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, January 26, 2012

OccupyWEF Protesters Say World Economic Forum Leaders 'Should Disband'

DAVOS, Switzerland -- A mile away, in the center of this posh ski resort, some of the most powerful people on earth are gathered in pinstripes, discussing the state of the globe at the World Economic Forum. No one could accuse organizers of lacking ambition: "COMMITTED TO IMPROVING THE STATE OF THE WORLD," declare the signs hanging from seemingly every wall of the central venue, the Congress Center.

But here, in a snow-covered parking lot on the other side of the railroad tracks from the rest of town, two dozen protesters coalesced under the banner OccupyWEF dismiss that slogan as a fraud.

"They talk about our future, but they are the point zero, zero, zero, one percent of the people, and that's not democratic," says Valentine Sidjanksi, 25, a bricklayer from Zurich who is spending the week in one of two yurts erected here, alongside four igloos. "They have tried for 25 years to build something, but they are the wrong people. They are all from business and politics. They just want to strengthen the system and make more profits. They should disband."

OccupyWEF, the latest progeny of the global, grass roots response to widening inequality, joblessness and financial turmoil, has aimed itself directly at the glittering pageant of power that is the World Economic Forum. While the Occupy movement is often dismissed as an inchoate mass that lacks concrete demands, the people camped out here readily articulate a central aim: They want to put a stop to this annual gathering of top executives, heads of state, and other people of influence -- the very group they say generated the unjust economic order the forum is supposedly intent on fixing.

Indiana Creationism Teaching Bill Moves Forward In State Senate

Indiana legislators are moving forward on a bill that would allow creationism to be taught alongside other theories in the state's public school system.

The Senate Education Committee voted 8-2 Wednesday to present the bill to the full Senate, the Associated Press reports.

Creationism, a theory with origins in the Bible's Book of Genesis, suggests that divine power created man, animal, and all earthly matters. The idea is an opposing view to the science-based theory of evolution.

If the bill passes, Indiana school districts will have the option to include creationism as part of science courses, Indianapolis' WXIN reports.

The bill was sponsored by Republican Sen. Dennis Kruse, head of the Indiana State Senate's Education Committee.

Kruse previously proposed similar legislation in 2000 when he served as a state representative. That bill never made it past a committee vote, according to the Journal Gazette.

Indiana isn't the only state to examine the possibility of adding creationism to school curriculum.

Oklahoma, New Hampshire and Missouri have all looked at similar bills designed to encourage a critical look at evolution theory, the Wall Street Journal observes.

About 60 percent of high school biology teachers teach evolution in the classroom without taking a direct stance on the issue LiveScience reports.

The article states:
Based on respondents' write-in answers, the researchers surmised that many of these cautious teachers toed the line, weakly teaching evolution without explicitly endorsing or denying creationism in order to avoid controversy and questions from both students and parents.
Only 13 percent of the teachers surveyed in the nationwide study published in the journal Science said they support creationism and teach it "in a positive light."

Indiana Sen. Scott Schneider said he voted in favor of SB 89 because students should be taught various theories on the origin of life, according to the Northwest Indiana and Illinois Times.

Original Article
Source: Huff 
Author: - 

Alan Greenspan: Don't Blame Capitalism For All This Income Inequality

Say what you will about income inequality to ex-Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, just don't blame the free market.

In an op-ed for the Financial Times Thursday, Greenspan wrote that the "legitimate concern of increasing inequality of incomes reflects globalisation and innovation, not capitalism."

The Occupy movement, presidential campaign and slow economic recovery have brought renewed attention to the growing gap between the rich and the poor. In the U.S., the top one percent of earners have seen their incomes skyrocket in recent decades while those of everyone else sputtered, potentially threatening economies worldwide.

The root cause for the growing gulf remains a subject of much debate.

Yet a major driver of that division, most obviously, is that the richest global citizens have become much, much wealthier. An indication of exactly how wide the gulf has gotten: That six Walmart heirs were worth the same amount as the bottom 30 percent of Americans in 2007.

But while Greenspan pins the blame on the process of globalization itself, a 2003 study from the United Nations University found globalization to only account for 7 to 11 percent of the variation in income inequality among countries worldwide. In addition, it seems that increased globalization in the form of a trade boost did little to push America's rich and the poor further apart during the 1990s, according to a 2010 report by Slate's Timothy Noah.

Newt Gingrich Compares Gay Marriage To Paganism

Newt Gingrich has three marriages and repeated infidelity under his belt, but that doesn't stop him from sounding off about the sanctity of male-female marriage.

On a conference call for Religious Right supporters Wednesday, Newt compared gay marriage to paganism. Right Wing Watch has excerpts from the conversation:
It's pretty simple: marriage is between a man and a woman. This is a historic doctrine driven deep into the Bible, both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, and it's a perfect example of what I mean by the rise of paganism. The effort to create alternatives to marriage between a man and a woman are perfectly natural pagan behaviors, but they are a fundamental violation of our civilization.
Last month Newt submitted a lengthy signing statement to the Iowa Family Leader's controversial "Marriage Vow" pledge. Here is the part where he discusses his plans for marriage legislation:
Defending Marriage. As President, I will vigorously enforce the Defense of Marriage Act, which was enacted under my leadership as Speaker of the House, and ensure compliance with its provisions, especially in the military. I will also aggressively defend the constitutionality of DOMA in federal and state courts. I will support sending a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman to the states for ratification. I will also oppose any judicial, bureaucratic, or legislative effort to define marriage in any manner other than as between one man and one woman. I will support all efforts to reform promptly any uneconomic or anti-marriage aspects of welfare and tax policy. I also pledge to uphold the institution of marriage through personal fidelity to my spouse and respect for the marital bonds of others.
Newt's second wife, Marianne, unloaded a bombshell right before the South Carolina primary, claiming that Newt requested an open marriage so that he could continue his affair with Callista.

When asked about the allegations during a CNN debate in Charleston, Newt got into a heated exchange with John King and dismissed the story as a "despicable" lie.

"Every person in here knows personal pain," he said. "Every person in here has had someone close to them go through painful things. To take an ex-wife and make it two days before the primary, a significant question in a presidential campaign, is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine."

Original Article
Source: Huff 
Author: - 

Details Emerge of New Financial Fraud Unit

The new Financial Crimes Unit announced by President Barack Obama during Tuesday's State of the Union address will have the power to investigate mortgage fraud going back at least 10 years, according to senior officials at the Department of Justice.

The new unit, however, could jeopardize the negotiations now taking place between five of the country's largest banks, the states' attorneys general and the Obama administration over mortgage fraud and wrongful foreclosures, some observers say.

In a conference call with reporters on Thursday afternoon, senior officials at the Department of Justice fleshed out details of the new unit. The new unit will focus on both the origination and securitization (or packaging) of mortgage loans. The unit will also investigate loans that were sold to, and insured by, government agencies, said Justice Department officials.

The new unit "has a pretty good chance of derailing it," JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon told CNBC on Thursday, referring to the settlement. JPMorgan is one of the five banks involved in those negotiations. It is likely that under the settlement investigators could pursue cases only from as early as January 2008, said a source close to the negotiations who is prohibited from speaking on the record.

The banks are interested in the settlement because it will protect them from future liability, according to one industry insider who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity. If they agree to spend $25 billion to guarantee such protection, then find themselves facing the exact same cases with the new investigative unit, they no longer have an incentive to bother with the settlement.

Of Semites and 'Anti-Semites'

Andrew Adler, publisher of something called the Atlanta Jewish Times, recently suggested that Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu should consider ordering the assassination of President Obama in order to “forcefully dictate that the United States’ policy includes its helping the Jewish state obliterate its enemies.” I wonder if it might be fair to term this dangerous nudnik an “Israel-firster.”

I mention the term not because I endorse its use. I don’t, as I am uncomfortable with its historical associations with age-old accusations against the political loyalty of all Jews, wherever they reside; and in any case, I try not to impute motives to others. But that does not mean that a great many people—including many right-wing Jews and some conservative Christians—will never prioritize what they believe to be Israel’s interests above all else.

Take, for instance, longtime Commentary editor (and father of current Commentary editor) Norman Podhoretz. In February 1972 he titled an article “Is It Good for the Jews?” in which he argued that American Jews needed to look “at proposals and policies from the point of view of the Jewish interest.” Thirteen years later he told an international conference of Jewish journalists in Israel, “The role of Jews who write in both the Jewish and general press is to defend Israel.” Moreover, in March 2007 I happened to be in the audience at a conference for aspiring Jewish journalists at New York City’s Center for Jewish History, where Harvard’s Ruth Wisse instructed the earnest young attendees to think of themselves not as honest seekers of wisdom and truth but as adjuncts to the Israeli Defense Forces, and to use their words just as Podhoretz suggested: to defend Israel, period.

It hardly strains credulity to imagine that folks with the views described above would welcome an attack on Iran’s nuclear program to protect Israel, regardless of its implications for the United States and the world. Rather than argue the merits of this position, however, many of these same folks try to circumscribe debate on the issue, up to and including ruling the facts out of order. (In this respect, they resemble global warming deniers.) Moreover, they are willing to use the McCarthyite tactic of smearing anyone who questions the arguments of those pushing for war or even merely offers honest assessments of the situation on the ground in Iran. Their epithet of choice is “anti-Semite.”

Dow and Monsanto Team Up On the Mother of All Herbicide Marketing Plans

During the late-December media lull, the USDA didn't satisfy itself with green lighting Monsanto's useless, PR-centric "drought-tolerant" corn. It also prepped the way for approving a product from Monsanto's rival Dow Agrosciences—one that industrial-scale corn farmers will likely find all-too useful.

Dow has engineered a corn strain that withstands lashings of its herbicide, 2,4-D. The company's pitch to farmers is simple: Your fields are becoming choked with weeds that have developed resistance to Monsanto's Roundup herbicide. As soon as the USDA okays our product, all your problems will be solved.

At risk of sounding overly dramatic, the product seems to me to bring mainstream US agriculture to a crossroads. If Dow's new corn makes it past the USDA and into farm fields, it will mark the beginning of at least another decade of ramped-up chemical-intensive farming of a few chosen crops (corn, soy, cotton), beholden to a handful of large agrichemical firms working in cahoots to sell ever-larger quantities of poisons, environment be damned. If it and other new herbicide-tolerant crops can somehow be stopped, farming in the US heartland can be pushed toward a model based on biodiversity over monocropping, farmer skill in place of brute chemicals, and healthy food instead of industrial commodities.

Yet Dow's pitch will likely prove quite compelling. Introduced in 1996, Roundup Ready crops now account for 94 percent of the soybean crops and upwards of 70 percent for soy and cotton, USDA figures show. The technology cut a huge chunk of work out of farming, allowing farmers to cultivate ever more massive swaths of land with less labor.

ACTA Copyright Treaty Sparks Protests In Latest Anti-Piracy Battle

In the United States, a massive Internet protest last week led by Wikipedia and Google drove congressional leaders to place controversial anti-piracy legislation on hold.

But in other parts of the world, another proposal to increase copyright enforcement is gaining momentum, despite protests from opponents concerned about Internet censorship.

On Thursday, the European Union and 22 of its member states signed the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, or ACTA -- a major step toward enforcement of the copyright treaty. Eight countries, including the United States, had signed the agreement this past fall.

ACTA has always been controversial because the international negotiations that began in 2007 took place in secret. But now, opponents of the treaty have developed new muscle after witnessing the success of the Internet outcry against the two U.S. bills, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA).

Electro-Motive Lockout: Unions Take Fight To Caterpillar Customers As Company Posts Record Profits

The union representing workers locked out of a Caterpillar locomotive plant in London, Ont., is taking the fight to Caterpillar’s customers on the day the company posted record profits and revenue.

The Canadian Auto Workers announced Thursday morning they will be picketing in front of a dozen Caterpillar dealerships and service centres in an effort to raise awareness about the nearly month-long lockout of workers at the Electro-Motive plant in London.

Caterpillar reported a 36 per cent increase in after-tax profit for both the fourth quarter of 2011 and the full year 2011. Revenues for the year increased four per cent to $2.65 billion.

Despite the record profits, the company is pressuring its employees at the London locomotive plant to accept a pay cut from $32 per hour to $16.50. Caterpillar locked out the workers on Jan. 1 after union members rejected the pay cut.

"This is all about greed," says Bob Scott, union plant chair at Electro-Motive. "How are workers supposed to go back to earning wages last paid nearly 25 years ago, while the company is richer than ever?"

To the Moon, Callista! Newt Gingrich Promises Lunar Colony by 2020

Speaking at a Florida community college Wednesday, Newt Gingrich promised voters hit hard by the end of the Space Suttle program that by the end of his second term, there will be an American colony on the moon. Ultimately, he said, it ought to be the 51st state. (Sorry, Puerto Rico.)

This wasn't just a pander conceived in the present campaign.

As Charles Homans notes, the former House Speaker has been touting extravagant lunar missions since at least 1984: "At first, it would be a rough, provisional thing: Crews of four to six people would shunt to and from the outpost on three or six month shifts... preparing for a more permanent lunar presence," Homans writes. "It would be a hardscrabble frontier life, but if all went according to plan, a decade later, the base would have blossomed into a full-blown colony, home to as many as 300 people. By mid-century, it would have a population the size of a respectable Midwestern dairy town, its residents busy tending to bustling robot-assisted manufacturing and agricultural industries."

What happens when Canada’s housing bubble pops?

A few days ago, Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney released another alarming, albeit muted, warning shot about the state of the Canadian real estate market. Some properties in Canada are “probably overvalued,” the central banker said during an interview with CTV. Last week Finance Minister Jim Flaherty hinted he is also worried about housing: “We watch the housing market carefully and we are prepared to intervene if necessary,” he said.

So, are we literally living in a bubble? And when it bursts, will it get as ugly as it did south of the border? Here’s where the most recent speculation is pointing:

Yes, we’re in a bubble, and it will probably pop soon.

The signs of a bubble are unequivocal. At 13 years and counting, Canada’s current housing boom is one of the longest-lasting in the world, the Bank of Nova Scotia noted in a recent report. The real price of Canadian homes has increased by 85 per cent on average since 1998. Prices stagnated in 2008, at the height of the financial crisis, but they were back on the rise again as soon as 2009, when they grew by nearly 20 per cent, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association.

Meanwhile, Canadian household debt set a new record last year. On average, the debt burden of Canadian families stands at 153 per cent of their disposable income, according to Statistics Canada. That’s almost as much debt as American households had at the peak of their bubble.

Tories postpone Monday’s third reading to scrap long-gun registry, Libs accuse Tories of dragging out issue to raise more money

PARLIAMENT HILL—The Conservative government has postponed final Commons debate on a controversial bill that would fulfill a longstanding promise to scrap the federal long-gun registry.

Third reading on Bill C-19, which contains measures for the destruction of millions of registry records on privately owned rifles and shotguns in Canada and an end to a requirement that firearms dealers or traders verify the licences of gun buyers, was scheduled to begin when the Commons resumes sitting on Monday, Jan. 30.

But opposition as well as government MPs who were set to take part learned late this week that debate on the bill would not begin as planned when the Commons convenes, despite the importance Conservative MPs attach to the legislation and the key role the promise to dismantle the registry played defeating many rural New Democrat and Liberal candidates in last year's federal election.

One Conservative indicated the bill might not be put up for debate anytime next week.

Conservative MP Ryan Leef (Yukon), who acknowledged the government’s promise to eliminate the registry is “near and dear” to him as well as his constituents, told The Hill Times that he and other Conservative MPs have to adjust their own expectations to whatever government priorities have surfaced that will once again put the legislation on hold.

Ottawa has ‘no cheque’ to help provinces foot crime bill

Provinces hoping to get some signal that Ottawa is considering their calls to foot the costs of implementing the omnibus crime bill were disappointed on Thursday after a meeting of justice ministers in Charlottetown.

Federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson told his provincial counterparts that Ottawa has already committed to increase transfer payments by $2.4-billion.

Earlier this week, the Ontario government said the legislation would add more than $1-billion in increased police and court costs, and reiterated its calls for Ottawa to pay.

During a news conference wrapping up the three-day meeting, Mr. Nicholson made it clear Ontario wouldn’t get what it was asking for.

“I have no cheque for $1-billion for Ontario,” said Mr. Nicholson. “But that being said, we’ll continue to give more money to the provinces as we do every year.”

Budget axe could cut deeper and hit sooner, Tories warn

The Conservative government is confirming what it’s been hinting at for weeks: Spending cuts in the upcoming federal budget could be twice as deep as Ottawa’s original target.

Rather than aiming for a 5 per cent cut overall and permanent savings of $4-billion a year – as outlined in the 2011 budget – the government is now clearly describing the 5 per cent cut as the low end of a targeted range.

Treasury Board President Tony Clement, who spent the past year leading a cabinet committee focused on finding savings, provided an update Thursday in a speech to the Empire Club of Toronto.

“I have led a cabinet committee to review the plans of federal departments and agencies to achieve savings of between 5 and 10 per cent in their program budgets; in other words, reductions of anywhere between $4-billion and $8-billion,” said Mr. Clement, according to a copy of his remarks.

“My Committee has been working around the clock, reviewing individual proposals. After appropriate deliberations by cabinet and caucus, the results of our efforts will be found in Budget 2012.”

What the government is saying now and what it was saying at the time of the last budget sound similar, but there are important distinctions.

Harper government plays down oil sands document

The federal government disassociated itself on Thursday from an embarrassing official policy paper that said the country’s independent energy regulator, now studying a controversial oil pipeline, is in fact a government ally.

Critics have long charged the right-of-centre Conservative government is trying to pressure the regulator – the National Energy Board (NEB) – to approve Enbridge Inc.’s (ENB-T36.92-0.29-0.78%) plan to build a pipeline from the Alberta oil sands to the Pacific Coast.

The NEB this month started hearings into the $5.5-billion Northern Gateway pipeline, which the government says is needed to send more oil to Asian markets.

Opponents of the pipeline include green groups and some aboriginal bands, who say they fear the consequences of a spill. Ottawa says some critics are foreign-funded radicals and complains the regulatory process will take too long.

Greenpeace on Thursday released a policy paper from April, 2011, which listed the NEB as one of the government’s allies. The paper was part of a campaign to counter widespread criticism of the oil sands in the European Union.

Dwight Duncan demands Ottawa release censored report showing Ontario is shortchanged by equalization

Finance Minister Dwight Duncan is demanding Ottawa release a classified federal report that reveals Ontario gets shortchanged by the national equalization wealth-sharing scheme.

In the wake of revelations in the Star, Duncan wrote Finance Minister Jim Flaherty on Thursday urging the federal government to lift the veil of secrecy shrouding the 67-page study.

“The report makes it increasingly clear that because of the policies of the government of Canada, Ontario families are subsidizing programs and services in other parts of Canada that Ontarians themselves do not enjoy,” the Ontario treasurer wrote.

Duncan fired off his letter after the Star obtained an uncensored version of a 2006 report entitled, “An Operational Expenditure Need Equalization Formula for Canada.”

Written by Peter Gusen, then director of federal-provincial relations at the finance department in Ottawa, it concluded Ontario and B.C. are at a severe disadvantage to Quebec and the Atlantic provinces.

That’s because the federal government does not take into account that it’s more expensive to live and work in some provinces than others when doling out funds from the $15.4-billion equalization pool.

Morgan Stanley CEO To Disgruntled Employees: 'If You're Really Unhappy, Just Leave'

The CEO of one of the country's largest investment banks has some choice words for any employees upset about the prospect of a smaller paycheck this year.

James Gorman, the head of Morgan Stanley, said that if his workers are so angry about their latest, trimmed-down paycheck, it's probably time for them to go. Gorman stands in contrast with many of his executive counterparts, who have largely stayed silent on the issue of declining compensation, despite an industry-wide restructuring.

"I say [to disgruntled Morgan Stanley employees], listen, you're naive, read the newspaper, number one," Gorman said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. "Number two, if you put your compensation in a one year context to define your overall level of happiness, you've got a problem that is bigger than the job. And number three, if you're really unhappy, just leave. Life's too short."

Morgan Stanley announced earlier this month that it would cap cash bonuses for 2011 at $125,000 and that its executives -- including Gorman -- wouldn't be getting any cash bonuses, according to The New York Times.

Gorman and his employees at Morgan Stanley aren't the only ones on Wall Street contending with smaller paychecks. Anxiety over the state of the global economy, slow dealmaking and a boost in public anger over the financial industry's high pay have likely pushed firms to slash their compensation pools to the lowest level since the 2008 financial crisis, the Wall Street Journal reports.

And that's for those that've kept their jobs. All told, Wall Street laid off more than 200,000 employees in 2011 alone.

"The world has changed and the banking industry has gone through a fundamental change and we have to readjust," Gorman said in the interview.

Many workers have had trouble coming to terms with the new reality. Bonus day at Goldman Sachs last week was a "bloodbath," one mid-level employee told CNBC, as some workers learned they would be taking home smaller bonuses this year -- and some none at all. In addition, the firm cut the pay of some if its senior workers in half.

Investment bankers at Bank of America also found out earlier this week that their compensation would be slashed by 25 percent. That's part of a larger push to cut total costs at America's second-largest bank by as much as $8 billion per year.

Original Article
Source: Huff  
Author: - 

Seeking elected office should never be about the money

It simply blows me away that we are spending a nanosecond on a discussion about outrageous MPs’ pay, pension, and perks while a huge number of people in the country are hurting.

Interim NDP leader Nycole Turmel tried yesterday to deflect the issue of MP pensions by calling on the Harper Government to ask a third party to review the matter.

Turmel’s suggestion is precisely why MP compensation should be slashed. MPs should be demonstrating national leadership and be examples for the rest of the country, not spending their time defending and protecting their own paycheque.

There are almost 1.5 million people who have declared themselves to be unemployed in Canada. Last quarter, our economy barely inched forward at 0.9%. Were it not for a commodity boom, unemployment would be a lot higher and the economy would be massively contracting.

While the federal balance sheet is relatively healthy, the total national debt (which includes what is carried by the provinces) is close to 80% of GDP. The government should be making some difficult decisions that parliamentarians will have to carefully scrutinize. Our fiscal situation cannot be allowed to recklessly deteriorate. At the same time, significant and intelligent investments should be made to expand the economy in areas such as productivity, critical infrastructure, education and training, to name a few. That will require some finesse and tough choices.

Canada Imports Oil While Battling Over Pipeline Exports

Proposals to build new pipelines to carry oilsands crude to the United States, or through British Columbia for export to Asia, have sparked political battles between environmentalists and politicians on both sides of the border.

But the debates have also focused attention on how Canada uses the oil that it has.

Canada exports about two-thirds of its oil to the United States— while half of the oil used in Canada is imported from other countries.

Western Canada is self-sufficient, supplying its own oil before exporting the rest. But Eastern Canada relies on imported oil — despite the fact that some provinces are oil producers.

There are several offshore drilling operations in Newfoundland and Labrador, but none of the oil is actually used in Canada. The Maritime provinces rely on an oil supply that's imported from Saudi Arabia, Africa and Venezuela.

Harper vows 'major transformations' to position Canada for growth

The federal government is poised to transform immigration, pensions and research and development policy, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Thursday.

In a major speech to global movers and shakers at the World Economic Forum, he said the idea is to position Canada as a more competitive force in the global economy and to confront the pressures of an aging population.

“In the months to come, our government will undertake major transformations to position Canada for growth over the next generation,” Mr. Harper said in an address to some of the 2,600 forum delegates.

He also reiterated a commitment to streamline environmental approvals for major energy projects.

He vowed to press ahead with developing ways to export energy to Asia.

And he chided wealthy countries for being too complacent about ringing up debt that they can't afford, taking their riches for granted and imperilling the entire global economy.

Who is Newt Gingrich’s biggest donor and what does he want?

ATLANTA—He’s an ardent supporter of Israel. A megabillionaire casino mogul whose Las Vegas Sands Corp. is under federal investigation. And the self-proclaimed “richest Jew in the world.”

Sheldon Adelson is also, far and away, the biggest patron of Newt Gingrich’s now-surging Republican presidential bid. Adelson and his wife, Miriam, have pumped $10 million into a political action committee backing Gingrich that is run by the former House speaker’s onetime aides. Campaign finance experts say the two $5 million contributions are among the largest known political donations in U.S. history.

No other candidate in the race to challenge President Barack Obama in the November election appears to be relying so heavily on the fortune of a single donor. It’s been made possible by last year’s Supreme Court rulings — known as Citizens United — that recast the political landscape by stripping away restrictions on contributions and how outside groups can spend their money.

Sheldon Adelson is Citizens United come to life.

“The bottom line is that it creates that potential for one person to have far more influence than any one person should have,” said Fred Wertheimer, president of the campaign finance watchdog group Democracy 21.

When any candidate is beholden to a single donor for so much money, Wertheimer said, “it opens the door to corruption and influence peddling.” Wertheimer said the infusion of cash would raise questions about any decision Gingrich would make that touches on gambling, for example. And similar questions could be raised about Gingrich’s Mideast policies.

Iran ready for new nuclear talks with world powers

TEHRAN—Iran is ready to revive talks with the world powers, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Thursday, as toughening sanctions aim at forcing Tehran to sharply scale back its nuclear program.

Even so, he insisted that the pressures will not force Iran to give up its demands, including to continue enriching uranium, that led to the collapse of dialogue last year.

The United States and its allies want Iran to halt making nuclear fuel, which they worry could eventually lead to weapons-grade material and the production of nuclear weapons.

Iran says its program is for peaceful purposes — generating electricity and producing medical radioisotopes to treat cancer patients.

The 27-member European Union imposed an oil embargo against Iran on Monday, part of sanctions to pressure Tehran into resuming talks on the country’s nuclear program. It follows U.S. action also aimed at limiting Iran’s ability to sell oil, which accounts for 80 per cent of its foreign revenue.

No date is set for the possible resumption of talks between Iran and the five permanent U.N. Security Council members plus Germany. Negotiations ended in stalemate in January 2011, and Iran later rejected a plan to send its stockpile of low-enriched uranium abroad in exchange for reactor-ready fuel rods.

Caterpillar racks up huge profits while Electro-Motive lockout continues

In the midst of an ugly labour dispute with workers at its London, Ont. subsidiary Electro-Motive, U.S. construction and mining equipment giant Caterpillar is still racking up big profits.

The Illinois-based company announced Thursday that fourth-quarter earnings jumped 60 per cent. Caterpillar reported net income of $1.55 billion (all figures U.S.), or $2.32 per share, up from $968 million, or $1.47 per share last year.

Caterpillar locked out 500 workers at Electro-Motive after they rejected a contract offer that would have cut average wages at the plant from $35 per hour to $16.50 per hour.

The latest earnings release shows that Caterpillar had its best year-over-year profit increase since 1947, said Mike Moffatt, an economist at the University of Western Ontario’s Ivey School of Business.

“This isn’t a situation like the auto manufacturers a few years ago where they were asking for concessions because the survival of the company was at stake. Caterpillar is earning a lot of money,” said Moffatt.

The concessions Caterpillar is trying to get from its workers would make little difference to the company’s bottom line, Moffatt said.

“In the larger Caterpillar picture, Electro-Motive is just so small. The difference they’re talking about with their workers is about $20 million to $30 million. For Caterpillar, that would be like you or I looking between the couch cushions and finding a quarter,” said Moffatt.

Original Article
Source: Star 
Author: Josh Rubin 

Rob Ford still wants to build a subway

As the majority of councillors line-up behind a transit compromise along Eglinton Ave., Mayor Rob Ford said he still wants to build subways.

“Scarborough residents voted me in to build subways and I’m building subways,” he told the National Post Thursday night. “I’ll do exactly what the provincial government wants to do. Last time I checked they’re going to build subways. It’s started, it’s going, and I do what the taxpayers of Scarborough want … not above ground.”

His comments came despite the fact that many of the mayor’s own allies are pushing him to accept TTC chair Karen Stintz’s new proposal, which would see parts of a planned underground LRT along Eglinton Ave. moved street side.

The change would free up as much as $2 billion, which could be used to extend the Sheppard subway line at least one stop and add some form of rapid transit along Finch Ave. W.

“Both the mayor and I are working collaboratively and are committed to extending the Sheppard subway,” Stintz said Wednesday. Her proposal is a way to pay for that, she said.

Gordon Chong, the man Ford tasked with finding private dollars to build the Sheppard line, is expected to soon conclude the money isn’t there.

Ford ran on a promise to build subways and soon after taking office declared the above ground light-rail heavy Transit City dead. LRT lines along Finch and Sheppard were killed. A planned Eglinton LRT, about half of which was supposed to be street level, was moved entirely underground.

In March 2011, the province and Metrolinx committed to this plan in a “non-binding” memorandum of understanding. Although on Wednesday, both the premier and Metrolinx chair Robert Prichard suggested they’d be open to a change provided council approved.

Said one member of Ford’s inner circle: “Basically, we all acknowledge the subway plan was a big mistake. It was unrealistic. And we’re just trying to get (Ford) out of this without having egg all over his face.”

Original Article
Source: Star 
Author: Robyn Doolittle  

Occupy Wall Street Monitored By U.S. Conference Of Mayors, Emails Show

WASHINGTON -- After denying that they are coordinating responses to Occupy Wall Street, the U.S. Conference of Mayors recently surveyed city administrations across the country about the movement.

In late November, according to documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, the District of Columbia mayor's office received a request to update its answers to the survey. The questions to city officials appeared to elicit profiles of Occupy activists and answers that could help show the activists as a drain on resources.

The mayor's conference asked via the emailed survey: What are the estimated Occupy-related costs? What are the major issues relating to Occupy events? Has the Occupy membership changed and if so "describe those involved in the movement how they've changed in terms of who they are and what their intentions for the demonstrations are."

In the survey, the organization also called on city administrations to share tactics. "Please describe any strategies or tactics your city is employing in responding to Occupy-related events, including an assessment of their effectiveness if possible."

The U.S. Conference of Mayors has quietly led efforts to coordinate city responses to the Occupy Wall Street movement, the records show. These documents -- which comprise emails to local D.C. officials -- appear to contradict previous statements in which mayors denied any sort of group strategy sessions.

In China, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad

The explosion ripped through Building A5 on a Friday evening last May, an eruption of fire and noise that twisted metal pipes as if they were discarded straws.       

When workers in the cafeteria ran outside, they saw black smoke pouring from shattered windows. It came from the area where employees polished thousands of iPad cases a day.

Two people were killed immediately, and over a dozen others hurt. As the injured were rushed into ambulances, one in particular stood out. His features had been smeared by the blast, scrubbed by heat and violence until a mat of red and black had replaced his mouth and nose.

“Are you Lai Xiaodong’s father?” a caller asked when the phone rang at Mr. Lai’s childhood home. Six months earlier, the 22-year-old had moved to Chengdu, in southwest China, to become one of the millions of human cogs powering the largest, fastest and most sophisticated manufacturing system on earth. That system has made it possible for Apple and hundreds of other companies to build devices almost as quickly as they can be dreamed up.

It’s time to look capitalism in the face, world leaders told in Davos

DAVOS, Switzerland – There’s one key thought Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other government leaders at the economic brainstorming sessions keep hearing over and over again: it’s time to challenge the status quo of capitalism.

So far, they’ve shown few signs of heeding the call.

The founder of the annual World Economic Forum retreat in this Alpine town, Klaus Schwab, has appealed to global movers and shakers for a “great transformation” that would challenge the basic tenets of capitalism.

Other leaders of global organizations, including Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney, have issued a joint “call to action” asking country leaders to fuel growth and jobs in a way that confronts chronically high youth unemployment, is environmentally sustainable, and also deals with inequality.

And Harper heard a similar message from some of the Canadian business leaders in his roundtable meeting on Wednesday afternoon. He was told that doing business is not just about making money but is also about bolstering Canadian society, confirmed participant Monique Leroux, chief executive of Desjardins Group.

But the opening speech of the forum on Wednesday was all about status quo.

Throughout the recent bouts of financial crisis, “our market economy has proved itself,” said German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Taking on Conservative budget the ‘fight of my life,’ Turmel says

With two months left as interim leader of the New Democrats, Nycole Turmel vowed Wednesday morning to make the upcoming Conservative budget the “fight of my life,” naming jobs and health care as specific priorities for the upcoming session.

On jobs, the focus was mostly on broad policy ideas the NDP have massaged for months in the House of Commons — that Canadians, struggling under an economic downturn, ought to have help from the federal government on jobs and health care in order to make ends meet.

She also said the prime minister was too preoccupied with MP pensions, which have recently been criticized for being too large and too costly for taxpayers by groups like the Canadian Taxpayers Association.

Turmel suggested Wednesday there be an arms-length committee set up to review MP pensions, but that Prime Minister Stephen Harper ought to be more concerned about maintaining retirement savings for average Canadians.

On the jobs front, she also noted the particular recent case of Electro-Motive in London, a Caterpillar plant currently embroiled in a labour dispute that’s resulted in a lockout. The plant has been a stop for NDP leadership candidates of late, and Turmel made sure to mention it again.

Natural resources minister extends offensive to mining opponents

Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver expanded his offensive against environmental groups this week to include those who oppose mining projects.

While attending one of Canada’s biggest mineral conferences in Vancouver Monday, Oliver said he would protect Canada’s expanding Asia-Pacific trade in minerals from the same enemies he sees threatening the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline.

“There are some radical environmental groups that would seek to block this opportunity to diversify our trade,” said Oliver to a crowd attending the 2012 Roundup, a mining exploration conference with potential investors from over 30 countries.

“Their goal is to stop any resource project, no matter what the cost to Canadian families and lost jobs and economic growth — no mining, no forestry, no hydro carbons, no more hydro-electric dams.”

Like the pipeline, Canada’s mineral riches must head towards Asia, Oliver said, adding that a review of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency should include merging federal and provincial regulatory regimes to speed that up.

“That was certainly loud and clear,” said Gavin Dirom, president and CEO of the Association of Mineral Exploration of British Columbia, which organized the conference.

While British Columbia’s mineral exploration sector broke records last year, reaching nearly $580 million in investment, the industry still feels there are too many obstacles preventing it from seizing the opportunity of Asia’s economic growth, said Dirom.

Info czars tell Conservatives to place ‘integrity’ at heart of information reforms

Canada’s federal and provincial information commissioners are calling on Ottawa to place “integrity” firmly at the heart of their open government strategy to help break down the soaring barriers to information access.

Suzanne Legault, the Information Commissioner of Canada, along with her 12 provincial and territorial counterparts delivered the message to Treasury Board President Tony Clement this week in a detailed letter that lays out a series of recommendations on opening up government.

Clement is the federal Conservative minister behind the so-called Open Government initiative, and he’s the Ottawa politician most closely associated with using social media, especially Twitter.

But it is Canada’s three-decade-old Access to Information Act — a law many users say has come to embody the exact opposite of its title — that is the focus of a six-page letter to Clement.

The commissioners say it’s time to reverse the alarming backslide in access that has led to information actually being released in less than one in five requests filed under the law.

They urge Ottawa to adopt “increasing public integrity” as one of its “grand challenges,” and spend more money to clear backlogs.

Don't bully us, native leaders tell government - First Nations chief decries stop on funding to reserve

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence accused the federal government Wednesday of bullying her struggling community and putting lives at risk as punishment for her council's decision last fall to go public about a housing crisis on the reserve.

One day after the federal government wrapped up a summit with First Nations' chiefs to rebuild their relationship, Spence and Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo urged Canada to move beyond what they described as a paternalistic and colonial attitude toward First Nations in such matters as housing, education and major economic development projects. They argued that the government mentality is directly related to outdated provisions in the Indian Act that previously led to policies such as residential schools for assimilating aboriginals.

Spence told a lunchtime business crowd that a decision to impose third-party management on her reserve has cut off funding for nearly a month, but that she was always prepared to accept audits and respond to recommendations about potential problems in her council's bookkeeping.

"We have nothing to hide," she told the Economic Club of Canada. "We believe this decision is not legitimate and the third-party management is meant to take control, silence and punish my community and serve as a warning to other First Nations."

The Caterpillar crisis is now Ontario’s crisis

Canada’s union movement faces an existential struggle to protect its members — and rally public support.

London, the sleepy former insurance capital of Canada, is now ground zero for a labour dispute that is shaping up as nasty, brutish and long. It will have ramifications across Ontario’s industrial heartland, which is why all of us — and the politicians who govern us — need to pay close attention.

If London has a problem, we all do.

At the old locomotive plant now owned by U.S.-based multinational Caterpillar Inc., the Canadian Auto Workers union is not even on strike. The CAW has been locked out since New Year’s Day because it refused to sign its own death warrant by agreeing to slash wages in half for most workers from $34 an hour to $16.50.

When a powerful multinational negotiates in bad faith, it becomes a story that governments in Queen’s Park and Ottawa can no longer wash their hands of. To put it in language that resonates with Premier Dalton McGuinty: When a bully tries to humiliate people, you can’t just watch in silence.

When high-paying skilled local jobs can be shredded at the whim of a combative multinational giant, it dramatically undermines all the upbeat rhetoric we hear from McGuinty and Prime Minister Stephen Harper about Canada’s global appeal. It sends a signal that Ontario is not so much open for business as it is closed for unions.

Aboriginal crises are symptoms of a deep-rooted problem

The government of Canada and First Nations leadership have met and agreed on some immediate steps for action. It is admirable that removing the barriers that hinder First Nations governance and unlocking the economic potential of First Nations are on the list.

Like summits before this meeting, phasing out the Indian Act is not on the list. Again, it is left to First Nations citizens to remove this most important obstacle to effective, prosperous governance.

Canadians recently discovered the crushing poverty in Attawapiskat. This is not the first time Attawapiskat has struggled; and Attawapiskat is not alone. Every three years or so, these problems are discovered and agonized over. There is often a quick fix — new homes, an emergency relocation, a temporary water supply. And two or three years later, another set of headlines starts the cycle again.

Why is that? Why are First Nations and the government locked in a seemingly unbreakable dance of failure and recrimination?

It is because we are reacting to crises. But these crises are symptoms of a deep-rooted, systemic problem. Shingling a roof may stop the rain for a season — but it won't help if the foundation is rotten.

Questions Canadians should be asking about China

On the face of it, it is a neatly packaged controversy.

You could say it's about the government's weirdly over-the-top enthusiasm for the $6-billion Enbridge Inc. proposal to push a pipeline from Alberta's oilsands through northern British Columbia to saltwater at Kitimat. Or you could say it's about an environmentalist plot to keep Alberta's oilsands landlocked, although even the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers is laughing out loud at that one.

In any case, we all agree that it's about satiating China's growing demand for energy and getting out from under Canada's reliance on the limited American market for Albertan oil. But something else has been going on, and it's not funny anymore.

Nearly half of the $100-million upfront cash for the Enbridge project is coming either directly or indirectly from the seventh-largest corporation on Earth, the absurdly corrupt Sinopec, a ravenous behemoth run directly by the regime in Beijing. Oilpatch rumours have it that Beijing's own Sinochem and the China National Petroleum Corp. came up with at least some of the other half. In any case, you aren't allowed to know. Prime Minister Stephen Harper isn't saying, and neither is Enbridge.

Under its aggressive and ambitious president, Wang Tianpu, Sinopec has been in hyperdrive acquiring direct stakes in foreign energy properties. It was Sinopec that spent $2 billion on an outright purchase of the Alberta oil and gas firm Daylight Energy late last year. A direct Beijing foothold - this was a first for Canada's oilfields.

What will it take to win the lockout at Electro-Motive Diesel?

LONDON, ONT. - It was a loud and boisterous scene outside the massive Electro-Motive Diesel (EMD) factory on Jan. 21 as more than a thousand trade unionists joined the picket line in solidarity with 465 workers who have been locked out by the company for the past three weeks. With a punk rock band blasting music from a makeshift stage by the front gate, hundreds of workers disrupted traffic by crossing back and forth across the road regularly. A lone London police officer pleaded with them to keep things moving. It was the second show of support that day; earlier, an estimated 7,000 workers from across Ontario and the Midwest United States rallied at Victoria Park in downtown London.

"This example seems like one that calls for a different type of tactic. It's not enough to be stubborn. Caterpillar wasn't demanding some concessions that could be bargained over, they're making it clear that they want to break the union by cutting wages in half and they're ready to leave as their ultimate option," said Sam Gindin, a former assistant to Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) presidents Bob White and Buzz Hargrove and author of The Canadian Auto Workers: The Birth and Transformation of a Union. "In terms of what this means for the union: it would be devastating. It's a bargaining year and they're getting into victory bargaining. General Motors won't ask for anything as big but it will certainly affect expectations and the mood."

"This is like an avalanche," said EMD maintenance electrician Jersey Ulrich. "It starts here but you never know where it's going to end. We are just the first snowball in the avalanche. Once our wages are cut in half, what's going to happen? Guys from Chicago support us because they know if they cut our wages in half they're the next ones."

Focusing Our Energy

It's time to put the infamous National Energy Program behind us and move forward with a "Canadian Energy Strategy."

The ongoing pipeline debates have become mired in conspiracy theories, distractions, and misinformation. Is there nothing we can all agree on?

To begin, who would deny that our most basic human needs are clean air and water, productive soils, and a diversity of species? It isn’t controversial to argue that we must protect these necessities of life.

We also need energy – from a mix of sources. Oil will be in that mix for the foreseeable future. But surely we can all agree that burning fossil fuels at the current (or at a greater) rate is not healthy for humans and the environment. Rational people also agree that doing so is driving dangerous climate change that threatens human existence.

Where does that leave us? Canada has tremendous natural wealth, especially in energy resources. But we have no plan to guide us in the way we extract and use those resources, or in how we get energy to Canadians. Indeed, one rarely reads of a national energy plan without seeing a reference to the “hated” National Energy Program (NEP) brought in by Pierre Trudeau’s Liberal government in 1980 and killed after Brian Mulroney’s Progressive Conservative government won the 1984 election.

That plan was a response to the 1970s energy crisis, when oil prices skyrocketed. Its aims were to promote energy self-sufficiency and Canadian ownership, maintain supply, keep prices in check, promote oil exploration and alternative energy sources, and increase government revenues. But it ticked people off in Alberta. They saw it as federal meddling in provincial affairs.

Iran: To Strike or to Strangle?

Assessing the potential uses and consequences of an Iranian nuclear weapons program.

Visit the new CIC website at OpenCanada.Org. Canada's hub for international affairs.

Faced with slow-motion nuclear proliferation in Iran, many are discussing preventative strikes on Iranian facilities. The West’s Iran policy should be determined by a simple calculation: Are the risks involved in striking Iran greater than the risks of sanctions failing, multiplied by the cost of a subsequently nuclear-armed Iran? Recent brinksmanship over the Straits of Hormuz indicate that sanctions are hurting Iran, but what if sanctions fail and Iran goes nuclear?

Understanding the potential uses and consequences of Iranian nuclear weapons is crucial to understanding the cost and benefits of current sanctions and future strikes. If the tense history of the Cold War has taught us one thing, it is this: The uses of nuclear weapons are limited, regardless of regime or religion. Because of this basic fact, the West has an interest in continuing to tighten sanctions on Iran, but not in striking Iranian nuclear facilities. Nuclear weapons can conceivably be used for four purposes: deterrence, blackmail, shielding, and martyrdom.

Deterrence: Nuclear weapons are the ultimate insurance policy, serving to deter an invasion of the homeland and prevent foreign nuclear strikes. No nuclear-armed regime has ever been overthrown or hit by nuclear weapons. Iran lives in a bad neighbourhood surrounded by foes, such as Iraq, that have sought nuclear weapons, and states, such as the U.S., that have openly called for regime change. As such, deterrence is the most plausible use of Iranian nuclear weapons. Although the West may deplore the regime of the Ayatollahs, its treatment of women, and its gross violation of human rights, the maintenance of the regime through nuclear deterrence is not a sufficient reason to launch preventative strikes on Iran.

Blackmail: Iran may use nuclear weapons to blackmail its opponents and bully its neighbours. Yet, there is not a single record of any state successfully blackmailing another state using nuclear weapons. The threat of a nuclear attack is simply not credible, because few foreign-policy interests are great enough to justify breaking the nuclear taboo. If no one believes you will carry out a threat, then there is no point in damaging your reputation by making one. This is why nuclear-armed states have accepted losing wars with non-nuclear states rather than blackmailing them with nuclear strikes. Moreover, nuclear blackmail is not useful against other nuclear-armed powers since they would only invite a devastating nuclear retaliation. As it turns out, the two greatest threats to Iran – the U.S. and Israel – are nuclear powers. Importantly, both states have secure second-strike capabilities, meaning that Iran could never hope to wipe out its enemies’ arsenals in an overwhelming first strike. Israel may be three times smaller than New Brunswick, but it has invested in submarines carrying nuclear-tipped missiles, guaranteeing deadly Israeli retaliation.

No taxes, land deals and a pipeline of money: There's no incentive for first nations to go it alone

From British Columbia, the view of the Crown/first nations gathering is decidedly different.

Recent history suggests that talk in Ottawa this week about the need to escape the shackles of the Indian Act is mostly just that. Attempts by the B.C. and federal governments to conclude treaty negotiations with the province’s first nations have been a dismal failure.

In 20 years, only three first nations groups have signed agreements paving their way to independence. There are some other deals in the pipeline, we’re told, but otherwise, the talks have been a bust.

The head of the B.C. Treaty Commission, Sophie Pierre, made headlines last fall when she said the process should be shut down unless more progress is made soon. This, of course, runs counter to what we heard out of the Crown/first nations discussions, where many native leaders lamented the continued tyranny of the Indian Act.

There are many reasons why B.C.’s aboriginal groups have been reluctant to cut the apron strings with Ottawa. Some don’t like the terms of the deals they’re being offered. Some are not yet ready to set sail on their own. Some feel that recent moves by the federal government have profoundly changed the self-government game.

Ottawa moves to tighten provincial immigration program

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is setting out more stringent standards for the way provinces pick immigrants, even as he lauds the strategy as a success and economic boon.

The Provincial Nominee Program, which allows provinces to select their own quota of immigrants based on local economic needs, has received plaudits for turning Prairie provinces into migrant magnets.

But its record is far spottier out east: Incarnations of the program in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have been beset by allegations of corruption, scathing auditors-general reports and multimillion-dollar settlements paid to immigrants claiming they’d been bamboozled by misleading claims. Concerns around investor streams of the program spread to Manitoba, where the Auditor-General is conducting her own review pre-emptively.

The program has expanded significantly and is changing the face of immigration in Canada, sending newcomers to regions in need of tradespeople rather than urban hubs where highly skilled immigrants often can’t get a job.

An evaluation of the nominee program, to be released Thursday, indicates Ottawa wants to have a more direct hand in ensuring the initiative works the way it wants it to.

Unions must change quickly to survive, says secret report by CEP/CAW

Unions must overhaul themselves dramatically — and fast — or face a slow death, says a secret report by the two groups contemplating the biggest merger in Canadian labour history.

In a surprisingly blunt assessment of organized labour’s current difficulties, the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers (CEP) union say in a discussion paper that they must become a lot more relevant to working people, not only in contract bargaining, but for social change.

The paper, titled “A Moment of Truth for Canadian Labour,” says the economic pressures of globalization, growing employer aggression, hostile government policy and public cynicism have weakened unions significantly during the past two decades.

“If unions do not change, and quickly, we will steadily follow U.S. unions into continuing decline,” says the paper, which is marked “confidential.”

“We must reverse the erosion of our membership, our power and our prestige.”

Statistics show union membership in the private sector in Canada has slid from about 30 per cent in the early 1970s to 17.4 per cent — or 1.92 million employees — excluding farm workers. Public sector unionization remained at about 75 per cent in the same period.

U.S. union membership in the private sector has plunged from 30 per cent to 7 per cent over the past four decades. Public-sector unionization south of the border has stayed at about 37 per cent.

Attawapiskat chief wants share of revenues from nearby diamond mine

OTTAWA—Chief Theresa Spence says she has the answer to turning around her troubled aboriginal community of Attawapiskat — getting a share of the resource revenues flowing from a nearby diamond mine.

Without that, she warns that the troubling living conditions on her northern Ontario community will likely worsen and that lives may even be lost.

“Great riches are being taken from our land for the benefit of a few, including the Government of Canada and Ontario, who receive large royalty payments while we receive so little,” Spence said during a lunch speech Tuesday.

“Our lands have been stripped from us and yet development on our land area in timber, hydro and mining have created unlimited wealth for non-native people and their governments,” she said.

A day after aboriginal leaders held an historic meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to chart a new course for Canada’s First Nations, fresh warnings Tuesday of lost lives and civil unrest added a reality check to the challenges confronting both sides.

The housing crisis in Attawapiskat hit the headlines after reports that families were living in makeshift tents and sheds without running water, electricity or heat.

Disclose Act: Super PAC Transparency Legislation To Be Introduced By House Democrats

WASHINGTON -- Amid growing concern over the growing influence of super PACs, congressional Democrats are set to introduce new legislation designed to bring an increased level of transparency to campaign-related expenditures.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) will introduce in the coming weeks an updated version of the DISCLOSE Act, the legislation aimed at increasing transparency in election spending that failed to pass Congress, in September 2010, by a single Senate vote. Senate Democrats will introduce their own version of the legislation after the House moves first. The two bills are likely to differ slightly in language, though those differences aren't immediately known.

"There is still work being done on a bill in the Senate," said one Senate Democratic aide. "It will be high on our priority list," added another.

The bill has been redesigned to account for the rise of super PACs and to make more transparent what is widely regarded as a dangerous proliferation of largely anonymous spending during the 2012 election cycle. According to ProPublica, super PACs have so far spent nearly $20 million on campaign activities in the first four presidential primary states alone. That total does not take into account the money spent that super PACs neglected to report.

JPMorgan Chase's Jamie Dimon: Anti-Banking Sentiment 'A Form Of Discrimination'

Jamie Dimon, the head of JPMorgan Chase, would like to make it clear that he is not that kind of banker.

"I've disagreed right from the beginning of this blanket blame of all banks," Dimon said in an interview with Charlie Gasparino of the Fox Business Network Tuesday. "I don't like that. I think that's just a form of discrimination that should be stopped."

Dimon, who has been CEO of JPMorgan Chase since 2005, didn't get specific about whom he'd rather not be lumped in with. He seemed, though, to be trying to draw a distinction between his own company -- which accepted a bailout from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, but is generally seen as having weathered the financial crisis better than many other major firms -- and banks that needed a greater degree of government assistance during and after the meltdown.

But Dimon's critics may not be persuaded by his argument. After all, JPMorgan Chase received $25 billion through the U.S. Treasury under TARP and at least $3 billion from the Federal Reserve in 2008 -- the same year that Dimon took home about $19.7 million in salary, stock and options. Dimon's compensation later climbed to $23 million in 2010 and 2011, as JPMorgan overtook Bank of America to become the nation's largest bank by assets.

Ramona Fricosu Is Ordered By Judge To Decrypt Laptop In Bank Fraud Case

DENVER -- A federal judge has ordered a woman to provide an unencrypted version of her laptop's hard drive in a ruling that raises the question of whether turning over a password amounts to self-incrimination.

Friscosu's attorney, Philip Dubois, says he plans to appeal Monday's ruling.

Prosecutors say allowing criminal defendants to beat search warrants by encrypting their computers would make it impossible to obtain evidence.

Civil-liberties groups across the country are opposing the government. They're calling it a test of rights against self-incrimination in a digital world.

Original Article
Source: Huff 
Author: AP 

Who Is Sheldon Adelson, the Gingrich Super PAC's Billionaire Backer?

The shadowy billionaire bankrolling Newt Gingrich's super PAC is a Las Vegas casino magnate who's given tens of millions to Republican and pro-Israel causes over the years -- and now, to boosting Gingrich. Sands Corp. CEO Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, have each given the Winning Our Future super PAC $5 million to date, and the PAC has committed to spend $6 million on television advertising in Florida. He's also a pugnacious pioneer in the world of gaming and tourism who's changed the face of Las Vegas and Macau alike, a aggressive operator who once lost more than $20 billion in a single year and boasted of getting former Republican House leader Tom DeLay to do his bidding.

Adelson, 78, is a man of many facets, with a long and colorful history in business and right-wing politics. Here are 10 things you might not know about the man whose money has helped change the course of the GOP presidential race.

Paul Martin to Harper On First Nations: Get On With It, You Wasted 6 Years

OTTAWA - Paul Martin does nothing to mask his frustration on the other end of a telephone line.

The former prime minister and architect of the scuttled Kelowna Accord tried to find something to salvage in the historic talks between First Nations chiefs and Stephen Harper. Instead, what he saw was the federal government wasting more time and sending the chiefs home empty handed.

"The government has nothing concrete to say," Martin told The Canadian Press. "They wasted six years."

The joint statement between Harper and the chiefs released Tuesday committed to a task force on economic development and a working group on the structure of government financing of First Nations.
It also committed to reviewing a report on education, as well as processes to improve governance and the implementation of treaties.

But all that work has already been done many times over, Martin said.

"All of this preliminary work that they're now talking about doing has been done. It's there. It's on the record."

Northern Gateway: Joe Oliver, Federal Energy Minister Says Pipeline Would Transform Native Communities

CALGARY - Canada's Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver says he expects legislation to be introduced this year as a way of streamlining the regulatory process and preventing excessive delays on major energy projects.

Oliver made his comments in a speech Wednesday afternoon to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce as lengthy public hearings continue on the Northern Gateway pipeline from Alberta to northwestern British Columbia.

Enbridge (TSX:ENB) wants to build a 1,170-kilometre twin pipeline that would carry oilsands bitumen from Alberta to Kitimat, B.C., where huge tanker ships would transport it to Asia.

Public hearings into the proposed $5.5-billion pipeline got underway in Alberta this past week. More than 4,000 individuals have signed up to speak about the project in hearings across Alberta and B.C. over the next 18 months.

"One wild card remains — an unpredictable, often increasingly lengthy and needlessly complex regulatory process. Bad processes do not produce good environmental outcomes," Oliver said in his half-hour speech.

"There is risk of abuse. The prime minister used the term hijacked by those who oppose the development of hydrocarbons on purely ideological grounds," he added.

Oliver told reporters that he wants changes made in a timely fashion and it will require legislation.

U.S. To Cut Upcoming Purchase of F-35 By 179 Jets, Pushing That Buy To Later Years To Save Money

Reuters news service is reporting on the Pentagon’s new spending plans, soon to be unveiled, that will help the U.S. military deal with the ongoing pressure to save money/cut back on spending.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the number of combat brigades stationed in Europe would be cut in half, from four to two. Some analysts are already predicting that the overall size of the U.S. Army, slated to drop to 520,000 by 2016, could be further reduced to 490,000.

Here is what Reuters is now reporting:

- Lockheed’s F-35 jet fighter program, the Pentagon’s largest at $382 billion, will face its third restructuring in three years, with officials slashing 179 jets from the five-year budget and pushing their purchase to later years at a savings of more than $20 billion.

- The Navy will maintain a fleet of 11 aircraft carriers, but has not clarified if it will award a contract to Huntington Ingalls Industries for the next carrier on schedule.

- The Navy will retire seven aging cruisers and several amphibious warships, saving money on increasingly expensive maintenance and upgrades.

- It will also propose multiyear procurements of more DDG-51 destroyers and Virginia-class submarines, both built by General Dynamics Corp and Huntington Ingalls, moves that could save about $4 billion by allowing bulk purchases of materials.

- The Navy will also propose a multiyear procurement for more V-22 Ospreys, a tiltrotor aircraft built by Boeing Co and Textron Inc’s Bell Helicopter unit that flies like a plane but takes off and like a helicopter.

- The Air Force will lose several programs, including upgrades to its C-130 cargo planes being done by Boeing Co, a troubled weather satellite being built by Northrop, and a new helicopter to replace the Bell UH-1N, which provides security to U.S. nuclear ballistic missile fields.

- The Air Force will continue design work on a new bomber and get two additional orders for a Lockheed communications satellite, and one more Lockheed missile warning satellite.

- The Army would rebalance its mix of active duty troops and the National Guard and Reserve, which cost less to fund but can be called up more rapidly than reconstituting a force from scratch.

- The Army’s new software-based radio being developed for use in ground vehicles is expected to be canceled, although the handheld version of the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) will survive.

Original Article
Source: ottawa citizen  
Author: Defence Watch