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.]

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Oil Sands Produces Its Own Heat Island Effect - Dramatic changes to landscape raise temps, UA study finds

Canada's oil sands project has created an "urban heat island" effect, drying out a city-sized area and raising the local temperature by more than a degree.

In a study released last month, University of Alberta researchers found that existing mining activities (which occupy more than 600 sq. km or an area slightly smaller than Edmonton) have dramatically raised temperatures but have not yet changed rain patterns or thunderstorms.

The study, published in the journal Earth Interactions, found that summer overnight minimum temperatures near the oil sands have increased by about 1.2 C compared to the regional average due to waste heat released by the world's largest energy project.

"It's a big disturbed area. There is a definite heat island effect as there would be in any city of that size," notes Daniel Brown, the study's lead author and a University of Alberta PhD student studying thunderstorms.

The area has also become drier than the surrounding region probably due to the removal of millions of spruce and aspen trees.

ENERGY & EQUITY: Why should Canada now beg to fuel China's colossal waste of energy?

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a neo-classical economist, visited Imperial China this week to do some energy begging on behalf of investors in the world's third largest oil reserves.

Harper, accompanied by his pals at Enbridge and EnCana, shamelessly shuffled down the same petroleum road padded by the world's well-known ethical oil crowd: Iran, Saudi Arabia and Hugo Chavez.

The jaunty Venezuelan, who sits on the world's second largest oil reserve, visited the Communist superpower five times in recent years to ink eight agreements on energy cooperation no less. Chavez, as you might guess, has some ethical issues with the United States.

Now Harper, a self-confessed libertarian and a champion prison builder, also has some ethical problems with the United States. That frightful democracy ignored Harper's Big Oil lobby and then temporarily rejected a "no-brainer" pipeline.

The ill-fated Keystone XL pipeline promised to deliver landlocked bitumen to refineries owned by Saudi Armaco, Venezuela and the Koch brothers in the Gulf of Mexico.

Sheldon Adelson and the End of American Anti-Semitism

If a Jew-hater somewhere, inspired perhaps by The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, sought to invent an individual who symbolizes almost all the anti-Semitic clichés that have dogged the Jewish people throughout history, he could hardly come up with a character more perfect than Sheldon Adelson.

Think about it. Adelson, who likes to brag, “You know, I am the richest Jew in the world,” is a gambling magnate who is reported to be under criminal investigation for official bribery and has been accused of having widespread ties to organized crime, including the use of prostitution for his business interests. He is openly deploying his $22 billion fortune to pervert our democracy on behalf of what he believes to be the best interests of Israel, which he defines as an endless war by the Jewish state against its adversaries, with America offering its unquestioning support.

When it comes to Israel, Adelson is as hawkish as they come. He told the Jewish Week, “The two-state solution is a stepping stone for the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people.” He withdrew his financial support to then–Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert when the latter became serious about peace negotiations. He even found AIPAC a bit wishy-washy for his taste and cut it off, as well. Significantly, he remains a big supporter of Bibi Netanyahu, and has gone so far as to fund a free Fox News–style Israeli newspaper devoted to cheerleading for his right-wing policies and attacking all who disagree.

Some States Using Mortgage Deal Funds To Close Budget Gaps

Well, that was fast.

Two states have already announced that they won't be using all of their share of the $25 billion allocated in Thursday's historic foreclosure settlement to pay its intended recipients -- the homeowners and borrowers who saw the housing market collapse beneath their feet.

Instead, in some areas, a share of those dollars is likely to be diverted to state budgets, in a bid to offset some of the massive deficits that states have been struggling with since the economic downturn, according to reports.

In Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker and state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen have announced plans to use $25.6 million of the settlement money -- about 18 percent of the $140 million Wisconsin will get in total -- to plug holes in the state's budget, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. As the MJS notes, this is a reversal of Walker's previous opposition to using legal settlements to close budget gaps.

Meanwhile, in Missouri, state Attorney General Chris Koster has said that he plans to put $40 million of Missouri's settlement money -- about 20 percent of the total $196 million -- into the general state fund, apparently in response to Governor Jay Nixon's call for a stronger college and university budget, Stateline reported.

Pro-oil lobby retreat urges feds to deliver climate-change solutions

OTTAWA — A taxpayer-funded pro-oil lobbying retreat, involving Canada’s European diplomats and industry, has urged the federal government to deliver real climate change solutions to restore the country’s sagging environmental reputation.

The two-day retreat, held last February 1 and 2 in London, England, concluded that Canada’s foreign diplomats don’t have enough resources to deliver on the federal government’s aggressive lobbying strategy to promote the oilsands and fight foreign climate change policies. But participants at the meeting, including bureaucrats who travelled from Canada, suggested lobbying is not the only answer.

“There was a sense that the sooner the Canadian government is able to roll out information on anticipated new regulations on coal fired generation and the oil sands, the better able Canada will be to demonstrate that it is taking action,” wrote Sushma Gera, a trade adviser at the Canadian High Commission in London, in a widely-distributed e-mail that was released to Postmedia News through access to information legislation.

Gera’s email summarized the February 2011 retreat which brought together Canadian diplomats from 13 different European offices, along with officials from other federal departments in Ottawa, industry representatives, and Ron Liepert who was Alberta’s energy minister at that time.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade was not able to immediately provide the cost of the event that included a “training” session to give diplomats on the European lobbying team “an industry perspective” as well as that of the federal and Alberta governments. Another email from Gera sent in January 2011 said that separate budgets within DFAIT for European relations and “Strategy and Services” were used to pay some travel funding.

Budget watchdog stands by pension plan analysis

Biting back at critics, Canada's budget watchdog maintains it's disingenuous to insist that an impending wave of retiring baby boomers is going to trigger a fiscal emergency.

"The old age demographic is not a new issue. We've known this was coming for decades," Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page told CTV's Question Period Sunday.

Page has had his back against the proverbial ropes ever since his office released a sustainability report last week indicating the government can afford to enhance benefits for seniors.

The findings are at odds with Prime Minister Stephen Harper's aims to reform Canada's Old Age Security Program, suggesting the current model is unsustainable.

Though Page is tasked with providing independent analysis, his office's recent report has riled government ministers. Particularly outraged is Finance Minister Jim Flaherty who called Page "unbelievable, unreliable, incredible" in a scrum last week.

Vets board member says privacy raided after he sides too often with veterans

OTTAWA - A prominent, long-standing member of the country's Veterans Review and Appeal Board had his privacy violated twice in an alleged smear campaign meant to discredit him using his private medical information as ammunition, The Canadian Press has learned.

The behind-the-scenes fight involving Harold Leduc has been so bad and so vicious that the Canadian Human Rights Commission quietly ordered the veterans board to pay the decorated, former warrant officer $4,000, including legal costs, for harassment he'd suffered from other agency members.

Leduc, who spent 22 years in the military, claims he was a target for gossip, innuendo and intimidation because he often sided with veterans in his review decisions.

It is the latest, and potentially the most wide-ranging, in a series of privacy breaches, which the Conservative government claimed was cleaned up at the department that oversees the care of ex-soldiers and RCMP.

In late 2010 following the privacy scandal involving advocate Sean Bruyea, the government said it instituted tighter controls over the personal information of veterans and who had access to files.

Yet, in the spring of 2011, an investigation report, which included Leduc's personal information and examined the toxic in-fighting at the independent agency, was released un-censored following an access to information request.

Athens burns as Greece bailout passed

Riots engulfed central Athens and at least 10 buildings went up in flames in mass protests late Sunday as parlimentary lawmakers voted to enact unpopular austerity measures aimed at keeping the country solvent.

TV footage showed a three-storey corner building completely consumed by flames with riot officers looking on from the street, and firefighters trying to douse the blaze. A closed cinema, a bank, a mobile phone dealership, a glassware store and a cafeteria were among the burning buildings, the fire department said.

There were no reports of people trapped inside.

Protesters had set bonfires in front of parliament and dozens of riot police formed lines in an effort to deter them from attempting a run on the building.

Before the vote result was announced early Monday, Prime Minister Lucas Papademos had urged calm, pointing to the country's dire financial straits.

Greek parliament approves crucial austerity bill after riots rage in Athens

ATHENS —Greek lawmakers on Monday approved harsh new austerity measures demanded by bailout creditors to save the debt-crippled nation from bankruptcy, after rioters in central Athens torched buildings, looted shops and clashed with riot police.

The historic vote paves the way for Greece's European partners and the International Monetary Fund to release $170 billion (€130 billion) in new rescue loans, without which Greece would default on its debt mountain next month and likely leave the eurozone — a scenario that would further roil global markets.

Lawmakers voted 199-74 in favour of the cutbacks, despite strong dissent among the two main coalition members. A total 37 lawmakers from the majority Socialists and conservative New Democracy party either voted against the party line, abstained or voted present.

Sunday's clashes erupted after more than 100,000 protesters marched to the parliament to rally against the drastic cuts, which will axe one in five civil service jobs and slash the minimum wage by more than a fifth.

Contraception Row Could Rebound in Obama’s Favor

Having failed to take adequate precautions, President Obama and Kathleen Sebelius, his secretary of Health and Human Services, were looking a bit sheepish on Friday lunchtime when they walked into the White House media-briefing room and administered a morning-after pill to quiet the controversy over a government edict requiring all employers, including ones with religious affiliations (though not churches and the like), to provide women with free birth control as part of their health-care plans.“No religious employers will have to pay for or provide contraceptive services, but people who work there will have access to free contraception,” the President said in outlining a compromise that he said “works for everyone.”

Under his new plan, in the case of religious institutions the onus on providing birth control will be shifted from employers to health insurers, who would be prohibited from charging co-payments or otherwise restricting the supply. This “shouldn’t be a wedge issue,” the President went on. “I certainly never saw it that way.” That is clear. If the White House’s political antennae had been sharper, it could have got together with the Department of Health and Human Services a month ago, before the announcement of the new rule. Quite possibly, this silly row might never have erupted. Still, I doubt the President will suffer much lasting political damage from it. Indeed, it could well rebound in his favor. Women are a much bigger voting group than Catholics. And even among ordinary Catholics, as opposed to the gilded church hierarchy, contraception just isn’t a very big deal.

To be sure, the Administration goofed in its handling of this issue. If it had tabled what looks like an eminently reasonable way to balance women’s rights with religious freedom, it would have passed the issue back to Roman Catholic bishops, a group whose moral and political authority has never been weaker, forcing them to oppose it. In issuing the new rules without adequate prep work, the Administration presented the bishops, led by New York Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, with an opportunity to pose as the victims of an all-encroaching government. Then, as dawn follows night, the Republicans piled on, creating alarm in the White House political shop.

Occupy Movement Regroups, Preparing for Its Next Phase

The ragtag Occupy Wall Street encampments that sprang up in scores of cities last fall, thrusting “We are the 99 percent” into the vernacular, have largely been dismantled, with a new wave of crackdowns and evictions in the past week. Since the violent clashes last month in Oakland, Calif., headlines about Occupy have dwindled, too.       

Far from dissipating, groups around the country say they are preparing for a new phase of larger marches and strikes this spring that they hope will rebuild momentum and cast an even brighter glare on inequality and corporate greed. But this transition is filled with potential pitfalls and uncertainties: without the visible camps or clear goals, can Occupy become a lasting force for change? Will disruptive protests do more to galvanize or alienate the public?

Though still loosely organized, the movement is putting down roots in many cities. Activists in Chicago and Des Moines have rented offices, a significant change for groups accustomed to holding open-air assemblies or huddling in tents in bad weather.

On any night in New York City, which remains a hub of the movement, a dozen working groups on issues like “food justice” and “arts and culture” meet in a Wall Street atrium, and “general assemblies” have formed in 14 neighborhoods. Around the country, small demonstrations — often focused on banks and ending foreclosure evictions — take place almost daily.

Risks of Afghan War Shift From Soldiers to Contractors

KABUL, Afghanistan — Even dying is being outsourced here.       

This is a war where traditional military jobs, from mess hall cooks to base guards and convoy drivers, have increasingly been shifted to the private sector. Many American generals and diplomats have private contractors for their personal bodyguards. And along with the risks have come the consequences: More civilian contractors working for American companies than American soldiers died in Afghanistan last year for the first time during the war.

American employers here are under no obligation to publicly report the deaths of their employees and frequently do not. While the military announces the names of all its war dead, private companies routinely notify only family members. Most of the contractors die unheralded and uncounted — and in some cases, leave their survivors uncompensated.

“By continuing to outsource high-risk jobs that were previously performed by soldiers, the military, in effect, is privatizing the ultimate sacrifice,” said Steven L. Schooner, a law professor at George Washington University who has studied the civilian casualties issue.

Using the bank for the public good

We don't need the private banks to create our money. We must bring finance under democratic, public control. That means reclaiming the power to issue currency, to manage the size of the money supply, and to direct newly created credit towards public purposes, and away from speculation on the prices of financial and other assets. Until we take back this power, any other victories we win will be hollow.

Original Article
Author: rabbletv 

Oil Over Oceans

A damning report shows the Canadian government shying away from marine protection because it might interfere with oil-tanker traffic.

It’s been 20 years since Canada’s East Coast cod fishery collapsed, and we still have no recovery target or timeline for rebuilding populations. That’s just one finding in a damning report from a panel of eminent Royal Society of Canada marine scientists.

Sustaining Canada’s Marine Biodiversity” notes that Canada has “failed to meet most of our national and international commitments to protect marine biodiversity” and “lags behind other modernized nations in almost every aspect of fisheries management.”

For a country surrounded on three sides by oceans, with the longest coastline in the world, that’s shameful. Beyond the jobs, recreational opportunities, food, medicines, and habitat that our oceans provide, they also give us life. Half the world’s oxygen is produced in the oceans by phytoplankton, which are threatened by rising ocean temperatures and acidification because of global warming.

Aboriginal struggles at elite school reveal stark realities in Canadian education

It was supposed to be a golden ticket: Just more than one year ago, three first nations students from British Columbia were offered full scholarships, worth $80,000 over two years, to attend a prestigious boarding school on Vancouver Island.

Pearson College is a United World College and an International Baccalaureate school, one of the few places in Canada where U.S. Ivy League universities actively recruit, graduates collect millions of dollars in university scholarships each year and often go on to work at the United Nations.

All 160 students attend on scholarship. In the summer of 2010, B.C.’s Ministry of Advanced Education made six new scholarships available, earmarked specifically for first nations students. The school scrambled to fill the spots, and admitted three first nations students from B.C. that fall.

But in a school filled with students from 90 countries these Canadians stood out. They were bright and determined, but also far behind their cohorts academically.

Some had never done homework or held a textbook. They’d attended schools where classes were often cancelled because the pipes had frozen, or the power was out.

ACTA: Protesters Gather Across Europe To Decry Internet Freedom Threat

WARSAW, Poland - Protesters took to the freezing cold streets of Berlin, Helsinki and many other European cities Saturday to voice anger at an international copyright treaty they fear will lead to censorship and a loss of privacy on the Internet.

The rallies across the continent underline how opposition to the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, or ACTA, has spread quickly since a first groundswell of opposition emerged last month in Poland.

"We have the protests in Poland to thank above all for what is happening in Europe and worldwide at the moment," said Tillmann Mueller-Kuckelberg, an organizer at a protest in Berlin.

"A lot of people in other European countries woke up then, and we hope worldwide that the protests will lead to the ACTA agreement being stopped."

ACTA has been under negotiation for years and has already been signed by a number of industrialized countries, including the United States, South Korea and Japan. Its drafters say it is needed to harmonize international standards to protect the rights of those who produce music, movies, pharmaceuticals, fashion, and a range of other products that often fall victim to piracy and intellectual property theft.

Tibet PM Sees Human-Rights 'Tragedy' Unfolding

On the eve of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's last day in China, the prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile has sounded the alarm on the "tragedy" currently unfolding in Tibet.

In an exclusive interview that aired Saturday on CBC Radio's The House, Lobsang Sangay told host Evan Solomon Tibetans are "choosing to die" rather than fleeing China's "repressive" regime.

According to Sangay, hundreds have been "arrested, shot at, jailed and tortured" amid China's escalating crackdown in Tibet, with dozens of Tibetans publicly setting themselves on fire in the last few weeks.

"People are sacrificing their lives to send the message to the international community — and the Chinese government — that they can not tolerate or live under such violative and intrusive policies and actions," Sangay said.

Harper told The House on Saturday that his government has taken a "different approach" to relations with China, and that raising the issue of human rights was "paying dividends" for both countries.

Stephen Harper’s scary scenario about Old Age Security is wildly overblown, budget watchdog argues

Can Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government be trusted to do what’s right for the country, as it prepares to tackle the federal deficit? Given the uproar in Parliament over proposed cuts to Old Age Security, we’re not so sure.

Harper and his ministers have fanned fears about the “crisis” that they say looms for OAS, the program that pays Canadians age 65 and over up to $540 a month. It’s a key element in our retirement safety net. The Conservatives argue that OAS will become “unsustainable” as more people age. So benefits will have to be cut back for future recipients, if not for current retirees or those close to it.

But a report this past week by Parliament’s budget watchdog, Kevin Page, has shredded the government’s credibility on this issue. After parsing the numbers, Page concluded that the crisis is a manufactured one. “You cannot argue the government has a fiscal sustainability problem,” he says.

That gives credence to interim Liberal leader Bob Rae’s charge that the Tories are practising “the politics of deceit and abandonment.” And Liberal MP Judy Sgro’s taunt that they have “caviar tastes when it comes to jets and jails, but a baloney budget when it comes to seniors.”

The Conservatives richly deserve this blowback. Officials have been stoking fears by throwing around numbers designed to scare. They point out that OAS costs will triple to $108 billion by 2030, from $36 billion now, as the number of seniors grows. That puts the retirement benefits of future Canadians “at risk,” they say.

Opposition to asbestos reaches 'critical mass'

If you were a private investor looking to sink some money into a promising venture, the expansion of an asbestos mine in Quebec may not sound like a great bet these days.

Quebec’s asbestos industry has been taking a heavy pounding of late, with two damning documentaries airing on CBC and Radio-Canada, renewed calls from politicians in Quebec City and Ottawa to outlaw the cancer-causing mineral, and a review launched into some industry-funded research at McGill this week.

On Friday, the opposition Québec Solidaire called on the provincial and federal governments to stop financing the asbestos industry and to ban export of the mineral.

Parti Québécois mining critic Martine Ouellette told Canadian Press she wants a parliamentary commission to look at the issue.

The calls are partly in response to a documentary aired on Radio-Canada Thursday evening “that reveals the true face of a lobby that in the past has had no scruples at all about manipulating the facts to the detriment of human health to defend its financial interests,” according to the Québec Solidaire statement.

Northern Gateway pipeline proposal draws B.C. into a quagmire of conflict

Pipelines used to be boring.

Once upon a time, these common crude-carrying metal tubes criss-crossing the country were little more than a planner's afterthought.
Not anymore.

In 2010, a major pipeline burst in Michigan, spilling millions of litres of oil into the Kalamazoo River. That was followed by international antioi-lsands campaign that pressured U.S. President Barack Obama to indefinitely stall the construction of the Keystone XL pipe to Cushing, Okla. Now, crude pipelines are the polarizing cause du jour.

The sudden interest has created a sticky political situation for the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, the subject of ongoing hearings across B.C. and Alberta. The $5.5-billion, 1,170-kilometre project would push oilsands bitumen from northern Alberta to the city of Kitimat, B.C. From there, crude would be shipped on massive oil tankers to Pacific markets.

Environmentalists are railing against the project and the federal government is railing against the environmentalists; One side argues Gateway presents an unacceptable risk to land and wildlife, while the company behind the plan, Calgary's Enbridge Inc., insists the possibility of failure is nominal. Add to the mix documented claims the pipeline's most enthusiastic detractors are receiving funding from U.S. sources. Natural Resource Minister Joe Oliver labelled the lot "radical groups." Between them are First Nations, on whose lands the pipeline would cross, by turns concerned with economic development and environmental preservation.

Harper's rights message to China fell short: Activists

OTTAWA - The prime minister is being praised for knocking the ball out of the park as a salesman for Canada during his trade mission to China this week.

But critics say he struck out when it came to selling human rights.

Dermod Travis, with the Canada Tibet Committee, pointed Saturday to the 20 Canadians currently being held in Chinese jails.

"He's not returning with one of these Canadians," he said. "But he's returning with two pandas."

Travis said German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who visited China earlier this month, brought a more pointed human rights message to the Asian economic juggernaut, scheduling meetings with a human rights lawyer and a Guangzhou paper known to tackle sensitive issues.

She then publicly expressed regret when both events were cancelled by Chinese officials.

"She did not try to hide the issues," said Travis, and criticized Harper's speech to an audience of Chinese business leaders where he broadly broached human rights as a "nudge-nudge, wink-wink affair."

Urgyen Badheytsang, a campaigner with Students for a Free Tibet, also said Harper's actions fell short.

"He didn't do justice to what is really happening in China," he said, noting eight Tibetan monks have set themselves on fire in protest against Chinese rule in January alone.

But Harper defended his efforts Saturday, saying he'd tackled specific concerns - including consular cases - privately during high-level bilateral meetings in Beijing.

"I make it my habit when I'm in another country not to say anything publicly critical of that country," Harper said.

Original Article
Source: lf press 
Author: Jessica Murphy 

Bill C-51 could allow police to view people's web-surfing habits

The Conservative government plans to introduce a law on Monday that will allow police to better monitor the web-surfing habits of Canadians.

Entitled Bill C-51, "an Act to enact the Investigating and Preventing Criminal Electronic Communications Act and to amend the Criminal Code and others Acts," the law would require Internet service providers (ISPs) to install equipment that would allow them to monitor and preserve the Internet surfing activities of their customers. The providers could then be asked by police to collect and preserve surfing data of anyone suspected in engaging in criminal activity.

The law also makes it easier for law enforcement authorities to activate tracking mechanisms within cellphones so they can know the whereabouts of suspected criminals. If they're suspected of being international terrorists, the law would allow such tracking to go on for a year, rather than the current 60-day limit.

In recent months, open-Internet lobbyists and privacy advocates - including the privacy commissioner of Canada - have been warning the Conservative government not to adopt this bill, saying it is a serious infringement of civil liberties.

The bill, however, is not as invasive as some of the lobbyists had feared. Similar laws adopted in other countries have required ISPs to monitor the electronic communications of all their customers.

Original Article
Source: ottawa citizen 
Author: Jason Magder 

NDP hears anger over OAS idea

It’s been two weeks since Prime Minister Stephen Harper indicated in Switzerland that his government is thinking about changing aspects of Canada’s retirement system.

It was enough time to allow the NDP to organize a string of town hall sessions on the issue, but not long enough for people to finish reacting to the announcement.

About 40 people, including many seniors, showed up to vent their anger as the party held its first event on the issue at Cole Harbour Place on Saturday. The NDP pension critic, Ontario MP Wayne Marston, flew in to join MP Robert Chisholm (Dartmouth-Cole Harbour) for a Q&A, and both added a little coaching about how to protest the change.

"Seniors are the largest-growing demographic. You have political clout," said Marston, urging people to send handwritten letters to Ottawa.

Marston said the idea of raising the age of eligibility for the Old Age Security Pension to 67 from 65, which was released along with Harper’s speaking notes at the Davos World Economic Forum in late January, is a "trial balloon," not a solid plan. Marston said the idea is so upsetting that it’s distracting from the real issue: Harper’s planned cuts to the service sector.
"Have you ever seen a magician who waves his hand up here and picks your pocket down here?" he asked the group.

There were more comments than questions at the meeting, as some people wondered aloud why Harper addressed the issue from Switzerland, and others compared the reported $3-billion yearly savings in the possible OAS plan to the government’s other spending.

Others asked how the programs could be tweaked to protect the poorest seniors, and one woman wondered whether OAS has to be a universal program.

"There are an awful lot of really wealthy people," she said.

The chair of the local chapter of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons, Alex Handyside, told the audience that the age of eligibility is an important tool to prevent poverty among the most vulnerable seniors, including many with disabilities. He said 50,000 social assistance recipients would be forced to live in poverty for two more years if the age requirement was changed.

"If the age threshold for OAS is to be raised to 67, we must do more to ensure that the 65-to-67 age cohort escapes poverty," Handyside said. "Perhaps then some higher-income families with non-working spouses could wait just a little bit longer for the extra money that they’ve demonstrated they don’t really require."

One couple said later that their concern prompted them to come to the meeting from Timberlea on just a few hours’ notice. Susan Doyle, 54, said that for 15 years she stayed at home with children, and then an ill mother- and father-in-law, missing out on her own pension.

Back in the workforce for about eight years now as a field technician, she started collecting toward a pension 2½ years ago but worried that the proposed changes might apply to her.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty "has to give people more time to plan for their futures," Doyle said. "I’m on my feet a lot. . . . For me to think about doing my job for another 12 years — well, I think it’s going to be really difficult to work to 67."

Doyle and her husband have three adult children, two of whom have spouses, and most of them work on contract. The changing labour market, and the fact that their children probably won’t have pensions, are other reasons to worry about the OAS system, they said. The NDP’s next town hall meetings are all planned for Ontario, with Marston making stops in Toronto, Sault Ste. Marie and Brampton.

Original Article
Source: the chronicle herald 
Author: Selena Ross 

Harper's senior bureaucrats rack up hefty airfares during government restraint

OTTAWA - Stephen Harper's senior bureaucrats have been racking up some hefty airfares at a time of government restraint and controversy over travel.

Travel expenses recently posted for the final quarter of 2011 show executives at the Privy Council Office, the prime minister's own department, paid costly fares last year on some of the most competitive routes to Europe and elsewhere.

Return airfare to Great Britain cost taxpayers $6,855 for Rennie Marcoux, assistant secretary to cabinet, to attend a week-long "cyber" conference in London last October.

The clerk of the Privy Council, Wayne Wouters, paid almost as much for a round-trip flight to London — $6,625 — for a public-service summit in November.

William Pentney, deputy secretary to cabinet, spent $3,566 on airfare to attend another international summit in London last June.

Paris, another popular European destination with plenty of airline competition, was also a favoured spot for Privy Council bureaucrats, who paid sky-high prices to get there.

Reducing Violence is About Prevention

Even "super cops" know that homicides are preventable, but Canadian politicians still fail to act.

A plethora of government agencies provide living proof that “violence is preventable, not inevitable.” Public Safety Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada have selected best practices and made them publicly accessible. The U.S. Department of Justice and the World Health Organization have scoured the world to provide even more. But despite their success, these practices have yet to be shared and implemented from coast to coast. As a result, provinces like Edmonton and Winnipeg still ended 2011 with record numbers of homicide victims. With more and more evidence showing it is possible to do so, it is time we stop the violence before too many more Canadians get hurt.

It is not just the science and its ease of access that is new. It is also the extent to which “super cops” agree with acting on prevention, albeit with an emphasis on balancing tough-on-criminal and tough-on-cause approaches. The Canadian Chiefs of Police, for example, argue that, “Unless we do both, quite frankly, we’re missing a piece.”

Canada’s Charter of Rights: a global model

Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, once thought to be tilting this country in the direction of the United States, is viewed as distinctive and a model for other nations, especially in the English-speaking Commonwealth.

That finding, in a U.S. study to be published this June, is a tribute to the intricate balancing act that is the 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As Canada was founded on compromise and dialogue, so are those qualities woven into its rights charter. And so it offers a structure for working through the competing interests found in any sophisticated, multicultural nation – as in the case of a Muslim woman who wished to wear her face veil while testifying in a sexual-assault case. (The case is before the Supreme Court of Canada.) That kind of discussion has proved to be illuminating for courts in other lands.

The structure for balancing opposed interests is found in three key sections. Section 1 sets out that rights are not absolute; governments may limit them, as long as they have evidence to justify those limits. (The Canadian Charter was the world’s first rights-protecting agreement with a broad limitations clause.)

Mount Hermon's pure snow can't hide Israel's dark past

These are wonderful days at Jabal al-Shaykh. It's high season, ideal conditions and the visibility is excellent. Thousands of Israelis spent their weekend there, and the weather forecast for the next few days is promising. It's just the name, Jabal al-Shaykh, that sounds so unfamiliar. Where did you say it was?

We managed to delete Mount Hermon's original, Syrian name as if it had never existed. Precious few Israelis have ever heard the name, or are aware of the 200 towns and villages that were obliterated in the Golan Heights. Most Israelis, we might assume, aren't aware that they were ever there, since Israeli collective consciousness also erased the existence of their 120,000 residents - refugees that no one knows or cares about.

Their houses were almost all razed, in order to evade superfluous questions on the merry way to Mount Hermon. The only things left intact were the remains of army barracks, so that Israelis could believe that the Golan Heights were always about war and conflicts, not simple daily life.

On the way to Mount Hermon, the Golan Heights are Israeli, as are the inhabitants - despite the fact that most of them define themselves as Syrians. Israelis in the Golan aren't referred to as settlers. They reside in a city, in kibbutzim and moshavim - never in a settlement. On the other hand, the 20,000 Syrians still living there today are referred to as "Druze" - according to their religion, and pita bread, rather than their own definition as Syrians.