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.]

Friday, February 03, 2012

Koch Brothers, Allies Pledge $100 Million At Private Meeting To Beat Obama

WASHINGTON -- At a private three-day retreat in California last weekend, conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch and about 250 to 300 other individuals pledged approximately $100 million to defeat President Obama in the 2012 elections.

A source who was in the room when the pledges were made told The Huffington Post that, specifically, Charles Koch pledged $40 million and David pledged $20 million.

The semi-annual, invitation-only meeting attracts wealthy donors, Republican politicians and conservative activists. Last year, hundreds of activists gathered outside the walled-off resort to protest the meeting. This year, however, the conference went off quietly.

"Conference organizers and their guests successfully slipped in and out of the Coachella Valley without being detected, by buying out nearly all of the 500-plus rooms at the Renaissance Esmeralda resort in Indian Wells," reported The Desert Sun. "The resort closed its restaurants, locked down the grounds with private security guards and sent many workers home."

This is the ninth straight year the Kochs have hosted the conference. As Politico reported last year, the meetings often adjourn "after soliciting pledges of support from the donors -- sometimes totaling as much as $50 million -- to nonprofit groups favored by the Kochs."

The fact that the wealthy conservative donors pledged $100 million for the 2012 elections shows how intent they are on trying to get Obama out of office -- and previews how intense, and likely nasty, the general election will be.

Anonymous Claims It Intercepted FBI Conference Call

LONDON — Trading jokes and swapping leads, investigators from the FBI and Scotland Yard spent the conference call strategizing about how to bring down the hacking collective known as Anonymous, responsible for a string of embarrassing attacks across the Internet.

Unfortunately for the cyber sleuths, the hackers were in on the call too – and now so is the rest of the world.

Anonymous published the roughly 15-minute-long recording of the call on the Internet on Friday, gloating in a Twitter message that "the FBI might be curious how we're able to continuously read their internal comms for some time now."

The humiliating coup exposed a vulnerability that might have had more serious consequences had someone else been listening in on the line.

"A law enforcement agency using unencrypted, unsecure communications is a major fumble," said Marcus Carey, who spent years securing communications for the U.S. National Security Agency before joining security-risk assessment firm Rapid7.

Mabe Plant To Close, But Quebec Government Wants Its $1.9 Million Back

MONTREAL - The Quebec government's investment arm wants its $1.9 million back from a company preparing to leave the province.

Home appliance-maker Mabe has announced it will slash 700 jobs in Montreal.

It says it will close the Canadian plant, which manufactures brand-name dryers, by 2014. The company also has operations in the U.S. and Mexico and blames its woes here on the high Canadian dollar.

Invest Quebec says it provided the company money to refurbish the plant and buy new equipment.

But it says Mabe was supposed to keep at least 500 jobs at the Montreal plant, until 2016.

Invest Quebec is demanding repayment, warning that it would otherwise take the "appropriate measures."

Original Article
Source: Huff 
Author: canadian press 

Attawapiskat Court Ruling: Judge Won't Remove Appointed Third-Party Manager

OTTAWA - A Federal Court judge has refused to remove the federal government's third-party manager appointed to handle the affairs of a northern Ontario reserve.

The Attawapiskat First Nation sought a temporary injunction to remove the manager appointed last year by Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan.

The community argues the imposition of the outside manager threatened irreparable harm.

Chief Theresa Spence says the third-party management is costing the community money it should be spending on housing and other needs.

Judge Michael Phelan refused to issue the injunction.

In a ruling Friday, he said the community had not demonstrated that the third-party manager would cause real and lasting harm.

He did order the two sides to work together on acquiring 22 trailers to alleviate the community's housing crisis.

Muted Tories increasingly inaccessible to parliamentary media

After the May 2 election, some of my colleagues in the Parliamentary Press Gallery speculated that the majority victory will allow the Conservatives to finally loosen the screws on their notoriously controlled communications apparatus.

Maybe the media would get more chances to, you know, actually speak to cabinet ministers about matters of national importance and ask them questions on public policy. With a strong, stable majority government, surely a spirit of glasnost would overtake the Tories, some believed.

Recall that when Stephen Harper took office in 2006, one of the first orders of business was to end the long-standing practice of allowing the media to question ministers after cabinet meetings.

Instead, we’d have to rely on scrums after Question Period to hold ministers to account — but only if they wanted to play along. After Question Period, MPs leaving the House of Commons pass through the foyer, but most often, Tory cabinet ministers take the rear doors and leave through the north corridor, where media are not allowed.

Caterpillar closing part of a coordinated attack on unions

The timing of Caterpillar Inc.’s decision to close its locked-out London locomotive plant was no accident.

On Wednesday, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels signed into law a so-called right-to-work bill making his state the first in the U.S. industrial north to directly take on private-sector unions.

Two days later, Caterpillar — which is based in next-door Illinois — closed its unionized London plant.

Since it locked out 460 Canadian workers in January, the giant U.S. firm had made little secret of its intent to move their jobs to Muncie, Indiana.

All it was waiting for, apparently, was a signal that the state government there was serious about crippling trade unions.

The London plant closing is not an isolated event. It is part of a coordinated attack across North America on unions and wages.

Last year, Wisconsin famously passed a law stripping state employees of most bargaining rights.

In Canada, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government gratuitously involved itself, on the employer’s side, in two separate private-sector labour disputes involving Air Canada.

The reason Harper gave was his alleged desire to protect the economy which, according to his government, might have been terminally compromised if travellers had been forced to shift to alternate carriers like WestJet.

tephen Harper says he’s looking beyond his mandate when proposing OAS changes

OTTAWA—Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he is looking beyond the mandate he received in the last election in proposing to reduce future retirement benefits for Canadians.

Asked why he didn’t raise the need to change seniors’ benefits during the election campaign, Harper said the Conservatives received a mandate from voters on May 2 to eliminate Ottawa’s $31 billion budget deficit “and we are going to be acting on that.”

And the budget can be balanced “without touching pensions or without touching retirement issues,” he told Postmedia Friday. He appeared to be referring to the Conservatives’ hopes to eliminate the deficit in several years while proposed changes to Old Age Security benefits are expected to be phased in more gradually.

“But I think governments do have a responsibility to look beyond their mandate,” the Prime Minister added. “And obviously we want to be the government for a very long time, so I think we should, as a government, responsibly try and foresee problems and address them before they come upon us.”

While saying no decisions have been taken, Harper said the government is considering raising the age of eligibility for OAS benefits from 65 to 67. But he repeated that current retirees or those approaching retirement will not be affected.

Rick Santorum Warns Voters Of America's Demise

LAKEWOOD, Colo. -- Rick Santorum's campaign slogan could very well be one word: doomsday.

To hear him tell it, the United States will collapse under the weight of its health care system and basic freedoms will be history. Iran will annihilate Israel and then South Carolina if Iran isn't blocked from building a nuclear weapon. And divorce will yield higher taxes for all Americans.

Unless, of course, Republicans pick Santorum as the party's presidential nominee and he goes on to defeat President Barack Obama.

"Go back and read what the sirens did once you arrived on that island," Santorum warned students at Colorado Christian University this week, invoking mythology. "They devour you. They destroy you. They consume you."

"Ladies and gentleman we cannot listen to the siren song," he added. "We cannot listen to President Obama and we can't listen to those in our party who want to be just a little bit less than what the Democrats and the left is doing to our country."

It was standard fare for the former Pennsylvania senator. He doesn't mince words in campaign speeches in which he describes how – in his view – the country is heading down the wrong path and the government is growing too big. Gloom and doom usually pepper his remarks. And he often argues that America will falter if he fails to win the nomination.

Komen’s Choice

In 1731, Benjamin Franklin’s nineteen-year-old sister, Jane, wrote to her brother that their sister Mary, a mother of three, was dying of breast cancer. Franklin was in Philadelphia; his sisters were in Boston. “I know a cancer in the breast is often thought incurable,” Franklin wrote Jane, “yet we have here in town a kind of shell made of some wood, cut at a proper time, by some man of great skill (as they say,) which has done wonders in that disease among us, being worn for some time on the breast.” Mary died later that year. There was no cure. There is still no cure.

On Tuesday, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the breast-cancer fund-raiser and sponsor of an annual pink-ribbon Race for the Cure, announced that it would no longer support Planned Parenthood. In 2011, Planned Parenthood received six hundred and eighty thousand dollars from Komen to administer breast-cancer screenings at its clinics.

Komen has been pressured to cut ties with Planned Parenthood for years. This week, it named as the catalyst for its action a congressional investigation into Planned Parenthood launched in September by Cliff Stearns, a Florida Republican. But Stearns’s inquiry, as I reported in the magazine in November, is only one feature of a much broader effort to defund Planned Parenthood. A year ago, that campaign nearly led to a shutdown of the federal government.

The people who have urged Komen to stop supporting Planned Parenthood aren’t opposed to breast-cancer screenings; they’re opposed to other services Planned Parenthood provides, which include contraception and abortion. But a campaign to sever the ties between a foundation that’s raising money to find a cure for breast cancer and a health-care provider that advocates for reproductive rights exposes more than a division over contraception and abortion. It exposes a gruesome truth about politics in this country.

Goldman Sachs Faces Mortgage Debt Class-Action Lawsuit Over Misleading Investors

Feb 3 (Reuters) - Goldman Sachs Group Inc was ordered by a federal judge to face a securities class-action lawsuit accusing it of misleading investors about a 2006 offering of securities backed by risky mortgage loans from a now-defunct lender.

U.S. District Judge Harold Baer in Manhattan certified a class-action lawsuit by investors in the GSAMP Trust 2006-S2, a $698 million offering of certificates based on a pool of second-lien home mortgages.

The underlying loans were made by New Century Financial Corp, a subprime mortgage specialist that went bankrupt in 2007.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit said New Century ignored its own underwriting standards and used improper appraisals when making the loans, and Goldman failed to conduct adequate due diligence when it bought the loans and packaged them into securities.

Baer's decision is dated Feb. 2. (Reporting By Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)

Original Article
Source: Huff 
Author: Reuters 

Jobs Report Pooh-Poohed By Republicans, Who Cite High Unemployment

WASHINGTON -- Congressional Republicans pooh-poohed the latest jobs report on Friday, saying that while the decline in the unemployment rate might be good, it would have been better if they were in charge.

The Labor Department announced Friday morning that the economy had added 243,000 jobs in January and that the national unemployment rate had continued to decline, from 8.5 percent to 8.3 percent. While this is the 16th straight month of job growth, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) joined several other House Republicans in a press conference to point out it's the 36th consecutive month with an unemployment rate above 8 percent.

"There are flickers of hope in our recovery, and certainly they are welcome," Boehner said. "But the American people were promised by the president that unemployment would not exceed 8 percent, and here we are at 36 straight months with unemployment over 8 percent."

Of course, politicians always spin the monthly jobs update. But Friday's announcement, notwithstanding concerns about long-term joblessness and the shrunken size of the labor force, is the latest of several broadly positive reports. A reporter at the conference asked Boehner if he really thought it was so bad: "This has been a very negative news conference despite the good news this morning. Aren’t the numbers some indication that the economy is headed in the right direction under the president’s policies?"

Eric Schneiderman Sues BofA, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase Over Electronic Mortgage Fraud

Three big banks were hit on Friday with yet another lawsuit related to wrongful foreclosures. Democratic New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed suit against Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo for deceptive and fraudulent use of a private database used to register mortgages, according to a Friday press release from his office.

Schneiderman has been outspoken in urging the Obama administration to hold the nation's largest financial institutions accountable for their role in the foreclosure crisis, notably hesitating to join a larger nationwide case against the country's five largest banks for mortgage fraud. States now have until Monday, according to the Iowa attorney general's office, to decide to join that deal.

The New York attorney general has yet to announce whether New York will participate in the deal because of concerns that joining the settlement would make it impossible for him to file his own, state-based lawsuits against the banks, said sources close to the negotiations who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The decision to bring this lawsuit on Friday indicates that the larger nationwide settlement is now more to Schneiderman's pleasing, said a source familiar with the discussions.

"If the deal terms had been decided six months ago, a state couldn't have pursued this kind of lawsuit," said the source. "The fact that Schneiderman has filed this case suggests that the terms of the deal have changed since then."

Canadian 'B Corps' Put Their Money Where Their Branding Is On Social Causes

For-profit companies that trumpet a commitment to social and environmental causes often struggle to prove to investors and customers that their dedication to betterment runs deeper than a clever green-washing campaign.

But that has begun to change.

A growing number of Canadian companies are now becoming certified as “B Corps,” a new designation that seeks to distinguish firms that are committed to improving more than their bottom line.

The aim, says Dermot Hikisch of B Lab, a Pennsylvania-based non-profit that has certified more than 500 B Corporations in the U.S. since 2007, is to do the same thing for companies serious about addressing social and environmental issues as Fair Trade certification has done for firms dedicated to ethical labour practices.

“Consumers, investors and even employees aren’t necessarily believing what a company says until they have a third party seal of approval on it,” Hikisch told The Huffington Post. “B Lab acts as that third party standard to make sure these companies are as good as they say they are.”

Since 2009, 39 Canadian companies -- ranging from engineering firms to coffee retailers -- have become designated B Corps, with 27 new companies certifying in the past year.

Conservative Fundraising: Lead On Other Canadian Parties Narrows

The Conservatives remain Canada’s best funded political party, but for the first time in five years they are no longer taking in most of Canada’s political donations.

Financial reports posted on the Elections Canada website this week show that the Conservatives raised $4.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2011. While this was more than any other party, it was the worst fourth quarter result since before Stephen Harper became prime minister. Nevertheless, the Conservatives raised more than twice as much money as their next closest competitor.

The Liberals, despite their poor showing in the May election and their third place standing in the House of Commons, managed to raise $2.8 million in the fourth quarter, their best end-of-year result since 2006.

The New Democrats pulled in $1.6 million. Though that was their worst fourth quarter result since 2007, they had the most individual contributors since 2005.

The Greens raised $383,000 while the Bloc Québécois doubled their third quarter intake by raising $162,000. That is still well below what the Bloc raised in past fourth quarters, and less than half what they raised at the end of 2010.

Neo-Nazi Member Calls Hacking 'An Invasion Of Privacy'

Some Canadians whose associations with white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups were recently revealed, are defending their involvement with the organizations, while others deny having anything to do with the groups anymore.

CBC News reported Wednesday that the names of 74 Canadians were found in files leaked by computer hackers in Europe who were intent on exposing hate movements. The identities were revealed on a website called Nazi Leaks, which is now offline.

“It is an invasion of privacy,” said Joel Henry, of Langley, B.C., in a telephone interview with CBC News Thursday.

“I have my beliefs and I still have my beliefs,” said Henry. “It’s just certain members of the group want to go out and beat the s--t out of people and I don’t condone that.”

McLean Welsh, of Nanaimo, B.C., who is attending school in Quebec, sought to distance himself from one of the hacked organizations.

“I could be on the list because I bought a couple T-shirts off that website a couple of years ago,” said Welsh, when reached via Skype. “For instance, the shirt I’m wearing right now.”

Welsh said he has severed his ties with the group.

“I joined the Stormfront once and it just didn’t appeal to me,” said Welsh. “Because as soon as you say you’re proud to be white, you’re automatically associated with a Nazi party.”

Why Job Growth In U.S. Is Outpacing Canada

The release of Canadian and U.S. job numbers suggests Canada's economy has stalled, while its American counterpart seems to be gaining momentum.

According to figures released on Friday, the Canadian economy added only 2,300 jobs in January. In comparison, the U.S. added 243,000 jobs, the most since April and May 2010.

One reason for the disparity is simply that the U.S., hit harder by the economic downturn, has more ground to make up than Canada.

"Our economy is at a higher level," Derek Burleton, deputy chief economist at TD Bank, told CBC News. "One would expect the U.S. to grow more quickly than Canada at this stage of the cycle because we have less room for growth."

Canada's unemployment rate is lower than that of the U.S., and the Canadian economy outperformed the U.S during the recession and the early stages of the recovery, he noted.

Canada January Unemployment Rate Edges Up To 7.6%; Job Creation Flat

OTTAWA - Statistics Canada says the country's unemployment rate rose to 7.6 per cent last month as the economy continued to struggle to produce new jobs.

Employment increased by a statistically insignificant 2,300 jobs.

But at the same time there were 23,700 more Canadians looking for jobs in January, which accounts for the climb in the jobless rate.

The monthly employment numbers were significantly weaker than economist had predicted, and there were few regions or industries of strength anywhere in the country.

Employment rose in the education sector, information, culture and recreation, and in other service industries.

Meanwhile, there were big losses in the professional, scientific and technical services industries, and construction shed jobs despite the unseasonably warm temperatures during the month.

Original Article
Source: Huff 
Author: canadian press 

Electro-Motive Lockout: Caterpillar To Close London, Ont. Plant, Company Says

TORONTO -- Caterpillar Inc. has announced that it will close the Electro-Motive plant in London, bringing a swift end to one of the most bitter labour disputes in decades, and igniting outrage and disappointment among union leaders and politicians.

“I’m disgusted. I’m angry,” CAW President Ken Lewenza told The Huffington Post Friday morning, shortly after learning of the decision. “I’ve seen workplace closures through consolidation, because the company went out of business, but I have never seen such a profitable company take such great advantage of a workforce and of a community as Caterpillar has done in this community.”

Despite reaping record profits in 2011, the Illinois-based heavy machinery manufacturing giant, which owns Electro-Motive through its subsidiary Progress Rail, articulated on Friday morning that it will cease operations at the locomotive assembly plant, realizing the worst fears of 481 CAW workers who were locked out of the facility on Jan. 1.

Contract talks broke down after union leaders refused a deal that would have cut benefits and slashed wages by more than half, from $35 to $16.50, giving rise to rumours that the company was planning to shift operations to a newly opened plant in Muncie, Ind., where workers are paid between $12 and $18 an hour.

Canada charts dangerous course

The wizened mullahs who rule Iran are odious and unhinged. But are they suicidal? Would they take actions that would see themselves, their country and millions of their people burn in the nuclear fire?

This is a question we must ask as the Conservative government continues to quietly but unmistakably set the stage for eventual Canadian involvement in a looming Israeli military campaign against Iran's nuclear program.

If it happens, the already tenuous balance of chaos in the Middle East will crack like an eggshell, with unknown consequences.

First, let's establish this: Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Foreign Minister John Baird are indeed laying the table - using very careful, deliberate language.

First came Harper's Jan. 16 interview with the CBC's Peter Mansbridge. Said the PM: ". These are people who have a particular, you know, fanatically religious world view, and their statements imply to me no hesitation of using nuclear weapons if they see them achieving their religious or political purposes."

Goodbye Charlie Brown: the sequel

It doesn’t happen often, but what a beautiful sight to see when it does. Every once in a while the Canadian public flexes its muscles and tells a prime minister: “Oh no you don’t, buddy!”

That is what’s happening on pensions. We are witnessing Stephen Harper’s “Goodbye Charlie Brown” moment.

For reasons known only to Mr. Harper, last week he chose to muse about Canada’s aging population and the impact on the future of public pensions at a gathering of the world’s elite at a luxury Swiss resort. He did not make a statement in our House of Commons, where it would have signaled a respect for the Canadian people. No, instead it was delivered to that august crowd in Davos, Switzerland. If anyone wonders where the “1 percent” hangs out, just go to Davos in January.

Our Tim Horton’s Prime Minister flew by taxpayer-funded luxury private jet to the five star luxury resort in the heart of the Swiss Alps where royals take ski holidays. This is an annual gathering of central bankers, investment bankers, hedge fund managers, private equity titans, consultants and think-tank types. So, why did we pay for our prime minister and his sizable entourage to speak to this international audience of billionaires?

To talk to them about the “unsustainability” of Canada’s pension system, of course!

Mr. Harper and his finance minister have taken to giving sermons to the world on the wonderful work they have done to stabilize and grow Canada’s economy. They talk incessantly about how wonderful our banks are, how healthy our balance sheet is, and how, by implication, just plain bloody smart and talented Stephen Harper and his ministers are.

Capital punishment in Canada? It's not so crazy

On Wednesday, Conservative Senator Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu was heading into a caucus meeting when a reporter asked him if the Tories had any intention of bringing back the death penalty in Canada. He answered that he himself did not support the death penalty. But in certain cases - where rehabilitation is not an option - the Senator added in French: "Basically I think that every murderer should have a rope in his cell and he can decide on his own life. But I'm against the death penalty."

So he doesn't support killing criminals, per se. He just supports them not being alive anymore.

The Senator was predictably assailed from all sides, and quickly backtracked. But was that retreat really necessary? Canadians do seem to be willing to have a discussion about capital punishment. A survey by Angus Reid in 2010 found that a strong majority of Canadians - a full 62% - are supportive of capital punishment for homicide. So much for NDP leader Nycole Turmel's contention that a procapital punishment viewpoint "doesn't represent the Canadian society at all." It might not represent the Canadian society the NDP wishes existed, but it's the NDP that's offside with Canadians on this one. Mr. Boisvenu may have awkwardly stumbled into a potential winning issue for the Conservatives.
And there would be no one better than Mr. Boisvenu to carry that banner. Before being appointed to the upper chamber in 2010, he spent years as a victims' advocate, his passion driven in large part by the kidnapping and sex-killing of his adult daughter Julie in 2002. His personal story, plus the fact that he would not be an enthusiastic supporter of capital punishment, make him the perfect candidate to sell a limited use of capital punishment in the Canadian justice system. There's willingness among Canadians there. We just need someone to lead the charge.

Not that it will happen, of course. Capital punishment, despite not being explicitly declared a no-go area by the Tories (like gay marriage and abortion), is probably too controversial for them to touch. Indeed, the Prime Minister has already expressed his "personal support" for capital punishment in limited case, but also said his government wouldn't introduce legislation (and even that was enough to trigger howls of outrage from the opposition).

Pity. Until and unless a Canadian government moves to recognize the desire of the people for a return of capital punishment, hoping our worst killers off themselves will remain our country's secondbest option by default.

Original Article
Source: National Post 
Author: Matt Gurney 

Senator's rope comment draws criminal complaint

A Quebec man has filed a criminal complaint against Senator Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu for a comment he believes could incite suicide.

The complaint comes after the Conservative senator said this week that he was against the death penalty, but not opposed to ropes being left in the cells of serial killers who have no chance of rehabilitation. He said they should have the option of taking their own life.

The senator later apologized for the comment.

Jacques McBrearty, a Saguenay resident, said he was disturbed by Boisvenu’s remarks and decided to file a complaint with provincial police.

“I was quite shocked and upset about the way he talked about the people in jail,” McBrearty said.

“If I don’t [file a complaint], who will? I’m the kind of guy that if something needs to be done, I do it myself.”

Under the Canadian Criminal Code, it is an offence to counsel, assist or encourage anyone to commit suicide.

The #EnemyGate scandal

Canadians deserve to know the truth about what was said between the Prime Minister's Office and Tides Canada CEO, Ross McMillan.

Some of you may be familiar with my story as a whistleblower. For those who aren't, here's the Coles Notes version: My name is Andrew Frank, and last week I was fired from ForestEthics Canada, a charitable project of Tides Canada, an environmental charity.

I was fired because I gave Tides Canada CEO, Ross McMillan, the "heads up" that I was going to swear an affidavit, and go public with a story that the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) had threatened his charity and labelled ForestEthics an "Enemy of the Government of Canada" and an "Enemy of the People of Canada."

It's a story that was confirmed for me by several senior sources at Tides, as well as through email correspondence, all of which is included in my sworn affidavit. It also turns out it was common knowledge within the environmental community, even among people who were not employed by Tides Canada or ForestEthics.

On Friday, January 20, I told Mr. McMillan that under the media spotlight, he would have a chance to tell the truth and be on the right side of history. He thanked me for the "heads up" and then promptly made the decision to fire me over the weekend. My firing notice arrived on Monday, Jan. 23, just after I had sworn my affidavit, but before I had formally gone public with my story.

Obstinate Harper Fuels Pipeline Opposition

With no comprehensive climate policy, the government feeds local and international opposition to its proposed pipeline projects.

The proposed Northern Gateway pipeline to transport oil from Alberta to a new port here on the B.C. coast is shaping up to be the political battle of the year, if not the decade. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, stung by U.S. President Barack Obama’s call to delay a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline in the face of a vocal protest movement, has already tried to blame foreign interests for opposition to the Northern Gateway pipeline. The truth is, the Harper government has only itself to blame for the breadth and depth of the opposition to new pipelines that would ferry crude from the oil sands in Alberta.

If the Harper government were not so consistently obstinate on federal climate policy, people like me (a climate scientist who has long been wary of the NIMBYism of environmental groups) might not become vociferous opponents of projects like Northern Gateway. We are forced to oppose individual carbon-intensive projects because the government refuses to listen to scientific or economic reason on climate change.

Since their days in opposition, the Harper Conservatives have failed to take real action to address greenhouse-gas emissions. They have been unwilling to negotiate with other countries, other political parties, or even the provinces, on emissions targets or carbon pricing. They have promised initiatives like a cap-and-trade system for large industrial emitters, but have never delivered. They even recently softened their own proposed emissions regulations for coal-fired power plants, which were already full of loopholes, because of lobbying by industry.

American Job Numbers Up, Canadian Numbers Down

Are we beginning to see a reversal in the tale of two economies?

The American economy added 243,000 jobs in January, lowering the unemployment rate from 8.5 per cent to 8.3 per cent – the same level it was when Barack Obama first took office in 2009. Those 243,000 jobs vastly outperformed most economists' predictions of about 150,000 jobs being added in the first month of 2012, with the bulk of the new positions coming from the private sector, and manufacturing, hospitality, and business services in particular. All of this is shaping up rather nicely for the president that's overseen the last three years, despite no president being re-elected with unemployment above seven per cent since Franklin Roosevelt back in the 1930s.

And while the U.S. might be turning the page on a chapter full of economic frailty, Canada, whose leadership has boasted about the country's soundness and stability through the recession, can't say the same. Unemployment north of the border ticked up once again from 7.5 per cent to 7.6 per cent, as only 2,300 jobs were created in January – well short of the 25,000 that had been predicted. Not helping the numbers for February is the closure of a manufacturing plant in London, Ont., that produced diesel trains. Electro Motive, owned by Caterpillar, locked out 460 workers last month because they refused to take a 50-per-cent pay cut. The plant, which Prime Minister Stephen Harper used as a backdrop to unveil corporate tax cuts a couple years ago, will now be closing because labour issues could not be resolved. Asking your employees to take home half of what they made the year before tends to have that effect. Maybe the now unemployed workers can move to the greener pastures south of the border.

Original Article
Source: the Mark 
Author: -- 

U.S. Jobless Rate Falls to 8.3 Percent, a 3-Year Low

The United States economy gained momentum in January, as employers added 243,000 jobs, the second straight month of better-than-expected gains.       

And in a separate measure, the unemployment rate fell to 8.3 percent, giving a cause for optimism as the economy shapes up as the central issue in the presidential election.

Measured by both the unemployment rate and the number of jobless — which fell to 12.8 million — it was the strongest signal yet that an economic recovery was spreading to the jobs market. The last time the figures were as good was February 2009, President Obama’s first full month in office.

The report sent stocks up by over 1 percent in trading on Wall Street.

The White House used the new numbers as a platform to appeal for an extension of the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits. President Obama, speaking at a Washington-area firehouse to promote a jobs initiatives for veterans, and warned that more help was needed and called on Congress to aid with the economic recovery.

“These numbers will go up and down in the coming months, and there’s still far too many Americans who need a job or a job that pays better than the one they have now,” he said. “But the economy is growing stronger, the recovery is speeding up, and we have got to do everything in our power to keep it going.”

Stephen Harper’s confession

Paul Wells on why Harper’s warning was really an admission— the Tories behaved like trust fund babies

The priorities and planning committee of cabinet—Stephen Harper in the chair, Marjory LeBreton vice-chair, with members including ministers Jim Flaherty, Peter MacKay, Tony Clement, Jason Kenney, John Baird and Diane Finley—met at the Willson House conference centre at Meech Lake on Jan. 20 and 21.

Several other ministers were brought in to join what was, for this cabinet, an unusually detailed and freewheeling conversation. Agenda topics included energy, trade, and the report on subsidies for industrial innovation that Open Text chairman Tom Jenkins handed to the government last October. All of those items made it into the Prime Minister’s speech at Davos five days after the committee retreat ended.

Harper’s vague mention of changes to public pensions will get most of the attention. But I was struck by a few paragraphs higher up in the speech. The part where he lectures his peers—or, more gently, shares lessons learned—on the virtues of a virtuous government.

Where Canada goes from Keystone

The Obama administration’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline application has focused Canadians on the future of our energy exports. What does this mean for this key sector, and our trading relationships?

The reality of world energy demand is that it will increase by a third between 2010 and 2035, and that hydrocarbons will remain dominant – supplying almost three-quarters of global energy needs. Canada should stand to benefit if hydrocarbons remain a key energy source.

To reap these benefits, we need to recognize that less than 10 per cent of this increase in energy demand will come from OECD countries; rather, the drivers of energy demand are emerging economies, particularly in Asia. The sources of energy are also shifting: to unconventional oil and gas and to more unconventional geographies.

Harper's pension reform moves breed needless resentment

Most Canadians would be willing to discuss the retirement age, if they were asked.

But they weren’t.

The country’s basic pension program, Old Age Security, was launched 60 years ago when the average worker’s lifespan was 68.5 years. Today it’s 81.4 years.

Several western countries — Germany, Norway, the United States — have already raised their retirement ages. So there was nothing radical or groundbreaking about the reform Stephen Harper announced at a meeting of international decision-makers in Europe last week.

What was disturbing was the way the Prime Minister sprang the imperative of reducing seniors’ benefits on an unwary public, with no national debate, no explanation for its sudden urgency and no chance to consider alternatives.

Likewise, most Canadians would be open to adjusting the way immigrants are selected, if they were asked.

But they weren’t.

Tory senator says his idea to let murderers commit suicide in prison has support

OTTAWA—A Conservative senator says he’s been inundated with expressions of support for his unusual idea of providing rope to help murder convicts commit suicide in prison.

Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu says he’s received 500 to 600 messages of support in only one day.

Boisvenu had made an apparently off-the-cuff suggestion that killers be given rope in their prison cell — so that they could decide whether to hang themselves.

Although he apologized immediately for the language he used Wednesday, on Thursday he was sounding a little less apologetic.

He said it appeared many Canadians agreed with him.

“The comments I got from 500 people, maybe even 600, said the media are exaggerating this,” Boisvenu said.

“Also, these people are saying, ‘What Mr. Boisvenu said, that’s just what people think.’ The people who wrote to me, the majority are victims.”

Boisvenu was a prominent victims’ rights advocate whose daughter was murdered, and who lost another daughter in a car accident. He was named to the Senate last year by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Boisvenu suggested this week that he might agree with the death penalty in limited cases, because it could save the state on incarceration costs. He cited the multimillion-dollar cost of jailing killers like Clifford Olson and the Shafias.

Boisvenu said capital punishment could be used only in cases where there was no hope of rehabilitation.

But he added that he was against systematic capital punishment and he also stressed that the prime minister has made it clear he doesn’t want to reopen the debate. Canada abolished capital punishment in 1976 and the last executions were in 1962.

Original Article
Source: Star 
Author: The Canadian Press 

Caterpillar closes Electro-Motive plant in London

American industrial giant Caterpillar is closing its locomotive plant in London and putting 460 workers out of their jobs just over a month after they were locked out for rejecting pay cuts of up to 50 per cent.

The dramatic move at the Electro-Motive Canada factory, owned by Caterpillar subsidiary Progress Rail, confirmed the worst suspicions of the Canadian Auto Workers union before the lockout began.

“We said it had all the markings of a closure,” CAW president Ken Lewenza said Friday after the closure was announced by the company.

“They denied it at the time . . . but they did exactly what they planned to do. I’m pissed.”

Electro-Motive said labour costs were too high in London and sought to get them on par with its operations at a new plant in Muncie, Ind., where industry analysts have said the company could take advantage of “Buy American” policies.

“It is regrettable that it has become necessary to close production operations at the London facility,” Electro-Motive said in a statement, declining to answer further questions.

“The cost structure of the operation was not sustainable and efforts to negotiate a new, competitive collective agreement were not successful.”

Take new deal or we’ll impose it, city tells workers

The Mayor Rob Ford administration has moved aggressively against CUPE Local 416, tabling 11th-hour demands it says will be imposed on 6,000 city workers Sunday whether their union accepts them or not.

The threat — very unusual in the public sector and regarded as a way to get workers to accept an offer or force them to strike — pushes Toronto to the very brink of a work stoppage this weekend by outside workers.

Bruce Anderson, the city’s executive director of human resources, told reporters Friday the demands, suddenly tabled Thursday night after months of bargaining, will be unilaterally imposed at 12:01 a.m. Sunday.

Workers in Local 416, who include trash collectors, city rink staff, animal control officers and ferry operators, will be expected to turn up for work.

“All employees are expected to continue working and these new terms and conditions now apply to them,” Anderson said.

Fake Sun TV segment has mocked our democracy

When Stephen Harper’s government wants a happy clap-clap Canadian moment on Sun News, it goes the Full North Korean.

Yes, six of the “new Canadians” attending a “reaffirmation” ceremony for Citizenship Week in the Sun studios last fall turn out not to have been recently minted citizens after all. As The Canadian Press’ Jennifer Ditchburn has reported, they were actually federal bureaucrats told to smile and wave the damn flag like they meant it.

The thing looked like a school play with grown-ups. Sad frightened grown-ups.

According to CP, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s office had asked Sun News to do a soft news segment, at the network’s studio, on new citizens taking the oath. It does sound as though the Tories and Sun News are joined at the hip. I have never worked anywhere in journalism where the government phoned and asked you to do anything. Oh yeah, when an 8-year-old designs a Christmas stamp, we’ll be there.

But journalists and government never get together and fake stuff. That would be a firing offence, presumably on both sides. How times have changed.

As it happens, a day later the CBC ran an hour-long actual citizenship ceremony for 75 new Canadians. When the CBC does Canada, it goes the Full Canuck. They had a studio audience, a bagpiper full of pep, Mounties, bigwigs and, one hopes, boxes of Kleenex in every chair. I’ve been to our citizenship ceremonies, most recently for a dear American friend, and people weep like faucets.

So is it possible that Sun News got wind of the CBC’s excellent heartwarming adventure and tried to do it on the cheap with an in-house oath “reaffirmation” — is that a thing? — and called the immigration minister for help? Since Quebecor won’t comment on the debacle that ensued, we don’t know. But it does sound as though Sun and the feds chat frequently.

Anonymous penetrates FBI, Scotland Yard investigation of hacker group

A sensitive conference call between the FBI and Scotland Yard was recorded by the very people they were trying to catch, the hacking group known as Anonymous claimed Friday.

The FBI confirmed that hackers have intercepted a sensitive conference call between cybercrime investigators.

The loose-knit hacking collective known as Anonymous released a roughly 15-minute-long recording of what appears to be a Jan. 17 conference call devoted to tracking and prosecuting members of the loose-knit hacking collective.

The FBI said in a statement Friday that the information “was intended for law enforcement officers only and was illegally obtained.”

The bureau said it was hunting those responsible.

British police say the intercepted call poses no immediate risk to operations.

London police confirmed in a statement Friday that one of its e-crimes specialist was on the intercepted conference call but said that “at this stage no operational risks” to the police service had been identified.

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - VeriSign Inc, the company in charge of delivering people safely to more than half the world's websites, has been hacked repeatedly by outsiders who stole undisclosed information from the leading Internet infrastructure company.

The previously unreported breaches occurred in 2010 at the Reston, Virginia-based company, which is ultimately responsible for the integrity of Web addresses ending in .com, .net and .gov.

VeriSign said its executives "do not believe these attacks breached the servers that support our Domain Name System network," which ensures people land at the right numeric Internet Protocol address when they type in a name such as, but it did not rule anything out.

VeriSign's domain-name system processes as many as 50 billion queries daily. Pilfered information from it could let hackers direct people to faked sites and intercept email from federal employees or corporate executives, though classified government data moves through more secure channels.

"Oh my God," said Stewart Baker, former assistant secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and before that the top lawyer at the National Security Agency. "That could allow people to imitate almost any company on the Net."

Unemployed College Graduates As Vulnerable As High School Dropouts To Long-Term Unemployment: Report

College graduates and advanced degree holders, once they are unemployed, are as vulnerable as high school dropouts to long-term joblessness, a new study has found.

Thirty five percent of unemployed college graduates and those with advanced degrees have been without a job for more than a year, the same rate as unemployed high school dropouts, according to a Pew Fiscal Analysis Initiative study published Wednesday. In fact, the long-term unemployment rate, for those 25 and older without a job, is nearly the same across all levels of educational attainment, the report says.

"A slowly rising number of job vacancies...hurts people regardless of their educational attainment," said Gary Burtless, labor economist at the liberal think tank Brookings Institution. Nonetheless, he added: "Relatively speaking, there's still a payoff to going to college. The college degree still has some vaccination effects against becoming a long-term unemployed person."

Indeed, getting a college degree is a good bet for avoiding unemployment in the first place. The unemployment rate of college graduates who are at least 25 years old is just 4.1 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In contrast, 13.8 percent of high school dropouts, 8.7 percent of high school graduates, and 7.7 percent of college dropouts are unemployed.

The percentage of the labor force that faces long-term unemployment is at a record high of 2.8 percent, according to the Pew report. Thirteen million Americans are unemployed, 4 million (or 31 percent) of whom have been unemployed for more than a year.

Republicans and Democrats have clashed frequently over federal unemployment insurance ever since the unemployed first became eligible for 99 weeks of benefits at the end of 2009.

Once Americans are out of work for more than a year, they face a slew of challenges. Even in the most generous states, unemployment insurance benefits do not last longer than 99 weeks. When the long-term unemployed lose government benefits, the anxiety can be crushing.

The long-term unemployed also often face job discrimination, as many employers prefer to hire workers with fresh experience. A number of employers require job applicants to be "currently employed" in order to be considered for a position.

Original Article
Source: Huff 
Author: Bonnie Kavoussi 

Religious Profiling: Document Shows NYPD Recommended Increased Surveillance Of Shiite Muslims

NEW YORK -- The New York Police Department recommended increasing surveillance of thousands of Shiite Muslims and their mosques, based solely on their religion, as a way to sweep the Northeast for signs of Iranian terrorists, according to interviews and a newly obtained secret police document.

The document offers a rare glimpse into the thinking of NYPD intelligence officers and how, when looking for potential threats, they focused their spying efforts on mosques and Muslims. Police analysts listed a dozen mosques from central Connecticut to the Philadelphia suburbs. None has been linked to terrorism, either in the document or publicly by federal agencies.

The Associated Press has reported for months that the NYPD infiltrated mosques, eavesdropped in cafes and monitored Muslim neighborhoods with plainclothes officers. Its spying operations were begun after the 2001 terror attacks with help from the CIA in a highly unusual partnership.

The May 2006 NYPD intelligence report, entitled "US-Iran Conflict: The Threat to New York City," made a series of recommendations, including: "Expand and focus intelligence collections at Shi'a mosques."

The NYPD is prohibited under its own guidelines and city law from basing its investigations on religion. Under FBI guidelines, which the NYPD says it follows, many of the recommendations in the police document would be prohibited.

Should All Americans Have to Earn Their Citizenship?

Ever since the ratification of the 14th Amendment, the rule in the United States has generally been that if you are born here, you are a citizen. In recent months, though, congressional Republicans like Steve King have called for an end to birthright citizenship. They've been fixated on people who immigrate illegally (usually, in the telling, from Mexico) to have a so-called "anchor baby" on American soil, allowing a whole clan to claw its way into citizenship.

Put aside for now the way "anchor baby" has become as mean-spirited a meme as "welfare queen" once was. Put aside the consensus among most legal scholars that an end to birthright citizenship would require not an act of Congress but a repeal of Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment. Put aside, even, the powerful stories of people like Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer-winning journalist and recently admitted undocumented immigrant whose project has given voice to many other former "anchor babies."

All of this begs a question: Why should citizenship be a matter of birth? The premise held by those who want to end birthright citizenship is that some people deserve it and some do not - that the status shouldn't be handed out automatically. Frankly, that's a premise worth considering.

What if being born here counted for exactly nothing? How would you earn citizenship if it weren't given conferred by the accident of birth? To put it more sharply: What if, in order to earn citizenship, Americans whose families have been here for generations were subject to the very same requirements as newcomers?

Susan G. Komen Top Officials Resign As Backlash Gains Steam

Dr. Kathy Plesser, a Manhattan radiologist on the medical advisory board of Susan G. Komen for the Cure's New York chapter, said she plans to resign from her position unless Komen reverses its decision to pull grant money from Planned Parenthood.

"I’m a physician and my interest is women’s health, and I am disturbed by Komen’s decision because I am a very strong advocate for serving under-served women," Plesser told The Huffington Post. "Eliminating this funding will mean there’s no place for these women to go. Where are these women to go to have a mammography? Do they not deserve to have mammography?"

With her decision, Plesser joins Komen's top public health official, Mollie Williams, and the executive director of Komen's Los Angeles County chapter, Deb Anthony, both of whom also resigned in protest.

Susan G. Komen, the nation's largest breast cancer charity, announced on Tuesday that it had adopted a new rule against partnering with organizations that are under investigation, and that it would therefore sever ties with Planned Parenthood, which is currently under investigation in Congress. The groups that prompted that investigation are anti-abortion advocacy organizations that have long criticized Planned Parenthood, primarily a women's health and family planning organization, over the fact that some of its clinics offer abortions.

Nancy Brinker, the CEO of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, appeared on MSNBC on Thursday afternoon to deny that Komen's decision to end grants to Planned Parenthood had anything to do with politics.

"I'm troubled that it's been labeled as political," Brinker told host Andrea Mitchell. "This is not a political decision."

In the appearance, Brinker gave a revised set of reasons for why they are stopping the grants for breast cancer screenings. Komen initially claimed that it was ending the grant because a congressional investigation of Planned Parenthood launched by an anti-abortion lawmaker triggered a new internal rule against funding any program that is under investigation by federal, state, or local government. Now Brinker says the decision was less about the investigation and more about Komen's revised grant standards.

"Our issue is grant excellence. They do pass-through grants with their screening grants, they send people to other facilities," Brinker said. "We want to do more direct service grants." She made a similar claim in a call with reporters later on Wednesday, arguing that the grants have been terminated because Planned Parenthood doesn't generally provide mammograms directly.

Soaking the Poor, State by State

You have heard, perhaps, that rich people in America are egregiously overtaxed. And the poor? They're the lucky duckies! Why, 47 percent of Americans pay no taxes at all!

(This is not true, of course. Many poor and elderly Americans pay no federal income tax, but they pay plenty of other taxes.)

Still and all, it's true that the federal income tax is indeed progressive. Conservatives are right about that—though it's not as progressive as it used to be, back before top marginal rates were lowered and capital gains taxes were slashed in half. But conservatives are a little less excited to talk about other kinds of taxes. Payroll taxes aren't progressive, for example. In fact, they're actively regressive, with the poor and middle classes paying higher rates than the rich.

And then there are state taxes. Those include state income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, and fees of various kinds. How progressive are state taxes?

Answer: They aren't. The Corporation for Enterprise Development recently released a scorecard for all 50 states, and it has boatloads of useful information. That includes overall tax rates, where data from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy shows that in the median state (Mississippi, as it turns out) the poorest 20 percent pay twice the tax rate of the top 1 percent. In the worst states, the poorest 20 percent pay five to six times the rate of the richest 1 percent. Lucky duckies indeed. There's not one single state with a tax system that's progressive. Check the table below to see how your state scores.

Original Article
Source: mother jones 
Author: Kevin Drum 

Why is Harper Letting the EU Profit From Canadian Water?

European trade negotiators are in Ottawa this week to continue talks with their Canadian counterparts toward a Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). According to most accounts, the negotiations are winding down with differences in only a few areas. In Davos last week, at the World Economic Forum, Prime Minister Harper repeated his desire to have a deal in place by the end of the year.

One area where Canada and the EU differ -- but not necessarily disagree -- is on how water services should be treated. Where European member states want CETA to protect their policy space when it comes to water, Canada is seeking no such protection. It's a case of European private water giants having their cake and eating it too.

On Jan. 25, Canada's services and investment offers in CETA negotiations were leaked by a Quebec network critical of Harper's free trade agenda. These documents list sectors and policies that Canadian governments would like to protect from commitments extending the rights of investors to challenge policies that would interfere with profits.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees and the Council of Canadians immediately noted with great concern that no province or territory has safeguarded water services (drinking water and wastewater) from their initial offers. This confirms the warning in our 2010 report, "Public Water for Sale: How Canada Will Privatize our Public Water Systems," that access to Canadian water and wastewater services is a key incentive for the EU in CETA negotiations.

Not excluding water services from CETA tells private water firms that Canada is open for business. The EU deal as proposed would lock in existing privatization and encourage further commercialization of water and wastewater services. Trade rules will complicate water sector regulation and make bringing privatized water systems back into public hands prohibitively expensive.

Ottawa must consider cost of prison expansion -- in addition to pension reform

If everything is on the table – including the Old Age Security benefit of roughly $540 a month – why do the billions of dollars being added to the federal corrections budget feel untouchable?

As the Senate begins hearings on the government’s omnibus crime bill, and the almost certain prospect of huge, long-term budgetary increases in the jails moves a step closer, it seems an odd juxtaposition: trying to ensure the long-term health of the retirement security system, and spending like crazy, in the short, medium and long terms, on prison cells.

The government is right to be forward-looking – but why does it not question the long-term sustainability of the corrections system? If Canada can talk about the long-term challenges facing health care and seniors benefits, what about the long-term costs of jail expansion?

By 2012-13, the federal corrections budget will be $861-million higher than it was 2009-10, a 36- per-cent jump. The extra provincial costs may be larger than the extra federal ones. An already proclaimed law, ending the two-for-one sentencing discount, could cost in the billions each year, Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page says. And Justice Minister Rob Nicholson promises still more toughness on crime.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews told a Senate committee this week that if the provinces had better mental-health services, fewer mentally ill people would be turning up in federal prison. “Do we then send [the provinces] a bill and say we have to build new wings in our federal penitentiaries because of your provincial policies?” he said.

It was a revealing comment. If the federal jails are filling up with the mentally ill, why doesn’t the government propose alternatives to building new wings for them, in co-operation with the provinces?

The next generation of seniors’ benefits is under the spotlight, and ought to be. Many other federal programs face reductions or elimination to get the deficit under control. Alas, no light shines on the costs of the soon-to-be mandatory minimum sentence of six months for growing six marijuana plants, or of other new crime laws. Why is this one area untouchable?

Original Article
Source: Globe
Author: Globe Editorial 

Ottawa, Alberta to unveil oil-sands monitoring strategy

The federal and Alberta governments will announce a new joint oil-sands monitoring strategy on Friday, one they say will be led by scientists but remain - for now - under the direction of government.

Amid concerns about the industry’s environmental performance that have imperilled major projects such as the proposed Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines, both governments within the past two years struck expert panels to advise them on strategy. The resulting reports recommended a host of changes - in short, a much more robust system monitoring water, ground and air quality under a system that’s independent and open to peer-reviewed academic study.

Since then, however, the governments have declined to implemented any changes - dragging their feet, in the eyes of some academics. The federal report was submitted in December, 2010, and the province received its report in July, 2011, but both have sparred over who controls the oil sands and, therefore, the monitoring of them. The federal government sees it as a joint responsibility, while Alberta has insisted the province must have the lead.

“It’s just been a thundering silence there, no surprise,” says David Schindler, a University of Alberta researcher behind a study demonstrating elevated levels of harmful elements in the Athabasca River, which runs through the oil sands. He is a vocal critic of the current monitoring regime, and the uproar over his study helped spark the reviews of existing procedures.

“Talking to the federal people who’ve been involved [several weeks ago], they assured me the hold-up was Alberta. ... I do know some of the people who were on the last Alberta panel have been in contact. They’re getting pretty agitated [by the delay],” he said earlier this week.

Why Did an Asylum Seeker to the US End Up in a Liberian Prison?

On a sweltering afternoon in the heart of bustling downtown Monrovia, Moriba Kamara’s bony, chafed hands shake as he talks about his months inside a Liberian maximum-security prison. “I didn’t sleep. I was always afraid.” He feared he would not make it out alive and was constantly thinking, “Maybe this is the place [I’ll] be taken to be assassinated.”

Kamara’s eyes well up as he remembers how “the whole day we [were] locked up, the whole night we [were] locked up. We had no access to go to recreation, nothing.” He and his fellow prisoners were forced to defecate in a bucket inside their cell, which often overflowed. “I got dysentery,” he recalls. “I tried to talk to the prison director to take me to the hospital, but they said no.”

Kamara was one of twenty-two deportees expelled from the United States to Liberia in December 2008 by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Some had served time in US jails for minor offenses. Others, like Kamara, had committed no crime. But for reasons that were unclear to them, all were labeled a security threat upon arriving in Liberia’s capital city. Bedraggled and weak after spending months in immigration detention followed by a long flight to Monrovia during which they were shackled, the deportees were forced onto a bus headed for Zwedru National Corrections Palace, an imposing, isolated structure that is home to convicted murderers, rapists and, occasionally, US deportees.

Video by Carlos Pareja

Nation-Building vs. Al-Qaeda-Crushing in Afghanistan

Matt Steinglass on our decade-long nation-building mission in Afghanistan:
Nothing in my life has made me as pessimistic about development aid as the course of the American intervention in Afghanistan…I think I've seen figures showing that foreign aid was actually greater than the country's entire GDP in 2011. That sounds impossible, but I'd imagine it reflects the fact that foreign aid is often spent on salaries for Western consultants and equipment from donor countries, so it never really enters Afghanistan at all.
…The romantic vision of the transformation of Afghanistan involved passionate Westerners with graduate degrees donning local garb and riding on donkeys to dirt-poor villages to educate their girls and extend their agriculture. But Westerners with graduate degrees don't much want to sit around on donkeys in dirt-poor villages, particularly not when the Taliban will kill them for doing so. They want to ride out to the village in an SUV, train some locals to teach the girls (or better yet, train some local trainers), drive back to the city, hit the gym and turn on the laptop. Besides which, they have to turn on the laptop, because the congressional subcommittee has told USAID to mandate that they report monthly on progress in 37 different categories of target indicators in exchange for their NGO getting the grant.

The Right-Wing War On a Transgender Girl Scout

Three Girl Scout troops in Louisiana won't be hawking Thin Mints this year. They've disbanded in protest after the Girl Scouts of Colorado accepted seven-year-old transgender child Bobby Montoya as a member. Montoya was born a boy but has considered herself a girl since she was two years old, says her mom Felisha Archuleta. In October, Archuleta took her daughter to speak with a Denver troop leader about signing up, and took her daughter away crying after the Scout leader referred to the child as "it" and said "Everyone will know he's a boy." Three weeks later, the statewide Girl Scouts body issued a statement saying, "If a child identifies as a girl and the child's family presents her as a girl, Girl Scouts of Colorado welcomes her as a Girl Scout." When they heard about this reversal, three moms and troop leaders in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana decided to dissolve their troops and leave Girl Scouts.

Now, 95 years after the organization first starting selling cookies, its signature product has once again become a political pawn. Right-wing groups and some conservative parents and scouts have posted to a site called Honest Girl Scouts, YouTube, and Facebook pages—including one called "Make Girl Scouts Clean Again"—urging Girl Scouts everywhere to go on strike from selling cookies, and their parents to stop buying them. They want Girl Scouts USA to officially bans transgender children from membership, and kick out any known transgender scouts "hiding" in the troops.

Komen's $7.5 Million Grant to Penn State Appears to Violate New Policy

Susan G. Komen for the Cure, which recently announced that it is ending grants to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screening because of a controversial investigation launched by an anti-abortion Republican congressman, currently funds cancer research at the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center to the tune of $7.5 million. Like Planned Parenthood, Penn State is currently the subject of a federal government investigation, and like the Planned Parenthood grant, the Penn State grant appears to violate a new internal rule at Komen that bans grants to organizations that are under investigation by federal, state, or local governments. But so far, only the Planned Parenthood grants appear to have been cancelled.

An internal Komen memo written by President Elizabeth Thompson and obtained by Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic states that if "an applicant or its affiliates" is under investigation "for financial or administrative improprieties by local, state or federal authorities," then "the applicant will be ineligible to receive a grant." Penn State, the Pennsylvania university that the Hershey center is affiliated with, is currently under investigation by the federal government over the sexual assault scandal involving former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, who has been indicted on multiple counts of sexual abuse of children. In 2008, the Komen foundation awarded a five-year, $7.5 million grant to the Hershey center to study treatments that could reduce the risk of breast cancer.

Under the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, university officials are required to "issue a timely warning if a reported crime represents a threat to the campus community." The Department of Education announced that it was investigating Penn State over possible Clery Act violations last November, and a Penn State spokesperson told Mother Jones that the investigation is ongoing. The Komen foundation has not yet responded to a request for comment.

Komen's founder, Nancy Brinker, is a former Bush administration official who has given almost $200,000 to Republican officials over the years, and Karen Handel, Komen's top lobbyist, is a pro-life Republican who was elected secretary of state in Georgia. Komen officials have insisted that Brinker and Handel's right-leaning politics weren't a factor in the decision to cut off funding, but Goldberg reported that the new grant standards were written as a pretext for denying funds to Planned Parenthood, and that the decision was "driven" by Handel.

Brinker, appearing on MSNBC Thursday afternoon, denied the decision had anything to do with politics.  "I'm troubled that it's been labeled as political. This is not a political decision," Brinker said.

Original Article
Source: mother jones 
Author: Adam Serwer 

Canada Failing Its Oceans, Biodiversity Panel Finds

An expert panel investigating the state of Canadian marine biodiversity has accused the government of failing to protect the country's oceans, leaving marine life threatened and the nation's ocean species at risk.

The panel was commissioned by the Royal Society of Canada in 2009 to review the effects of climate change, fishing and aquaculture on the ability of Canada's oceans to sustain and restore marine populations.

Announcing the panel's findings in Vancouver on Thursday, Prof. Jeffrey Hutchings said the government had failed to meet national and international commitments to sustain marine biodiversity over many years.

"Twenty years after the collapse of the northern cod fishery, we don't have a target for a recovery. How is that possibly consistent with responsible management of our oceans?

"It doesn't stand up nationally, it doesn't stand up internationally — but that is where we are, 20 years later," he said.

Risk to Chinook salmon

The panel found the foundation of Canada's ocean legislation, the 1868 Fisheries Act, outdated and discovered the 1996 Oceans Act, designed to help Canada move towards sustainable ocean management, has not been implemented.

"It leaves huge discretionary powers to the minister of Fisheries and Oceans, who is given no science-based guidelines, targets or principles, " the report said.

"The panel found not lack of knowledge or lack of sound policy, but a consistent, disheartening lack of action on well-established knowledge and best-practice and policies, some of which have been around for years."

Among the species the panel lists at risk of extinction is the Chinook salmon, which it claims is threatened by the effect of climate change on mountain streams, no longer a habitable environment for the juvenile fish.

The report also highlights the potential of fish farming to accelerate the spread of parasites and diseases and undermine wild species by interbreeding.

Original Article
Source: Huff 
Author: cbc