago, there were people who actually believed in solving some of these problems," said Navin Nayak of the League of Conservation Voters. "Now we're faced with a slate that doesn't even believe in basic science."

Mitt Romney: Goldman Sachs Guy

"I am not a Wall Street guy, classically defined," said Mitt Romney in a December interview with the Huffington Post. Private equity firm Bain Capital, Romney's longtime employer and the company that made him rich, he seemed to say, was a different breed from JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, and the other Wall Street financial titans. It was as if he was distancing himself from the unpopular Wall Streeters who helped cause the 2008 economic collapse.

But in one key way, Romney is pure Wall Street. A review of his personal financial disclosure records shows that a chunk of Romney's wealth—he's worth an estimated $190 million to $250 million—comes from investments in an array of Wall Street banks and investment houses, none more so than Goldman Sachs.
Romney and his wife, Ann, have investments in nearly three-dozen various Goldman funds together valued at between $17.7 million to $50.5 million, according to a financial disclosure form (PDF) filed in August 2011. Those investments appear in the blind trusts and individual retirement accounts belonging to the Romneys. Romney's been a loyal Goldman Sachs client. His 2007 disclosure, filed before his first presidential run, showed Goldman investments valued at between $18.2 million and $51.5 million.

Newt's Florida Suicide Strategy

With three candidates each boasting one primary victory, Florida is partying like it's 2000: another pivotal ballot with presidential implications and the whole nation watching. The winner of next Tuesday's Sunshine State ballot has the clearest path to the Republican nomination. So if you're Newt Gingrich, high off your South Carolina comeback, how do you win with Republicans in a super-state where Mitt Romney's better-organized, better-funded, and (maybe) still ahead? One hail-mary idea is to connect Romney to the state's most famous GOP defector. Rick Tyler, the ex-Gingrich spokesman who now advises Newt's super PAC, Winning Our Future, plans to do just that.

On MSNBC Sunday morning, Tyler "laid out a simple plan for the week ahead: tie Romney to Charlie Crist, the one-time beloved Florida governor who lost both his popularity and chances of serving in the Senate seat when he chose to be the moderate alternative to Tea Partier-turned-senator Marco Rubio," as the Huffington Post summarized it . Tyler went on: "All we have to do is remind people that Mitt Romney is Charlie Crist. If you voted for Charlie Crist, then you should vote for Mitt. If you didn't vote for Charlie Crist, then you should vote for Newt."

On one level, it's a sound red-meat strategy: Romney's ground team in Florida includes a trio of political insiders who worked for Crist's unsuccessful independent Senate campaign in 2010. But while Gingrich might score some quick primary points by associating Romney with a moderate pol, it's likely to screw him in a general election. That's because in the past two years, Charlie Crist has returned from the dead to become one of the state's most popular politicians.

Back during the 2010 tea party revolution, Rubio crushed Crist in the GOP primary for Florida's open seat. Rubio's strategem was to paint Crist as a moderate Republican-in-name-only. In response, Crist fled the party and ran against Rubio in the general election as an independent, only to be crushed by 20 percent. But as they say in Florida, the rules are different here. Two years on, Rubio's ditched his tea party cred to vote regularly as a moderate; he's even cooperated with Sen. Bill Nelson, his senior colleague and a stolid Democrat, on a host of bills.

First Nations talk strategy behind closed doors, as feds trumpet new land regime

More than 200 First Nations delegates filed into the Chateau Laurier’s ballroom Monday morning for a closed-door strategy session ahead of their Tuesday meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and 11 members of his cabinet.

Among the notable chiefs, grand chiefs and other leaders to arrive early in the capital were National Chief Shawn Atleo and Attawapiskat’s Chief Theresa Spence. The NDP’s aboriginal affairs critic, Linda Duncan, was also in attendance.

Some chiefs have complained about the uncertainty of Tuesday’s schedule; in particular they want to know whether Harper will be in attendance for the full day, and who will have the opportunity to make presentations to him. This session is intended to clear things up.

Following a morning prayer and drumming ceremony, Atleo delivered opening remarks behind closed doors. The delegates then went over the agenda and logistics for Tuesday and met with their regional caucuses.

Meanwhile, the Conservative government is also laying the groundwork for Tuesday’s meeting. Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan put out a slew of press releases Monday, announcing 18 new First Nations are on track to opt out of the land-related sections of the Indian Act and assume control over their reserve land and resources.

Compromise all but gone in debate over pipelines - 30 per cent of Canadians advocate full-scale oilsands development

Canada is turning into a land of two solitudes and no, I'm not talking about language rights, abortion or the merits of Nickelback.

Instead, it seems pipelines - really people, pipelines? - are set to join the do-not-discuss list, next to religion and politics as divisive topics best avoided in mixed company.

If recent developments are any indication, some steel pipe buried underground and molasses-like crude trapped in sand have become a dividing line for many.

With the firestorm surrounding the proposed Keystone XL pipeline to the United States and the Northern Gateway pipeline to the West Coast, the debate has grown louder, the rhetoric more shrill, the positions more intractable.

Compromise, a quintessential Canadian attribute that's been the foundation of "peace, order and good government," seems lost in our irreconcilable differences over energy.

"We're classically conflicted," says Michael Adams, a veteran surveyor of Canadian public opinion and president of the Environics group of research and communications companies.

"It's very polarizing . . . people are concerned about the consequences of fossil fuels and what it does to the environment, but there's also a concern about economic development."

First Nations want more than an MOU after this week’s meeting with PM, looking for real deliverables

It will be the first time this many First Nations chiefs have met with a Prime Minister and Cabinet ministers, but opposition critics and stakeholders say that while this week’s historic Crown-First Nations gathering in Ottawa won’t fix every problem facing aboriginals across the country, it does need to be more meaningful than a photo-op and are urging the federal government to finally show a real commitment to moving aboriginal affairs forward in 21st century.

“There’s been a lot of talking over the years. All the really solid research has been done. We just have to reopen some of these ideas,” Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Derek Nepinak told The Hill Times last week. “Some of the recommendations, even going back to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples is as valid and legitimate as when the report came out in the ’90s. A lot of stuff that’s been gathering dust on the shelf does have merit, even today, and there has to be commitments there. There has to be willingness to move forward on these things.”

Roberta Jamieson, president and chief executive officer of the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation, agreed, saying that because these high-level meetings tend to only happen once every few years, every issue will be on the table. But she said it doesn’t mean there can’t be concrete measures that the government can commit to.

“What I would like to see come out of this, however, is more than a photo-op or a stated commitment or memorandum of understanding. I’ve seen those meetings too many times that don’t go anywhere,” she told The Hill Times, adding that education should be at the top of the agenda. Without having an educated aboriginal youth population, it’s difficult to address the other social and economic issues. Those are our change agents. We need to put the students first and make some concrete commitments.”

NDP MP Linda Duncan (Edmonton-Strathcona, Alta.), her party’s aboriginal affairs critic, said she’s heard from other aboriginal groups that they also want outcomes rather than the typical announcement of establishing a panel or looking forward to a report that doesn’t lead to change.

Federal government has no business micromanaging RCMP commissioner

Where does Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government get off trying to micromanage the Royal Canadian Mounted Police commissioner’s day-timer?

Newly-installed Commissioner Bob Paulson has just been told that he can’t meet with Members of Parliament or senators without getting a green light from Public Safety Minister Vic Toews’ office. In their hubris, the Tories have decided that they alone will book the chief’s get-togethers with parliamentarians.

This follows hard on Harper’s demand that the Mounties check with Toews’ office before making any public statements that might “garner national media attention,” as the Star reported last year. To some, that looked like a gag option.

As Liberal Senator Colin Kenny puts it, not only is the RCMP chief not allowed to speak without a chaperone, he’s not even allowed to listen without one.

These are nasty precedents, and they threaten the credibility and independence of the force. No RCMP commissioner can function with a political bit in his mouth, yanked by the Conservatives or any other party. No commissioner worth his salt would accept it. Certainly not one who aspires to restore the force’s credibility, badly shaken by the death of Robert Dziekanski, claims of sexual harassment and allegations of physical assault. Paulson needs to affirm the force’s independence and rebuff such meddling.

The day-timer issue arose when Kenny, a respected expert on security and defence issues, wrote to Paulson asking for a meeting. Paulson wrote back to say that “some guidelines” suddenly require that Kenny route his request through Toews’ office. Toews’ minions said they would arrange the meeting, but would also invite members of rival parties to sit in on it.

The policy, an official explained, is to “ensure that all parliamentarians are given the same level of access to officials.” Really? Was there an access issue? Until now, MPs and senators from all parties have been free to request meetings as they see fit. If there was a “problem” that needed solving, we can’t see it.

To us, this looks more like a policy of making sure the RCMP chief can’t meet opposition politicians without a Tory in the room taking notes. Kenny had ready access to Paulson’s nine predecessors. Suddenly that’s been cut off. Who gains? Only government control freaks.

Original Article
Source: Star 
Author: - 

$100-billion in expenditures that no one notices

Take a 20-minute ride in a military helicopter and it's frontpage news for a week. But release a government report on more than $100 billion in tax expenditures, as Finance Canada did this month, and few of us pay attention. But even if Canadians gloss over what might look like complicated tax jargon, this is an area of public policy that our parliamentarians should put under a microscope to ensure we are getting the best bang for our bucks.

Tax expenditures are the provisions in the tax code, typically in the form of credits and special deductions, which reduce the tax that individuals and business pay. Make a charitable donation, contribute to your pension, buy a transit pass or enrol your child in a fitness activity and you pay less at tax time.

Tax expenditures serve a public policy purpose without the need of an army of bureaucrats in administration. They can be implemented virtually overnight, and can be easily tweaked. As easy as they are to implement, they are very difficult to take away.

Canada is a leader in the use of tax expenditures in the sense that our uptake is more than 50 per cent above the OECD average. While conventional thinking is that the Conservative government has cluttered the system with new credits and has made the system more expensive, the reality is otherwise. While it's true that the number of boutique credits has increased, the level of tax expenditures has grown only modestly since Prime Minister Stephen Harper came to power. In the past five years the value of tax expenditures has risen 2.3 per cent, far less than the increase in the size of government.

Secret Canada: balancing security and civil liberties

Now might be a good time to remind everyone that Sub-Lt. Jeffrey Paul Delisle is an accused spy, not a proven one. Even in this era of national insecurity, Delisle has the right to presumed innocence and a fair trial.

At least he does in theory.

Because many facts in the case might be deemed state secrets, Delisle might be tried in secret and if that happens, we’ll never know if the trial was fair or not.

That’s the trouble with our post-Sept. 11 paranoia laws. How do we know?

It’s believed the charges against Delisle are the first under the Security of Information Act, which makes it illegal for anyone to pass “to a foreign entity or terrorist group" any information the government “is taking mea­sures to safeguard." That’s a pretty broad ambit.

The law doesn’t always specify military information or informa­tion that bears on national secu­rity. It’s information the govern­ment “is taking measures to safeguard." And governments safeguard a lot of information, with very little oversight. Yet anyone convicted of passing on such information faces a life sentence.

The Security of Information Act is a creation of the former Liberal government at the height of international panic after the 9-11 attacks. It was billed as an overdue modernization of securi­ty laws like the Official Secrets Act, a relic of the First World Wa r.

Many measures in the new act make sense in our insecure world. They safeguard vital mil­itary information, no small thing with Canadians fighting in recent years in Afghanistan and Libya.

Union-funded study predicts tens of thousands of job losses in federal cuts

OTTAWA — A study from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, The Cuts Behind the Curtain, estimates that between 60,000 and 70,000 jobs could disappear across the country as departments implement the nearly $8 billion in spending cuts the Conservatives have introduced since coming to power.

The national capital area alone could lose between 11,000 and 22,000 jobs as federal departments begin to digest three waves of the Conservative government's spending cuts over three years, says a study by a left-leaning think tank.

Two of the largest federal unions, the Public Service Alliance of Canada and the Professional Institute of the Public Service, helped fund the study. Unions strongly criticize the government for conducting its spending reviews in "secret," without any public debate about what is on the chopping block and why.

With the highest concentration of federal jobs and suppliers, the capital region will be the hardest hit. At the most extreme, the region could see more than 22,000 jobs disappear by 2014-15, driving unemployment to 9.2 per cent, the study says. The report says the most likely scenario is about 11,000 lost jobs in the region. In that scenario, the public service will shrink by 25,000 jobs across the country with total job losses at Crown corporations, not-for-profits and businesses that rely on government work hitting about 60,000.

"The local picture could be very dramatic, depending on how the cuts are done," said David Macdonald, the CCPA economist who wrote the report. "There could potentially be 22,000 jobs in two or three years but that's a worst-case scenario."

Clement, Baird qualify for lucrative MP pension amid calls for reform

Three senior Harper Ministers – Jim Flaherty, John Baird and Tony Clement – must be grinning widely today. The troika were elected exactly six years ago and now they can retire worry-free, having finally qualified for their gold-plated MP pensions.

They are each entitled to $68,000 a year if they hang on until 2015 – and $96,000 a year if they remain until 2019. It keeps increasing from there.

The three former provincial ministers left the Ontario legislature without a pension after the government they served in, the Mike Harris Conservative government, abolished pensions for MPPs.

And so their salaries and compensation have increased substantially from their Queen’s Park days. As federal ministers they earn $233,247 a year; as Ontario cabinet ministers they would be earning $165,851 a year.

They can begin collecting their MP pensions at age 55. Finance Minister Flaherty is 62, Treasury Board President Clement will celebrate his 51st birthday Friday and Foreign Affairs Minister Baird is 42.

Coincidentally, Mr. Clement is now eyeing the MP pension as part of his strategic review. As the Treasury Board President he needs to find $4-billion in annual savings from government. He has not said for sure if the MP pensions will be reformed.

Taking liberties: 22 years behind bars for a 'crime of compassion'

When former U.S. president George W. Bush descended on the Regional Economic Summit in suburban Vancouver last October, there was, understandably, no shortage of protesters, pleas for indictments and cries of "war criminal." Left out of most news coverage as well as activist communiqués, however, was any focus on another former U.S. president who was tagging along, someone equally deserving of such protest but who seems, remarkably, to get off fairly lightly these days: Bill Clinton.

While Clinton's own contributions to world warfare and human misery were many -- think the cruise missile attack on a vital pharmaceutical plant in Sudan, the murderous bombing of the former Yugoslavia and daily bombings of Iraq, cruise missiles lobbed into Afghanistan and Pakistan, tightening the sanctions against the Cuban people, failure to act to prevent the Rwandan genocide, and legislation that doomed millions of Americans to ever deeper levels of poverty -- perhaps most infamous was his "aw-shucks" enforcement of the devastating sanctions that resulted in the deaths of over one million Iraqis.

That Clinton has far more Iraqi blood on his hands than anyone in the George W. Bush administration is largely forgotten. Yet report after report produced through the Clinton years tallied the hundreds of thousands of premature deaths in Iraq, and by the close of the decade, the word "genocide" begun creeping into their vocabulary. Enforced in part with $1 billion in Canadian military muscle, sanctions that led to the monthly deaths of 5,000 Iraqi children under the age of five provoked the high-profile resignations of UN humanitarian co-ordinators Denis Halliday and Hans Von Sponeck. When Halliday resigned in 1998, he stated: "I've been using the word 'genocide' because this is a deliberate policy to destroy the people of Iraq. I'm afraid I have no other view."

What was one to make of a policy that deliberately targeted the importation of civilian goods that allegedly had "dual use," from pencils and baby dolls to eyeglasses and shampoo? The equipment needed to fix electrical generating stations and water purification systems destroyed during the 1991 U.S. and Canadian bombing runs of Desert Storm was not permitted entry, so water-borne diseases ran rampant. The medicines needed to treat the spike in cancer (a result of tons of depleted uranium munitions dust that wound up in the Iraqi soil, air and water) didn't get through either.

Raj Patel: In Attacks on Obama, Food Stamps, Newt Gingrich is “Racially Coding Poverty”

The new documentary “Finding North” premiering here at the Sundance Film Festival exposes how one in every four American children suffers from hunger, despite living in the wealthiest nation in the world. And, nearly 30 percent of American families, more than 49 million people, often go without meals. While Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich decries President Obama as “the food stamp president,” author Raj Patel says what is really needed is a conversation about poverty and why the need for food stamps is so high. “It is true that disproportionately people of color are affected by food insecurity. What Gingrich is doing is racially coding poverty by calling President Obama the food stamp president,” Patel said. “He is invoking ideas of racialized poverty. Of course when you look at people who’re on the food stamp program, the majority of them are white and poor.” Patel is author of the popular book, "Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System.”

Source: Democracy Now! 
Author: - 

A most important gathering: Determining the future for us all

On January 24 a gathering will take place in Ottawa that will define a point in our shared history where, as a nation, Canada will either succeed or fail. Personally, I am not optimistic. As leaders of indigenous heritage pack their bags for one more effort to achieve peace and friendship with fellow Canadians through negotiations with the Federal leader they may be completely unaware that this is a make-it or break-it moment.

The meeting was called in reaction to news media and public comment about the suffering of homelessness on the Attawapiskat Reserve in northern Ontario.While First Nations leaders see this as an opportunity to address immediate issues of poverty and collapsing infrastructure within their communities, the Prime Minister sees it as an opportunity to showcase his own solutions for the "Indian problem." One cannot help but wonder if it has not been the intention of national and provincial management policy to keep First Nations communities at economic levels hovering just above a humanitarian disaster. To do so would certainly allow them to rush in with ideological solutions and the appearance of "doing good."

Stephen Harper has been preparing for this meeting since the beginning of his career in politics. Ever since he sat around the lunchroom at the University of Calgary with those who would one day choose him as their leader, he has imagined the fate of Canada's greatest obstructionist populations, the Indians. His strategy was simple: like swatting flies hovering over spilled cream and sugar on the table, he could eliminate them one or two at a time. As long as the bait was present, they would eventually all be gone.

Federal omnibus crime bill to cost Ontario $1 billion

The new federal crime bill will cost Ontario $1 billion to beef up prisons in order to house new inmates, the province says.

Provincial prisons are already operating at 95 per cent capacity with 8,500 inmates, according to the ministry of community safety and correctional services.

The federal legislation will add another 1,500 prisoners to the system and force the province to build another prison, the ministry said after conducting a detailed analysis of the Bill C-10, which received third reading in Parliament last month.

The cost of a new prison is about $900 million and in order to run it, the province will have to fork out $60 million a year, the ministry said.

Ontario does not have the funds to pay for these changes, the ministry said.

The bill is also expected to force another 1,000 people on parole, a move that will increase the caseload burden of parole officers.

Bill C-10 will also cause more investigations and as a result, more officers will have to spend a greater amount of time in court.

Madeleine Meilleur, minister of community Safety and correctional services, said in a statement that it is “unacceptable” Ontarians are expected to bear the cost of federal anti-crime initiatives.

“We expect Ottawa to do what’s right and provide additional funding to help Ontario deal with the consequences of Bill C-10,” she said.

Original Article
Source: Star 
Author: Tanya Talaga 

TTC chair breaks with Ford over tunnel for Eglinton LRT

In a move that puts her at odds with Mayor Rob Ford, the chair of the Toronto Transit Commission says the $8.2-billion light rail line proposed for Eglinton Ave. should not be run underground for its entire length.

Karen Stintz, who was named head of the TTC by Ford, says putting the suburban east and west stretches of the line in a tunnel is a waste of money because there is relatively little road traffic along those portions.

“It makes more sense not to bury it and use the money to build (the) Sheppard (subway),” said Stintz.

The mayor is on the record as being opposed to placing new LRT lines on Toronto’s roadways.

TTC officials have already said that meeting the Metrolinx completion target of 2020 will be extremely difficult. Provincial officials have indicated that the public has no interest in re-making the existing plans and risking further delay to transit improvements in Toronto.

But if the TTC returned to the original environmental studies for surface LRT – part of former mayor David Miller's Transit City plan – there would be no delay, Stintz told the Star.

She said as far as she knows, new environmental assessments for burying the east and west ends haven’t even been started. The line is planned to run from about Black Creek Dr. to Kennedy station.

Iran: Flotilla Of Warships Sent Through Strait of Hormuz Heightens Tensions

Britain has joined the United States and France in sending a flotilla of warships through the sensitive Strait of Hormuz in a pointed message to the Iranian regime.

The Ministry of Defence confirmed that a Royal Navy Type 23 frigate, HMS Argyll, was part of the US-led carrier group to pass through the waterway, as tensions continued to escalate over Tehran's nuclear programme.

The strait, a 34-mile-wide sea passage, connects the petroleum-producing Persian Gulf states to the ocean, making it a strategic choke point on the world's economy.

The EU gave preliminary approval to new sanctions against Iranian oil on Monday. On the table is a total ban on European purchases of Iranian oil - a sanction that would not just hit Iran but key EU buyers including Greece Italy and Spain.

Sanctions are already expected against Iran's central bank.

The full implementation of the sanctions would be delayed until 1 July, due to concerns about their impact on the European economy.

The UK, Germany, France and the Netherlands had been leading calls for nothing more than a three-month delay before the sanctions bite, but Greece, which fears its economic woes will worsen if it cannot find alternative suppliers at Iran-style preferential rates - has urged a much longer phase-in to ease the pain.

Federal Public Service Cuts: Up To 68,000 Jobs To Vanish, Study Says

OTTAWA - Federal government spending cuts could chop between 60,000 and 68,000 jobs from the public service in the next few years, a report from a progressive think-tank estimates.

The conclusion stems from a review of three separate rounds of restraint since 2007, and it suggests once completed in 2015, the federal public service could be trimmed to the lowest staffing levels since 2000.

Already, about 6,300 salaried positions are in the process of being eliminated as a result of department reviews launched between 2007 and 2010, designed to save $1.8 billion.

But that is the "tip of the iceberg," says the report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. The major impact on jobs will derive from the $2-billion departmental spending freeze announced in 2010, which is only now being put into effect, and the $4-billion Strategic and Operating Review that will be part of the coming budget.

In total, the three waves of cost cutting are intended to yield the government $7.8 billion in annual savings upon completion in 2014-15.

Government ministers have yet to reveal how they will apportion the cuts, but have conceded jobs will be lost through attrition and likely also layoffs.

Report author David Macdonald, a senior economist with the Ottawa-based think-tank, said he does not expect all savings will come from jobs and salaries inside the public service, although the majority will. Consulting firms, maintenance companies, non-profits who depend on Ottawa funding, may be impacted as well.

Occupy New Zealand Camps Raided By Authorities After Court Ruling

AUCKLAND, New Zealand -- Authorities have effectively shut down the Occupy movement in New Zealand's largest city after more than 100 days of protest.

Auckland Council officers and police Monday confiscated cars, tents and camping gear from more than 50 protesters at four sites in Auckland. The raid came after a local court ruled authorities could remove property from people who were illegally camping.

Police arrested three people in Aotea Square during the raids.

Occupy encampments remain in other New Zealand cities. Protesters in this country joined the movement that began last September in New York as a protest against social and financial inequality.

Auckland Council spokesman Glyn Walters said protesters can return to the sites but are no longer allowed to camp there.

Original Article
Source: Huff 
Author: - 

Climate skeptics gathering influence in Tory Senate seats

OTTAWA — Some of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s newly-appointed senators are emerging as global-warming skeptics in the wake of aggressive government positions to abandon the Kyoto Protocol, slam environmentalists and downplay potential damage caused by Canadian oil and gas exploration.

“I felt like it is kind of an insult to be a denier for a long time,” said Sen. Bert Brown, last month at a parliamentary committee studying energy policies. “It feels pretty good this morning.”

Brown made the comments as the committee heard from four well-known academics who don’t believe humans are playing a major role in warming the planet. The session took place three days after Harper’s government confirmed it would withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol, the world’s only legally-binding agreement that requires countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“I want to say that the real deniers in this whole thing are the people who started out with Al Gore’s movie and said that global warming was the problem of the world, and in less than two years, it became climate change,” said Brown. “It was not climate change in the beginning; it was about global warming. I also read something from the NASA people, who said that so far, it has warmed four-tenths of a Farenheit degree.”

Writers want Ottawa to let scientists ‘speak for themselves’

Last year, Kathryn O’Hara, then president of the Canadian Science Writers’ Association, wrote an extraordinary letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the leaders of the other national parties.

In that document – remarkable because it was written in a leading democracy not a paranoid dictatorship – she pleaded with government to unshackle its scientists by allowing them to speak freely with the media.

The CSWA represents more than 500 science journalists, publicists and authors in Canada. Ms. O’Hara recounted a series of incidents that occurred during the year leading up to her letter in which requests for interviews with researchers had been bluntly refused by public affairs handlers, or thwarted by them through endless bureaucratic delays.

Kristina Miller, a Department of Fisheries and Oceans scientist who has done groundbreaking work on emerging salmon diseases on the West Coast, was one of those who was denied permission to talk to the media, even though her research had just been published in the prestigious international journal, Science.

More than 50,000 federal jobs on chopping block as Ottawa trims spending

OTTAWA—More than 50,000 federal jobs could disappear by the time the Conservatives are finished their budget-cutting, with the resulting loss of services being felt most by aboriginals, seniors, low-income earners and other vulnerable Canadians, an Ottawa think tank predicts.

The report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) looks at budget-reduction campaigns by the Harper government since 2007 and attempts to estimate the impact of the 2010 personnel cost freeze and the latest Strategic and Operating Review. That pruning exercise, announced in the 2011 budget, is intended to result in $4 billion a year in federal spending reductions.

Where the axe will actually fall will be unclear until the March federal budget and other announcements by Treasury Board President Tony Clement later this year.

But, based on information available so far from departmental projections, CCPA senior economist David Macdonald estimates that between 50,000 and 60,000 federal public service jobs or private sector jobs funded by Ottawa will be eliminated by 2014.

“No matter how the cuts take shape, the job losses will be significant,” Macdonald says in “The Cuts Behind the Curtain: How federal cutbacks will slash services and increase unemployment.”

When all of the Harper government’s budget-trimming campaigns are fully implemented in two years, total annual federal spending will be reduced by $7.82 billion, the report states.

If these cuts come exclusively from reductions in government jobs, federal public service employment (excluding RCMP and military personnel that have been declared off limits) would fall by 20 per cent, to 225,000 positions, Macdonald estimates.

Medical Whistleblower Dr. Steven Nissen on "Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare"

As the Republican presidential candidates propose to dismantle President Obama’s 2010 healthcare reform package, we speak to Dr. Steven Nissen, one of the nation’s leading cardiologists. His research into Vioxx and Avandia led to severe restrictions by the Food and Drug Administration, reducing the use of both drugs. Nissen is profiled in the documentary, "Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Health Care," which is being featured this year at the Sundance Film Festival. The film tackles the powerful forces behind the battle over heathcare costs and access. "Healthcare has become such a huge business that the forces that don’t want change—the insurance industry, the hospital industry, even physician professional societies—have so aligned to keep the system as it is that it’s very hard to overcome that," said Dr. Nissen, who chairs the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. "My fear in this election, because of the Citizens United ruling, is massive amounts of money from people with a huge stake in making a profit from healthcare are going to influence the electorate with just an amazing amount of money."

Source: Democracy Now! 
Author: -