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.]

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Walmart Women Still Seek Justice In Sex Discrimination Case

The women who say Walmart discriminates aren't giving up.

Five hundred female employees in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi and North Carolina filed discrimination charges last week with the Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission, a federal agency that litigates on behalf of workers against their employers. The filings will pave the way for women to continue their fight in lower courts after being turned away last summer by the Supreme Court in their class action against Walmart. The women argue that Walmart systematically favors men over women for raises and promotions.

The new filings also send a message to the giant retailer: Despite the landmark Supreme Court ruling in Dukes vs. Wal-Mart, the women will continue in their quest for justice.

"When the Supreme Court's decision came down, Walmart announced that the case was over," said Joseph Sellers, co-lead counsel for the Walmart plaintiffs. Things are far from over, according to Sellers, who argued the Dukes case. Sellers' firm and other lawyers for the plaintiffs say that they have been contacted by 12,000 women reporting discrimination at Walmart. Some were involved in the Dukes case and others are reporting new allegations. In October, plaintiffs from the Dukes case launched new class actions in California and Texas courts.

Electro-Motive Picketing Continues Despite Closure

Workers in London, Ont., say they'll continue to picket even though the Electro-Motive Diesel plant is now officially closed, as the head of the Canadian Auto Workers calls for a public inquiry into the closure.

Progress Rail Services Corp., a subsidiary of U.S. construction equipment conglomerate Caterpillar, announced the closure of the locomotive plant Friday.

The company locked out 450 workers from the facility on Jan. 1. Costs were the main factor in the dispute, with the company pushing certain employees to take a 50-per-cent pay cut, despite making nearly $5 billion last year.

Caterpillar said costs were too high.

CAW union boss Ken Lewenza admits cost has meant the loss of many manufacturing jobs in Canada.

"At the end of the day, if it's all about competitiveness, then workers in Canada won't win," he said. "If it's about productivity, if it's about quality, then we will survive."

What happened to Harper’s opposition?

With all respect to the many readers who have urged me to dedicate this column to rebutting John Baird’s rebuttal to last week’s column, I must decline.

We have other urgent issues to confront with no further stalling. Incrementally, stealthily, furtively, Stephen Harper is moving Canada towards the conservative dystopia he has always cherished, even if he has taken exquisite care never to campaign on it. As Maclean’s columnist Paul Wells summed up the Harper strategy a couple of years ago, “Changing a society one small step at a time.” This is not a man for a Full Monty.

“Conservative values are Canadian values and the Conservative Party is Canada’s party,” the PM declared, flushed with the thrill of majority government. Yet according to the most recent polls, only 32 per cent of the Canadian public now supports his government. He won his majority last May with just under 40 per cent of the vote. So he has already lost close to one-quarter of that support. Yet though he lacks the approval of the large majority of Canadians, Mr. Harper functions virtually without constraint.

Russia, China veto UN resolution condemning Syria’s crackdown

Syrian forces hammered restive neighbourhoods in the city of Homs for hours with mortars and artillery before dawn Saturday, sending terrified residents fleeing into basements and killing more than 200 people in the bloodiest episode of the nearly 11-month-old uprising, activists said.

Despite international outrage over the assault, Russia and China vetoed a draft U.N. resolution condemning President Bashar al-Assad's crackdown on the uprising and backing Arab calls for Assad to step aside. Western and Arab countries had lobbied until the last minute for Russian backing, but then decided to push for a vote, challenging Moscow to block it.

The Syrian government denied any devastating bombardment took place, saying the high death tolls were part of a “hysterical campaign” of incitement by its opponents to pressure U.N. action.

The veto in the Council underlined what appears to be Mr. al-Assad's strategy of relying on Russian protection abroad, even as global condemnation stacked up over the bloodshed in Homs, Syria's third largest city.

“The Assad regime must come to an end,” President Barack Obama said in a statement Saturday, calling on the Security Council to “stand against the Assad regime's relentless brutality.”

Toronto real estate so hot worn city-owned houses rake in $602,000 more than the asking prices

The City of Toronto has cashed out big time on its sale of three rundown Crawford St. homes that went for a combined $602,000 over asking price Friday.

Some 72 bids were registered on the three properties. One battered, boarded-up brick semi went for $265,000 over the $495,000 asking price all on its own.

The sales, and the frenzied demand for what were considered to be well-priced but dilapidated properties needing major renovations, sent a buzz through Toronto’s real estate community Friday afternoon when the winning bids were announced.

“It basically shows that there is a lack of supply on the market and, until that changes, prices are going to continue to rise,” said realtor Brian Prashad, who had one client bidding on the biggest of the three, a three-storey home listed for $995,000 that went for $1.111 million.

Toronto police shoot and kill man with scissors wearing hospital gown

Neighbours who watched police shoot dead a 29-year-old man wearing a hospital gown in Toronto’s east end Friday are questioning whether excessive force was used.

Douglas Pritchard, who was 10 metres away, said there were enough police around to subdue the victim on Milverton Blvd., a few blocks south of Toronto East General Hospital.

But another neighbour, also close, believes police had no other choice.

The shooting occurred about 20 minutes after paramedics were called to a stabbing inside a nearby convenience store, at the corner of Sammon and Woodington Aves., across from the hospital.

An EMS official said those injuries were minor.

Witnesses reported that the man arrived on Milverton just after 10 a.m. and began banging on the back door of a house and trying to get in.

The man — who witnesses described as wearing no shoes and wielding two pairs of scissors — was fatally shot on the quiet residential street at around 10:15 a.m.

Israeli Apartheid Week: Call it as it is

Calling the Israeli regime one of apartheid is not rhetoric, nor is it an exaggeration or a propaganda tool. This is the reality in modern day Palestine, where the Israeli regime is based on discrimination, through laws, practices, education and most aspects of life. This apartheid regime is not only imposed on the people in Palestine, but also on millions of Palestinian refugees denied their right to return home because they are of the wrong religion.

As awareness across the world continues to increase regarding the Israeli Apartheid regime in Palestine, each effort in this aspect would help accelerate the conclusion of this shameful page in history. And as this awareness rises, campaigns to boycott, divest and sanction this regime provide a very effective and natural response. The world witnessed a similar response transpire and bear fruit in the case of South Africa, and there are very good reasons to believe that it will do the same in the case of Palestine.

Original Article
Author: RabbleTV 

Anti-Putin protesters march through Moscow - Up to 120,000 Russian anti-government protesters demand political reform as Putin supporters stage counter-rally

Tens of thousands of demonstrators have braved temperatures of -18C in Moscow to march through the city shouting "Russia without Putin" and calling for a rerun of disputed elections.

In the latest of a series of mass gatherings since allegations of widespread government vote-rigging at the parliamentary poll on 4 December, the protesters walked an agreed route from Oktyabrskaya metro station to Bolotnaya Square, near the Kremlin.

Much of the protesters' anger is focused on the prime minister and defacto leader of Russia, Vladimir Putin, who earlier likened their white ribbons – worn as a symbol of solidarity – to condoms.

"Under Putin, so many thieves have come to power," said Ivan Frolov, 28, an engineer. "The authorities are totally closed, they don't talk to the people. We want to choose leaders who listen to us. And we don't want to worship a single person."

Analysts say nascent discontent – especially among the urban middle class – grew in September when President Dmitry Medvdev, who is perceived as being a more liberal figure, announced he would not run for a second term, leaving Putin free this spring to return to the presidency, which he held from 2000 to 2008.

An attack on Iran must be stopped

The Anglo-American aggression addicts haven't kicked the habit. The team that brought you shock and awe and Operation Infinite Justice is gearing up for yet another crack at winning a senseless war in the Middle East.

This time the target is Iran, the pretence the regime's imminent possession of nuclear weapons. But some things will remain the same – it will lead to slaughter and end in disaster.

A brief recap of the Anglo-American "war on terror" in the Middle East, 2001 to date: Afghanistan was occupied to "eliminate terrorism" but, many thousands of dead later, terror has spread to Pakistan and beyond, leaving Kabul with the most corrupt government on earth.

Iraq was invaded to disarm Saddam of weapons he didn't have. US troops have finally withdrawn, leaving millions dead or displaced and the country broken in dysfunctional sectarian misery.

Libya, far from being the war that went well, was bombed to "protect civilians" with the result that 30,000 died and thousands more remain in prison reportedly being tortured by the regime Nato installed.

Bill Kramer, Wisconsin Assembly Leader, Carries Gun On Floor

Wisconsin Assembly leader Bill Kramer said he's been carrying a concealed weapon during floor sessions, the AP reports.

Kramer, a Republican from Waukesha, said Friday the intense atmosphere of the Wisconsin Capitol made him feel he needed a weapon on the floor.

"Have you been in the Capitol lately?" Kramer said. "The saying is you don't need a gun until you need it. I hope I go to my grave having never fired at anything but a paper target."

Protests have rocked the capitol since February 2011, when Governor Scott Walker's controversial collective bargaining legislation was introduced. The growing protests led Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan (R) to compare them to the uprising in Egypt in February 2011, saying that it was "like Cairo has moved to Madison these days."

The protests have continued since then, with groups taking part in daily lunch-hour sing-alongs in the Capitol rotunda and interrupting committee meetings. One protester even dumped a beer on Rep. Robin Vos (R-Burlington) in September.

In January, Walker's State of the State speech was continuously interrupted by hecklers. Kramer said that throughout the ongoing protests he's received several insults and threatening emails, but insisted he would only draw his weapon if he felt he was in "imminent danger."

Kramer told the AP he obtained a permit under Wisconsin's concealed carry law, which went into affect in November. That law allows people who obtain a permit and go through training to carry concealed weapons in the state capitol as long as no sign is posted saying weapons are not permitted.

Kramer said he owns Glock 26, a subcompact semi-automatic, that he has taken onto the floor at times. The Republican also admitted he's not the only lawmaker carrying a weapon to work.

Original Article
Source: Huff 
Author: Paige Lavender 

Jobs Report: Despite Signs Of Progress, Many Still 'Disconnected From Workforce'

In January, the U.S. added 243,000 jobs, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday, and Glerisse Rodriguez, 26, got one of them -- but she still has a long way to go until she bounces back financially from getting laid off.

Late last month, Rodriguez started working in bookkeeping at Jacques Torres Chocolates, a New York-based chocolatier. She's thrilled about the new work, but she is starting out at about half of what she earned a year and a half ago, when she was laid off from her last bookkeeping position. She is also about $9,000 dollars in debt, from leftover student loans and from months when she was trying to support herself and her young son on credit cards and unemployment checks.

"It's like I told my mom: 'I can't be that choosy or that picky right now. I've been out of work for a long time and people are going to try to cut my pay and I have to accept that," Rodriguez said. "Still, I feel like I'm coming home."

On Friday, the Labor Department report -- which showed that the unemployment rate dropped to 8.3 percent from 8.5 -- painted a resoundingly positive, expectation-beating picture of the job market. But for the economy as a whole -- and for many Americans -- there is still a steep road before a full recovery will be at hand.

And while many headlines -- and the White House -- are trumpeting the report as a sign that a robust recovery is truly taking hold, some economists are greeting it with a measure of skepticism.

Park Police Surround Occupy DC Camp; McPherson Square Tents Searched, Removed

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Park Police officers, some on horseback and others in riot gear, surrounded the Occupy DC camp in McPherson Square with barricades before sunrise Saturday in an enforcement action that has grown to include the search and removal of tents and protester belongings.

Though police stressed it was not an eviction, protesters disputed that contention. "We're being evicted without tear gas!," said Occupy DC activist Melissa Byrne, according to The Washington Post, which observed early Saturday afternoon that "[t]hey are really clearing this place out."

There have been at least eight arrests, according to media reports and protester dispatches from the scene.

By 10 a.m., Park Police officers, along with personnel in bright yellow HAZMAT suits, were inspecting tents to see if they were in compliance with the National Park Service's no-camping regulations. Tents that were deemed out of compliance were dismantled and removed from the park, along with Occupy DC activists' belongings.

The encampment, which started as handful of protesters on Oct. 1 and grew to include tents and communal areas covering the majority of the federally-controlled downtown park near the White House, was cordoned off into sections as police officers conducted inspections.

Charlie White, Indiana Election Chief, Found Guilty Of Voter Fraud

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Democrats say they will try next week to have their losing candidate installed as the state's elections chief after a jury found Secretary of State Charlie White guilty of six felony voter fraud-related charges, disqualifying him from office.

Jurors returned a verdict about 2 a.m. Saturday. Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels then appointed White's chief deputy, Jerry Bonnet, as interim secretary of state.

Chairman Dan Parker tells The Associated Press that state Democrats will seek to have their 2010 candidate Vop Osili (OH' sill ee ) certified as secretary of state next week. A civil judge has ordered the state to declare Osili the winner, saying White was ineligible.

The appointment would ordinarily be up to the Republican governor. The fight could reach the state Supreme Court.

Original Article
Source: Huff 
Author: AP 

B.C. Premier Plans Liquefied Natural Gas Exports

Liquefied natural gas is the future of energy exports in B.C., Premier Christy Clark announced on Friday morning.

Clark was at Burnaby's BCIT campus to set out a new 10-year energy plan for the province, which includes the construction of two liquid natural gas plants in northern B.C. by 2020.

The premier said the plants in Kitimat would generate $2 billion in new revenue for the government each year.

"Like all commodities, natural gas prices go up and down. But one thing is clear to us: it is worth a lot more to us in Asia than it is in North America — a market to which we are currently captive," said Clark.

A pipeline that would deliver the gas from northeast B.C. to Kitimat has already been approved, and the National Energy Board has also approved the export permits needed to send the liquefied natural gas overseas.

The B.C. government said future liquid natural gas exploration and development could produce around $20 billion in investment and create thousands of new long-term jobs.

In a related announcement the premier revealed a change in the province's standard for energy self-sufficiency, which will clear the way for the liquid natural gas plants to get the enormous power requirements they need to convert the gas.

Original Article
Source: Huff 
Author: cbc 

McGuinty has more to lose than Harper in EMD closure

Ever since the Electro-Motive Canada lockout began, accusations have been directed against London’s three Conservative MPs and Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Calls were made for Stephen Harper and local MPs to intervene on behalf of the locked-out workers.

That they reacted with indifference could hardly have been considered a surprise, given their party’s hostility to unions. Nevertheless, almost as much anger is directed against Conservatives as at EMD owner Caterpillar. Outrage at the company’s actions spread quickly through Canada, as seen in the spread of boycotts and protests.

But it is in Southwestern Ontario where this struggle has had the most resonance. What was once Ontario’s industrial heartland is struggling with one of the highest rates of unemployment in Canada. People in London recognize that whether the union had accepted Caterpillar’s offer or whether the jobs moved to the U.S., the effect on the local economy will be the same.

Anger is not confined to those normally pro-union, but includes local businesses and London’s mayor, a former Liberal cabinet minister. The usual right-wing response that unionized workers are overpaid was stretched to the breaking point by a demand for half wages and benefits from a company making record profits.

Defender of the House steps down

Rob Walsh sat ringside in Parliament for 20 years and watched a paradox unfold. As MPs historically reasserted their ancient parliamentary privileges, bitter partisan politics steadily eroded the rules and respect for the institution that is supposed to keep the government’s power in check.

As the House of Commons’ top legal adviser, he counselled MPs through an unprecedented period in Canada’s history as committees flexed their muscles and aggressively invoked their parliamentary privilege to see papers and records and call witnesses so they could get to the bottom of issues and hold the government to account.

Walsh was front-and-centre during the legal wrangling around the highly politicized and historic files of the past decade. He guided MPs through committee probes of disgraced privacy commissioner George Radwanski, who was found in contempt of Parliament; the RCMP pension and insurance fraud and contempt proceedings against former RCMP deputy commissioner Barbara George; the sponsorship scandal that toppled the Liberals; businessman Karlheinz Schreiber’s business dealings with former prime minister Brian Mulroney; the release of documents on the treatment of Afghanistan prisoners detained by Canadian forces.

He was a key player in the issuance of the rarely used Speakers warrant, which put Schreiber, facing deportation, into parliament’s custody to testify at committee. Members also conslted him before the opposition found the Conservative government to be in contempt of Parliament for the first time in history.

Census to reveal big changes in Canada - Major differences expected as row over new form continues

Major changes in the makeup and population of the Canadian federation will come into sharp focus next week as Statistics Canada unveils the first results of its 2011 census.

This glimpse at Canada's people won't be without controversy, however. Some experts have questioned the federal government's 2010 decision to replace its mandatory questionnaire, previously sent to a representative sample of the population, with a voluntary household survey.

Laurent Martel, a senior analyst from Statistics Canada, says the data to be unveiled Wednesday - focused on population and dwellings - should reflect the latest estimates from his agency that show changes in provinces such as Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador, which are now seeing increased growth.

"We can certainly see some major shifts in demographics in different provinces and territories," said Martel.

He says other trends, such as the decreasing proportion of Quebec's population within the federation, observed over the past half-century, should also be confirmed next week.

The release of the first results from the 2011 census comes just after the departure of Statistics Canada's chief economic analyst, Philip Cross, who took some parting shots at his employer in an interview with the Globe and Mail over last year's changes to the long-form census. Cross suggested that internal debates were being stifled by the agency with management no longer tolerating dissent.

Statistics Canada's census manager, Marc Hamel, says he has never had any issues about exchanging ideas or views at the agency.

Through questionnaires that are sent out, Statistics Canada conducts a census every five years to update the status of changes in the population.

While the short-form census was maintained as a mandatory survey for all Canadians in 2011, more detailed questions about households, travel habits, culture or ethnicity and other personal information were conducted on a voluntary basis, and as a result, some say, will not necessarily produce reliable statistics.

Original Article
Source: ottawa citizen 
Author: Mike De Souza 

Stephen Harper's census

Stephen Harper owes his success in no small part to his mastery of demographics, having tailored his election platform to winning enough seats in key pockets of Ontario and elsewhere to achieve a majority.

Now, the renowned tactician has turned his attention to a grand vision, a once-in-a-generation kind of reform that would change how we save for retirement, whom we admit to the country and how we orient our economic policy.

Speaking in Davos, Switzerland, last week, Mr. Harper said Canada's aging population threatens our cherished social programs. He thrust obscure stats such as the old-age-dependency ratio to centre stage, promised to overhaul our immigration system and strongly hinted at raising the age of eligibility for old-age security.

These are transformative changes, the kind that can't be executed without a good deal of persuasion. The Prime Minister will get some ammunition on Wednesday. That's when the first results of the 2011 census are released. Every census is used for political purposes, but this one will be the most significant in a generation. It will be the evidence Mr. Harper relies on to advance an austerity agenda.

Mr. Harper has indicated that he wants to cut now to prepare for the coming bulge of baby boomers, the first of whom are now turning 65, and whose number and influence will be reflected in upcoming census releases. He will argue that they pose a threat to Canada's financial security, and their appetite for the pensions and health care they have been promised certainly will prove expensive.

Visiting when arrows were flying: Dakelh people protest Enbridge pipeline

At the terminus of Highway 27, far into the northern interior of British Columbia, Fort St. James seems to belong to a remote Canadian hinterland. But this town, mostly remembered for its history as an old fur-trading post, on February 2 found itself at the centre of political negotiations about the future of Canada.

Located on the southeastern shore of Stuart Lake, Fort St. James rests in the heart of the territory inhabited by Dakelh (or Carrier) people. The Dakelh have never signed treaty nor ceded their claim to their traditional territories. Nonetheless, the company Enbridge is proposing to build a pipeline through the heart of Dakelh territory to carry bitumen from the Alberta tar sands to port.

As the federally appointed panel reviewing the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline convened in Fort St. James, the Dakelh people joined with supporters to rally in opposition to the proposed project. Leading the protest were the people of Nak'azdli.

Adjacent to Fort St. James, the very name of the Dakelh community of Nak'azdli attests to the long history of the Dakelh people defending their lands. Nak'azdli translates to "when arrows were flying," a reference to a historic battle at the mouth of the river that flows out Stuart Lake. This lineage of fierce defence of Dakelh lands remained in evidence in the streets of Fort St James.

More than a hundred people gathered outside the Chief Kwah Memorial Hall to march together to the Legion hall where the review panel hearing was taking place. Drummers greeted the early morning sun with the sound of resistance, and Nak'azdli elder Charlie Sam offered a prayer to initiate proceedings.

The school on Waterhen Lake First Nation in northern Saskatchewan is a budding success story. Standardized test scores are climbing, attendance rates are improving, and six teenagers are set to graduate this spring.

But now that progress is threatened.

Waterhen Lake School can’t afford to pay its teachers. A new contract was signed recently in Saskatchewan, and the federal funding the school received for salaries this winter isn’t enough to match the union pay grid.

The school’s principal, John Walter, says he has to choose between firing some staff or asking them all to take a pay cut.

Neither option is acceptable to Mr. Walter, who believes his school’s success has everything to do with his staff. They have more experience, and are therefore more expensive, than staff on other reserves where turnover rates are high and new graduates run the classrooms.

For savers in Canada, a sinking feeling

Colleen Wallace is frugal, and proud of it.

The 70-year-old resident of Chelsea, Que., a rustic enclave north of Ottawa, managed to make ends meet while raising a daughter on her own, and despite being laid off from her federal government job 17 years ago. She doesn't have a computer, and she uses a rotary dial phone with a party line – a relic of a bygone era in telecom. She collects a pension, has a modest investment portfolio and her house is paid off.

“I’m not hurting but there’s no room for any exotic spending,” Ms. Wallace says. “I’m very good with my income. I’ve never gone into debt and never spent more than I can afford.”

But like millions of Canadians who are either approaching the end of their working lives or living on fixed incomes in retirement, Ms. Wallace faces an array of economic forces that appear to be stacked against her, and she is worried about her financial well-being.

It’s the saver’s dilemma. Life for these Canadians has become an uncomfortable squeeze between weak returns on their investments, stagnant incomes and the steadily rising cost of everything from food to fuel to housing.

Tens of thousands rally against Putin's rule in Russia

Tens of thousands of Russians flooded downtown Moscow on Saturday to demand an end to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's rule, casting a strong challenge to his bid to reclaim the presidency in March.

The protest — which drew 120,000 people, according to organizers — was the third mass demonstration since Putin's party won a parliamentary election Dec. 4 with the help of what appeared to be widespread fraud.

Protesters wearing white ribbons and holding placards reading “Russia Without Putin!” and “For Free Elections” marched to a square across the river from the Kremlin where a rally was held.

Saturday's crowd appeared to be even bigger than two similar rallies held in December, despite temperatures plunging to minus 20 degrees Celsius.

The previous rallies — the second of which drew 120,000 people, according to organizers — were the biggest in Russia since the protests 20 years ago that paved the way to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The authorities have sanctioned Saturday's march, even though they had rejected the organizers' earlier request to gather just outside the Kremlin.

“So many of us have come that they can's arrest all of us,” said 56-year old protester Alexander Zelensky.

Tim Geithner: 'No Credible Evidence' Dodd-Frank Act Hurting Economy

In many ways, it's too early to pass many judgments on Dodd-Frank.

U.S. financial regulators said in a report released on Thursday that it is still "too early to determine" whether differences in financial rules across borders will pose a threat to economic stability.

The report, written by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, noted nonetheless that the two agencies are working "to analyze requirements and to coordinate regulatory proposals to the greatest extent possible." Some investors have threatened to move to countries with the most flexible rules, similar to the race to the bottom often seen among corporations looking to pay both workers and governments less, according to the Financial Times.

On the same day, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner argued it's too early to tell if Dodd-Frank financial reform, a punching bag for Republican presidential candidates and financial industry advocates alike, has hurt the economy.

"There is no credible evidence to support the argument that these reforms are having a material negative effect on the ability of the economy to recover and grow," Geithner said, according to Politico. "In fact, the evidence is overwhelmingly the opposite."

Christian Pastor Calls For Starbucks Boycott Over Gay Marriage Support

A Christian pastor is asking customers to boycott Starbucks due to the company's support of a bill to legalize gay marriage in Washington state, King 5 News reports.

"Christians are upset with Starbucks for turning against God...Starbucks can follow Satan if they want to," Steven Andrew, and evangelical pastor and president of the USA Christian Ministries in California, said in a statement. "However, pastors are to help Christians. Are you on the Lord's side? Will you help the USA be blessed by God?"

The call for the boycott was released Tuesday, a day prior to the bill's passage in Washington's State Senate Wednesday night, according to Reuters.

USA Ministries is also asking for Christians to stop serving the brand at their church facilities and events.

The Seattle-based coffee chain joined more than 100 other firms in backing the same-sex marriage bill.

Other companies taking a similar position include Nike, Google and Microsoft, Half Moon Bay Patch notes.

If the bill passes in the state house of representatives next week, Washington will become the seventh U.S. state to recognize same-sex unions.

Original Article
Source: Huff 
Author: Tara Kelly 

Occupy Oakland Activists Report Inhumane Conditions In Santa Rita, Glenn Dyer Jails

WASHINGTON -- Alyssa Eisenberg just wanted her multiple sclerosis medication that she uses to allay fatigue and help her concentrate.

A member of Occupy Oakland, she had been caught up in last Saturday's police kettling and transferred to the Santa Rita jail. Police refused to let her keep her meds, which she takes a few times a day, she said. Once inside, a guard dismissed her distress, she said, telling her, "It doesn't look like you're having a medical emergency."

Eisenberg, 44, who claims she was arrested without warning, spent 18 hours in the Santa Rita jail. Before her release, the guards told her she could get access to her medication only if a nurse observed her for a few hours, she said, adding that they implied that if she took them up on the offer, her release would be delayed a day.

"It was so frustrating trying to understand what was going on," said Eisenberg, who became disoriented during what had already been a cramped, chaotic ordeal. "That's the part that stuck with me," she told The Huffington Post. "That's because they didn't give me my medicine."

In the wake of last Saturday's police actions, Occupy Oakland and city officials are going through the now familiar routine of all sides expressing outrage. But this time, the investigations won't end with tracing the last tear gas canister fired and last activist led away in plastic cuffs. The controversy extends to what occurred inside both the Santa Rita jail and the Glenn E. Dyer Detention Facility after Saturday's arrests. Activists like Eisenberg allege a range of misconduct on the part of jail personnel, from denial of critical treatment to inhumane conditions.

Bradley Manning Case: Army Officer Orders Court-Martial For Manning In WikiLeaks Case

HAGERSTOWN, Md. — An Army officer ordered a court-martial Friday for a low-ranking intelligence analyst charged in the biggest leak of classified information in U.S. history.

Military District of Washington commander Maj. Gen. Michael Linnington referred all charges against Pfc. Bradley Manning to a general court-martial, the Army said in a statement.

The referral means Manning will stand trial for allegedly giving more than 700,000 secret U.S. documents and classified combat video to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks for publication.

The 24-year-old Crescent, Okla., native faces 22 counts, including aiding the enemy. He could be imprisoned for life if convicted of that charge.

A judge who is yet to be appointed will set the trial date.

Manning's lead defense counsel, civilian attorney David Coombs, didn't immediately return a call Friday evening seeking comment on the decision.

Defense lawyers say Manning was clearly a troubled young soldier whom the Army should never have deployed to Iraq or given access to classified material while he was stationed there from late 2009 to mid-2010.

At a preliminary hearing in December, military prosecutors produced evidence that Manning downloaded and electronically transferred to WikiLeaks nearly half a million sensitive battlefield reports from Iraq and Afghanistan, hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables, and video of a deadly 2007 Army helicopter attack that WikiLeaks shared with the world and dubbed "Collateral Murder."

Pension Changes Make Canadians Work Poorer, Not Longer

The Prime Minister should calm fears that a major pillar of our social safety net will be attacked. His announcement in Davos that he's looking for savings that will make our retirement system sustainable has sparked panic that the government might raise the age of eligibility for Old Age Security from 65 to 67. It is a surprising turn of events since they recognized the plight of Canada's poorest seniors with the Guaranteed Income Supplement top-up in the recent election.

He could have added a few words to deny that he's planning to raise the OAS age but he hasn't. In fact, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty just refused to back away from reforming the retirement security program.

His surrogates have filled the gap with apocalyptic visions of aging boomers in their retirement nests with their maws gaping wide for public largesse. The latest is Margaret Wente's attack on CARP and aging boomers generally.

Perhaps they recall how we all sat around waiting for our parents to fill our world with their industry. Boomers have done just that for their children while paying the lion's share of taxes to fund schools, universities, hospitals and yes, nursing homes. So to expect some modest income support as they approach retirement is not a lot to ask.

If all this is about sustainability, let's talk dollars and sense. There are other places to find the money. From our rough calculations, raising the eligibility age will save $2 or 3 billion a year. Withdrawing from Afghanistan is estimated to save $1 to 2 billion a year. Revamping the health care system by bringing in pharmacare, diverting demand by providing continuing care at home and decent palliative care could save tens of billions of dollars a year. That's why not renegotiating the Health Accord was a missed opportunity -- not because the province didn't get the fight they wanted.

Canada Budget 2012: Harper Meeting With Turmel Unlikely To Change Budget Course

OTTAWA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper is seeking opposition input into the next federal budget, even though he no longer needs opposition support to ensure its passage.

The budget, expected later this month or next, will be Harper's first since capturing a long-sought Conservative majority in last May's election.

Nevertheless, Harper has met with interim NDP Leader Nycole Turmel to discuss the official Opposition's priorities for the economic blueprint.

Turmel says she urged Harper to focus on job creation and not to cut programs and services which hard-pressed families rely on in tough times.

While Turmel believes Harper "understood" her concerns, it's unlikely he intends to act on them.

The budget is expected to slash as much as $8 billion from federal spending as the government moves to erase the deficit built up during the 2008-09 global recession and to set out a long-term path for ensuring the Old Age Security program remains sustainable as Canada's population ages.

On the latter score, the government is contemplating eventually raising the age of eligibility for OAS to 67 from 65 — a move vehemently opposed by the NDP.

Iran an 'urgent' nuclear threat: CSIS

A Top Secret Canadian intelligence assessment has concluded that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons capability, adding weight to the growing international isolation of Tehran as UN inspectors push to investigate what Iran claims is a peaceful nuclear program.

In an Intelligence Assessment obtained Thursday by the National Post, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service calls the Iranian nuclear weapons programs one of "the most significant, urgent threats of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) proliferation today."

"The fact that Iran has engaged in activities related to nuclear weaponization suggests that it is, at a minimum, seeking to acquire the capacity to produce such a weapon," reads the heavily edited report, released under the Access to Information Act.

The report shows that the Canadian intelligence community is not buying Iran's repeated assertions that its nuclear facilities are for peaceful uses such as energy. It may also explain Prime Minister Stephen Harper's recent comment that Tehran was "lying" about its nuclear intentions.

Iran has long blocked attempts by the International Atomic Energy Agency to fully inspect its nuclear sites. But pressure has been building since November, when the IAEA reported that Iran had "carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device."

Baird says Canada is a better friend of Israel than United States is

OTTAWA - Canada is a better and stronger friend of Israel than the United States is, says Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.

Baird offered that and other musings in a sweeping interview with the Jerusalem Post newspaper Friday that capped a Middle East trip highlighted by his unabashed support of Israel in the conflict with the Palestinians.

The NDP characterized Baird's pro-Israel rhetoric as simplistic and something out of a good-versus-evil "Star Wars movie."

In the interview, Baird blasted previous Canadian foreign policy that saw the government vote against Israel in resolutions at the United Nations.

And as he did earlier in the week, Baird sidestepped any direct condemnation of Israel's continued practice of building settlements in Palestinian territories — playing down Canada's past position that it had "concerns" about expanded Israeli settlements.

Baird took the bait of his interviewer, who followed up on his earlier comment this week that Israel has no better friend than Canada.

Stephen Harper fears Iran would use nuclear weapons if it was able to produce them

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper insisted he is not preparing the Canadian public for war with Iran but, in his starkest warning yet, he said he fears the regime in Tehran is prepared to use nuclear weapons, if it manages to produce them.

In an interview with the National Post and Postmedia News, Mr. Harper said Iran’s quest to develop weapons of mass destruction is “a grave threat to peace and security.”

“For the first time in history, we are facing a regime that not only wants to attain nuclear weapons but a regime that has, compared to virtually all other holders of nuclear weapons in the past, far less fear of using them,” he said.

Pressed on whether the use of a nuclear device would constitute an act of suicide by Tehran, he responded: “I’m not sure that would dissuade them…. We’re dealing with a fanatical and dangerous regime.”

Mr. Harper supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, launched on the pretext of halting Saddam Hussein’s production of weapons of mass destruction. Asked whether the same logic applies in the case of Iran, the Prime Minister suggested the Iranian example is much more stark.

“In fairness, the two cases are not exactly similar – there was more to the case in Iraq than simply the threat of weapons of mass destruction. That said, obviously the intelligence was flawed in that case and there was considerable debate around that at the time. I don’t think there’s much debate today among informed people about Iran’s intentions and Iran’s systematic progress toward attaining nuclear weapons.

Stephen Harper: Old Age Security changes are 'being considered'

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Friday for the first time that his government is considering increasing the eligibility age for Canada's Old Age Security (OAS) system, which provides benefits for people once they turn 65.

Harper made the comment in a candid interview in his office across from Parliament Hill with Postmedia News and the National Post.

The interview came at the end of a stormy week in the House of Commons, where opposition parties have blasted Harper for publicly signalling recently that the pension system needs to be reformed to ensure its long-term affordability.

Harper had been vague about his government's plans when he first broached the subject a week ago and as he responded to political attacks in the Commons.

But in Friday's interview, Harper confirmed that, while no final decisions have been made, the government is examining whether to gradually increase the age eligibility for OAS from 65.

He did not provide further details on how the criteria would be adjusted, although it is widely believed that the age would gradually be increased to 67. This would accomplish two goals: keep more people in the declining workforce, and reduce the cost of the OAS system itself because there would be fewer beneficiaries.

Solidarity: From Occupy Toronto to Attawapiskat -- you can help

The First Nation community of Attawapiskat is in dire need of housing supplies to help repair their existing homes. OPSEU is part of Design Points North, a group heading up to Attawapiskat on Saturday, February 4 with a transport truck to deliver a Mongolian yurt -- the same yurt that stood in St. James Park during Occupy Toronto. There is room on the truck and they need your help to fill it up with useful items requested by the band. You can make a donation here.  Follow this space on over the next week as Laurie Miller travels to Attawapiskat by truck.

Design Points North is a new organization made up of a diverse group of individuals, representing business, labour and the Chiefs of Ontario. It is a multi-faceted attempt to improve conditions in Attawapiskat through sustainable and community-oriented projects and initiatives. Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence has welcomed the Design Points North initiative into the community.

Chief Spence declared a state of emergency for her community last December. At the time there were five families living in non-insulated tents, 19 families living in makeshift sheds without water or electricity, 87 buildings fit for condemnation that house 128 families, and 35 families living in houses that need serious repair.

Attawapiskat is located along the west side of the James Bay coast. The community is only accessible by road during the winter freeze up. The truck delivering the yurt to Attawapiskat will travel 700 kilometers to Cochrane from Toronto, where it will board a freight train to Moosenee. The truck will be driven another 300 kilometers on the seasonal ice road. It is no wonder six apples and four small bottles of juice cost $23.50 in this remote community.

Toronto labour disruption: What you need to know

With less than 48 hours until the labour deadline, a City of Toronto work stoppage seems increasingly likely. Union and city officials spent Friday exchanging harsh words for the other sides’ latest proposal. As of Sunday morning, a strike or lockout will be legal. Here are some answers to your most common questions:

So is there going to be a strike or lockout this weekend?

Nothing is certain as negotiations are still underway, but speaking with city, political and union sources it does not appear a work stoppage is going to happen Sunday or even Monday. What’s going to happen is that as of Sunday, if a deal can’t be reached, the city will impose “terms of conditions,” which basically means unionized staff will arrive to work under new, city-designed provisions. The city is not going to lock them out. The union could choose to strike and refuse to work under those new conditions, but it would take several days to hold a strike vote. Even then: the union is highly reluctant to go on strike and lose public support. Bottomline: it would be extremely unlikely for anything to start until mid-next week at the earliest.

Okay, but what if they do?

Local 416 employees are outside workers. This is your trash collection, snow removal, zamboni drivers, gardeners, animal control officers, road maintenance, etc. They are not: library staff, city clerks, child care workers, building inspectors, public health officials or planners, etc. This means your daycare will be open. And you can still pay your property tax bill. That said, labour disruptions are politically charged and it’s not black and white. There is the potential that inside workers will also go out as a sign of solidarity. It’s highly unlikely this would happen right away and neither the union nor the city want to go down this road.

Aren’t paramedics “outdoor” workers?

Yes. And there will be some service impact, but even though paramedics are represented under Local 416, by law Toronto’s EMS must operate at 85 per cent staffing levels during a labour dispute.

ORNGE paid lawyers $11 million

ORNGE has paid $11 million to lawyers — taxpayer money used to create its now bankrupt for-profit companies, two closed charities and to raise funds on Bay Street.

The legal expenses, covering 2006 to January 2012, were released by ORNGE to the Star this week.

Almost $9 million went to the Toronto based law firm of Fasken Martineau, where key ORNGE adviser and federal Liberal strategist Alf Apps is a partner. The remaining payments went to other law firms.

Apps, a close adviser to former ORNGE boss Dr. Chris Mazza, has done a lot for the service over the years.

He has made presentations to the Ontario Ministry of Health on behalf of ORNGE, sought financial investors, and provided guidance on “matters where his specialized expertise in structured financing was required,” according to a spokesman for the law firm.

At any given time, Apps was one of 15 Fasken Martineau lawyers working on the ORNGE file.