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.]

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

TransCanada pushes back Keystone start-up date

TransCanada Corp. (TRP-T42.380.902.17%) has pushed back its expected start-up date for the Keystone XL pipeline to early 2015, amid bitter partisan battles over the project in Washington.

In an earnings report released Tuesday, the Calgary-based energy company said it was working with the state of Nebraska to reroute the line around the sensitive Sandhills regions in Nebraska, and will reapply for a federal permit.

But TransCanada now says it expects to commence shipments by early 2015, whereas the previously planned start-up date was at the end of 2014.

Last month, the Obama administration rejected TransCanada’s permit application saying it did not have enough time to study a new route under a deadline imposed by Republicans in Congress. But the administration said the company was free to reapply with its new route.

In a release Tuesday, TransCanada said it is working on a number of fronts to “largely maintain” the construction schedule of the project. “TransCanada will reapply for a Presidential Permit and expects a new application would be processed in an expedited manner to allow for an in-service date of early 2015,” it said.

In Washington, Republicans in Congress continue to push legislation that would take the decision out of the hands of President Barack Obama and essentially approve the project. But the bills are unlikely to get through a Democrat-controlled Senate, or past President Obama’s veto.

TransCanada said its earnings rose in the fourth quarter, versus the corresponding period in 2010. Earnings were $375-million in the fourth quarter of 2011 – or 53 cents a share – compared to $269-million, or 39 cents a share, in the fourth quarter of 2010.

The company said it had higher income from the commissioning of the original Keystone pipeline in early 2011, as well as increased Alberta power prices, but that was offset by lower contributions from Bruce Power, and weakness in natural gas storage and U.S. power.

For the full year, the company reported earnings of $1.57-billion, compared to $1.36-billion in 2010.

TransCanada also increased its dividend by 5 per cent, to 44 cents per common share, starting in the current quarter.

Original Article
Source: Globe 
Author: shawn mccarthy  

The GOP Plan to Give Your Boss "Moral" Control Over Your Health Insurance

In their latest move in the battle over contraception coverage, top Republicans in Congress are going for broke:

They're now pushing a bill that would allow employers and insurance companies to pick and choose which health benefits to provide based simply on executives' personal moral beliefs. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the top GOPer in the Senate, has already endorsed the proposal, and it could come to a vote this week. The measure would make the religious exemptions to President Barack Obama's health care bill so large they'd swallow it whole.

"This is about gutting the Affordable Care Act and the protections it was meant to establish," says Leila Abolfazli, a lawyer focusing at the National Women's Law Center who focuses on health and reproductive rights.

Obama's Affordable Care Act requires all health care plans to offer certain services and benefits, including birth control. Last week, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) offered a "conscience amendment," to the law, pitching it as a way to allay religious employers' qualms about providing birth control to their employees.

OAS debate misses the real problem, and a possible solution

The government insists disaster will befall the nation if Old Age Security costs aren't curtailed. The opposition says that's nonsense and vows to fight any change. Most Canadians have lined up with one side or the other. The trenches are dug. The ammunition stockpiled. We wait for the battle to commence.

Which seems awfully un-Canadian.

This is a country created at a negotiating table, after all. We talk things through. We find mutually acceptable compromises. It's what we do. It's what makes this country great. (And boring. But leave that aside.)

So please join me under the white flag in No Man's Land. I may have a solution.

Let me begin by clearing up some confusion. We are not dealing with one cost, as many people seem to think. We are dealing with two.

Environment Canada budget cuts decried

U.S. scientists are raising the alarm about Environment Canada, saying cuts in the department could go far beyond ozone monitoring.

Programs tracking pollution wafting into Canada from Asia, Europe and the U.S. are also being hit, they say.

And it's an "open question" if Canada will be able to fulfil its obligations under several international agreements if more cut go ahead, five leading atmospheric scientists write in the newsletter of the American Geophysical Union, which has 61,000 members in 148 countries.

The scientists say ozone measurements have been cut back at several Canadian stations since August.

And Canada's CORALNet (Canadian Operational Aerosol Lidar Network) program, part of an international effort tracking air pollution from Asia and Europe, has vanished.

"Canada is a bellwether for environmental change, not only for Arctic ozone depletion but for pollutants that stream to North America from other continents,'' says co-author Anne Thompson, a meteorologist at Penn State and president of AGU's atmospheric sciences section.

Harper's incoherent crime policy

With all the talk about the Harper government's omnibus crime bill, it would be easy to miss the real significance of the Prime Minister's crime policy. The debate has focused largely on important but narrow issues such as whether people should be sentenced to a minimum of six or nine months in prison for growing six marijuana plants or whether we should stigmatize young people found guilty of minor assaults by publishing their names, and whether our laws should prohibit certain non-prison punishments for crimes such as break-and-enter.

The sum of the Harper crime policy is simultaneously less and more than the sum of its parts. The more fundamental issue that a crime policy should address is basic: How do we, as Canadians, want to respond to those who have committed crimes?

Tories stand firm on 'lawful access' legislation

The Conservative government isn't backing down from a plan to require telecommunications companies to hand over customer information to police without a court order despite strong objections from Canada's privacy watchdogs, Postmedia News has learned.

The "lawful access" legislation, to be tabled in the House of Commons on Tuesday, means Internet service providers and cellphone companies won't be able to say no if law enforcement asks them to hand over basic subscriber information of their customers.

This provision, contained in a previous bill that died when the federal election was called last year, resulted in a sustained campaign by federal and provincial commissioners to get "warrantless access" to subscriber info scrapped from the bill before the Conservatives re-introduced it.

In addition to a name, address, phone number and email address, companies would also be required to hand over the Internet protocol address and a series of device identification numbers, allowing police to build a detailed profile on a person using their digital footprint and to facilitate the tracking of a person's movement through the location of their cellphone.

The bill, dubbed "online spying" by critics, is also expected to require ISPs and cellular phone companies to install equipment for real-time surveillance and create new police powers designed to obtain access to the surveillance data.

A licence to snoop

For years, small-c conservatives have been arguing that the gun registry is a giant waste of money - not only because it went way over budget, but due to the fact that it serves to make criminals out of law-abiding firearms owners. Meanwhile, those intent on committing crimes easily escape its grip. To their credit, the federal Tories are in the process of scrapping the registry. But while the government restores some of our freedoms with one hand, it simultaneously takes them away with the other.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has placed the Conservatives' so-called "lawful access" legislation - which they've been trying to pass since 2009 - on the House of Commons Order Paper. If it becomes law, the bill will give the government unprecedented access to Canadians' online activities, by allowing police to collect the personal information of Internet users - including names, addresses and phone numbers - without having to go through the cumbersome process of obtaining a warrant beforehand.

In order to gain access to these intimate details, the government will force Internet service providers to install costly monitoring equipment on their networks. Taxpayers will likely be forced to foot part of the bill, but the rest of the cost will be borne by private industry. Smaller providers could be driven out of what is already an uncompetitive market. The law would also make it much easier for police to force telecommunication companies to retain information on their customers and to enable tracking devices on mobile phones.

Thou shalt purchase F-35s

Julian Fantino’s faith-based defence procurement offers clarity and efficiency

"We will purchase the F-35. We’re on record. We’re part of the crusade. We’re not backing down."
—Julian Fantino, associate minister of national defence, Fort Worth, Texas, Nov. 8, 2011.

Julian Fantino brings clarity and purpose to his new role as associate minister of national defence.

Thanks to the introduction of faith-based procurement, the Harper government can now ignore the complexities and inefficiencies of design specifications, equipment testing, contract tendering, specified industrial regional benefits, etc.

From now on, decisions on new equipment for the Canadian Forces will be divinely ordained, and channelled to Canadians through Mr. Fantino’s divine connections.

Last week, we published an article about the F-35 Lightning II, in the peer-reviewed Canadian Foreign Policy Journal. Our analysis sought to fill the gap created by the Harper government’s refusal to make public the “statement of operational requirements” prepared by the Department of National Defence.

In the article, we tracked the ongoing problems with the F-35 program, including long delays, escalating costs, and reduced orders from other countries. We compared the capabilities of the F-35 against proven and less-expensive alternate aircraft such as the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and the F-15 E/F Strike Eagle.

U.S. slowdown on F-35 purchases to raise cost - Lockheed Martin

Feb 14 (Reuters) - A U.S. plan to drag out purchases of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet would increase "somewhat" the total cost paid by the United States and international allies, Lockheed Martin said on Tuesday.
"It will raise the overall average cost of the total procurement of all the airplanes bought," said Tom Burbage, head of Lockheed Martin's F-35 programme, a day after the Pentagon said it would slow procurement of the fledgling radar-evading aircraft.

Burbage told Reuters the average cost would "go up somewhat" but declined to quantify the effect. "It just changes the dynamics of the cost equation," he said.

The Pentagon on Monday confirmed plans to postpone production of 179 F-35s over the next five years to save $15.1 billion, including $1.6 billion by funding 13 fewer aircraft in fiscal year 2013.

Burbage was in Oslo to discuss Norway's intention to purchase up to 56 F-35. Oil-rich Norway said its plans remained unchanged.

Original Article
Source: reuters 
Author: -- 

Economics drive demographics

The population west of Ontario now exceeds the population east of Ontario, according to new 2011 census data. This was what made headlines when Canadian population growth of 5.9 per cent from 2006 to 2011 (upwards of one per cent per year) was announced recently by Statistics Canada. It led commentators to forecast a continued shift in political power west.

Conservative legislation (prepared before the release of 2006-11 population data) enlarges the House of Commons by adding 15 seats in Ontario, six each in Alberta and B.C., and three in Quebec. But the impact of demographic changes on Canadian electoral politics can be easily overstated. What is more important are the shifts in economic power that underlie the changes in population.

The driving force in population relocation is economic opportunity. Alberta and Saskatchewan grew through arrivals from elsewhere in Canada, and newcomers from abroad. Sustained by high commodity prices for oil and potash, the two Prairie provinces attracted workers. Migrants had to balance low unemployment rates against steep housing costs, but many made the costly decision to relocate (increased reliance on temporary foreign workers is not covered by the census data).

At 5.7 per cent overall, the population of Ontario has grown slightly more slowly than the rest of the country over the past five years. This is new. Economic reversals associated with past recessions of 1981-82 and 1990-92 returned in force in 2007, so people were less likely to come to Ontario for work. Where once Ontario took 60 per cent of new arrivals from abroad, it attracted only 40 per cent in the last five years.

'With us or with the child pornographers' doesn't cut it, Mr. Toews

What you think of the Conservatives’ new bill to expand police surveillance of the web may depend on what you think of the long-gun registry and the long-form census.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews will argue that the new legislation, to be introduced Tuesday afternoon, will grant the government access to nothing more than the Internet equivalent of a telephone book, which police need to help track criminals and terrorists.

Mr. Toews takes a dim view of anyone who would question the need for that access. In the Commons, Monday, he said people “can either stand with us or with the child pornographers.”

Privacy commissioners in Ottawa and the provinces will not like being called such vile names. They have warned that the Conservatives are violating privacy rights by demanding the authority to collect IP addresses, email addresses, mobile phone numbers and other identifying information on anyone who interests them without a warrant.

The government is unlikely ever to change the privacy commissioners’ minds, or to be swayed by their criticism. Politically, what matters is whether the large-C Conservatives can make the case for the bill with small-c conservatives.

Crime bill threatens to undo decades of reform, former MP warns

Harsh federal sentencing policies are propelling the country back to a time of massive prison overcrowding and riots, according to a senior Department of Justice adviser who recently retired, David Daubney.

With a government omnibus crime bill on the verge of becoming law, Mr. Daubney said he felt compelled to issue a warning that federal priorities threaten to undo decades of correctional research and reform.

“Overcrowding is already severe at both the federal and provincial levels,” Mr. Daubney said in an interview. “It’s going to get tougher, and prisons will be more violent places. We may go back to the era of riots in prisons. I’m afraid it is going to get worse before it gets any better.”

The interview with Mr. Daubney, who developed expertise in sentencing policy as a Progressive Conservative MP in the 1980s and joined the Justice Department in 1990, provided a rare glimpse into the backroom mechanics of the Justice bureaucracy.

Mr. Daubney said that, since the mid-2000s, the Justice Department has asked for less and less research to be undertaken and typically ignores recommendations against policies such as mandatory minimum sentences or prison expansion.

Drummond report: Sweeping education reforms recommended

Don Drummond wants Premier Dalton McGuinty to raise the primary school limit from 20 students per class, scrap or revamp full-day kindergarten and roll back the new 30 per cent cut in college and university tuition.

The head of Ontario’s commission on public service reform makes 362 recommendations in a 700-page report to be released Wednesday, including the eradication of McGuinty’s signature education promises from the last three elections.

Drummond implores the government to spend more money in only one area — aboriginal education because too many First Nations children live on reserves without proper schools.

The former TD Bank chief economist, hired to chart a map to pay down the $16 billion deficit by 2017-18, is urging annual government spending increases to be capped at just 0.8 per cent.

That means overall government spending would be raised by just $6.3 billion over the next five years.

Put in perspective, spending has skyrocketed by $40.5 billion over the past five years — from $83.5 billion in 2005-06 to $124 billion last year.

The Commons: That familiar refrain

The Scene. Peter Julian, head nodding and bobbing for emphasis, began with a harangue for the government’s F-35 fixation. Heritage Minister James Moore, today’s stand-in for the Prime Minister, enjoyed the opportunity to explain the difference between those who Support The Troops and those who do not.

This though was mere prelude to the matter of Old Age Security. “Everything is about choices and priorities, and the choice of F-35 is a bad choice,” Mr. Julian said by way of segue. “Another bad choice, of course, is the reduction of Old Age Security for Canadians.”

And this was mere prelude to Wayne Marston standing and reviewing, in his quiet, folksy way, the story so far. ”Mr. Speaker, first the Conservatives said that OAS was unsustainable and needed to be cut. On Friday, the Finance Minister said that changes to OAS would be delayed until 2020 or 2025. Then a government spokesperson said the finance minister is wrong,” Mr. Marston recounted.

This was merely the short version—leaving out both the Prime Minister’s triumphant speech in Davos at the start of this three-week saga and the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s rebuke this weekend. But, of course, this was mere prelude to the question that still hangs over all of this.

Ford doesn’t declare conflict, joins in debate over donations by lobbyists

Amidst the frantic politicking of last week’s transit showdown, Mayor Rob Ford did not declare a conflict of interest last Tuesday night during a council debate over Integrity Commissioner Janet Leiper’s recommendation that he repay almost $3,000 in lobbyists’ donations to his family’s football foundation, city officials have confirmed.

Mr. Ford addressed council during the debate, but it appears none of the other politicians present objected to his participation. In a motion by Councillor Paul Ainslie, council voted 22-12 to rescind Ms. Leiper’s recommendation, made originally in an August, 2010, report to council. Mr. Ford voted in favour.

His office did not respond to several requests for comment.

Under the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, local politicians are required to publicly disclose any “direct or indirect pecuniary interest” they may have in the outcome of a particular council decision and then recuse themselves from the ensuing debate. In Toronto, declarations of conflict are usually made at the beginning of council meetings.

Some of Mr. Ford’s supporters said he didn’t need to recuse himself.

“I don’t think the mayor did anything wrong,” said David Shiner (Willowdale), noting that Mr. Ford explained in council that he had not personally benefitted from the donations. “It was helpful that he stood up in council and explained what happened.”

Monsanto Guilty: Paul Francois, French Farmer, Poisoned By Biotech Giant's Chemicals

LYON/PARIS, Feb 13 (Reuters) - A French court on Monday declared U.S. biotech giant Monsanto guilty of chemical poisoning of a French farmer, a judgment that could lend weight to other health claims against pesticides.

In the first such case heard in court in France, grain grower Paul Francois, 47, says he suffered neurological problems including memory loss, headaches and stammering after inhaling Monsanto's Lasso weedkiller in 2004.

He blames the agri-business giant for not providing adequate warnings on the product label.

The ruling was given by a court in Lyon, southeast France, which ordered an expert opinion of Francois's losses to establish the amount of damages.

"It is a historic decision in so far as it is the first time that a (pesticide) maker is found guilty of such a poisoning," François Lafforgue, Francois's lawyer, told Reuters.

Monsanto said it was disappointed by the ruling and would examine whether to appeal the judgment.

"Monsanto always considered that there were not sufficient elements to establish a causal relationship between Paul Francois's symptoms and a potential poisoning," the company's lawyer, Jean-Philippe Delsart, said.

Fox News' Liz Trotta On Women Raped In Military: 'What Did They Expect? These People Are In Close Contact'

Fox News pundit Liz Trotta made a series of incendiary statements about rape in the military during a Sunday appearance on the network.

Trotta was reacting to news that the military will allow women to work closer to the front lines. Speaking to Fox News host Eric Shawn, she alleged that feminists wanted "to be warriors and victims at the same time."

She cited a recent Pentagon report that sex crimes committed by army personnel have increased by 64% over the past six years. Then she made a startling statement:
"I think they have actually discovered there is a difference between men and women. And the sexual abuse report says that there has been, since 2006, a 64% increase in violent sexual assaults. Now, what did they expect? These people are in close contact, the whole airing of this issue has never been done by Congress, it's strictly been a question of pressure from the feminists."
Trotta also alleged that "feminists" have demanded too much money to fund programs for sexual abuse victims. "You have this whole bureaucracy upon bureaucracy being built up with all kinds of levels of people to support women in the military who are now being raped too much," she said.

Shawn argued that the programs are necessary to protect those victims. Trotta responded that the purpose of the military is "to defend and protect us, not the people who were fighting the war."

Trotta has a history of controversial statements. Among other things, she joked about assassinating President Obama during his campaign in 2008.

Original Article
Source: Huff 
Author: -- 

Alberta Provincial Care Burials Being Done On The Cheap, Say Funeral Home Operators

EDMONTON - The Alberta government says it is reviewing its policies after funeral home operators accused it of conducting burials for those in care cheaply and disrespectfully.

The Alberta Funeral Service Association, in a letter to the Opposition Liberals, says tight-fisted government funding is forcing it to bury child wards in cheaper, adult-sized caskets rather than smaller ones.

"In no uncertain terms should an infant or small child be buried in an adult-sized casket," association president Mitch Thomson said in the letter.

"It is inappropriate to them, and insensitive to their caregivers and loved ones.

"The province is offering nothing more than a disposal service for these young and innocent people."

The association recently cut its contract with the province to bury poor people or children and severely handicapped people who are wards of the province.

Liberal critic Laurie Blakeman took the issue up with Human Services Minister Dave Hancock during question period in the legislature Monday.

Quebec Tuition Strike: Thousands Protest Fee Increases

MONTREAL - Quebec students are hitting the bricks, not the books, to protest tuition-fee increases.

A series of strikes will be carried out over the next two weeks in hopes of paralyzing the education system and making the provincial government back down.

Around 20,000 students voted last week in favour of the strikes.

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, a spokesman for the students, says most of the strikes will be felt next Monday. But some student associations in Montreal have already walked out.

Protests are planned outside the offices of the ministers of finance and education.

Last week, students blocked access to a Quebec government building. About 100 student protesters created a human barricade outside the Montreal offices of the Education Department.

Quebec wants to nearly double the cost of a university education over the next five years.

Even with the increases, the province would still have by far the lowest university tuition in the country.

Quebec has generally frozen its fees for decades. As a result, in-province students pay an average of $2,168 per year — far less than the national average of $5,138. The planned increases would bring Quebec's undergrad fees to $3,793.

Original Article
Source: Huff 
Author: canadian press 

Canada Dropping The Ozone Ball, Scientists Warn

Leading atmospheric scientists are warning that Canada's cuts to its ozone monitoring program are already having effects on the world's ability to monitor air quality and ozone depletion.

Five scientists from high-profile U.S. universities and NASA say in a recently-released paper that Canada is jeopardizing the scientific community's ability to monitor for holes in the ozone, especially over the Arctic. They point out that monitoring has already stopped in five locations in Canada and the website that distributed the information has been pulled down.

"Canada is a bellwether for environmental change, not only for Arctic ozone depletion but also for pollutants that stream to North America from other continents," Anne Thompson, a professor of meteorology at Penn State University, said in a release. "It's unthinkable that data collection is beginning to shut down in this vast country."

The five scientists published their paper in Eos, the newsletter of the American Geophysical Union, which represents 61,000 earth and space scientists from around the world.

Political reality may force Tories to change broken record routine on F-35

When it comes to the F-35 fighter jet purchase, the Harper government has become so well-versed in the art of denial, it can’t say yes.

The Pentagon said Monday it will cancel 13 of the Lockheed Martin strike fighters to save $1.6-billion next year. It also proposed delaying the purchase of 179 F-35s beyond 2017 to save billions more.

U.S. allies, many of whom have their own financial problems, have already downgraded their orders for the troubled fighter, which has been plagued with technical problems, delays and cost overruns.

Britain has cut its planned order of 138 F-35s and will not decide until 2015 how many it will buy.

Australia is reviewing its order and is buying 24 Boeing Super-Hornet fighters because of delays to the Lockheed jets.

Turkey has halved its order; Italy is said to be considering cuts of around 30 planes; the Netherlands has put its plan to buy 85 F-35s on hold; and, Norway is waiting until this summer to decide whether to buy more planes to add to the four it purchased last year.

Feds hid names of big oil companies at lobbying retreat

OTTAWA — The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade has deliberately attempted to conceal key details about a taxpayer-funded lobbying training retreat it organized last year in London, England for its European diplomats to promote the oilsands, including names of major corporations involved and concerns raised at the meeting about whether its strategy was "credible."

It also attempted to conceal a warning that emerged from the meeting about the importance of the oilsands industry in ongoing free trade discussions with Europe — the Comprehensive and Economic Free Trade Agreement talks.

"With CETA negotiations underway, a proper understanding of the oil sands is of growing importance to Canada's place in Europe," wrote Sushma Gera, a trade adviser at the Canadian High Commission in London, in a widely distributed email that summarized discussions at the retreat.

Foreign Affairs officials blacked out this portion of the email, released to Postmedia News through access to information legislation. But the reference to free trade was included in a separate version of the correspondence released by Natural Resources Canada, following a similar access to information request.

Mayor Ford’s executive pushes ahead with subway expansion dream

Mayor Rob Ford’s executive committee has voted to push ahead with plans for a Sheppard subway extension.

Monday’s vote came five days after a specially called meeting at which city council largely derailed Ford’s subway vision with a 25-18 endorsement of a return to a light rail plan.

While explicitly confirming support for a partially buried LRT on Eglinton Ave. and a surface line on Finch Ave., council stopped short of completely dashing Ford’s multi-billion-dollar dream of extending the Sheppard subway to Scarborough Town Centre primarily through private investment.

It authorized creation of an expert panel, including former mayor David Crombie, Ford’s point man on Sheppard subway financing Gordon Chong, and U of T transit expert Eric Miller, to report back on Sheppard options by March 21. They meet for the first time Friday.

Ford has dismissed council’s vote as “irrelevant” and is lobbying the public and the province to ignore it and proceed with his plan for a buried Eglinton LRT and a Sheppard subway.

Members of executive, after hearing Chong’s defence of his report advocating subways, and listening to visiting councillors attack him for relying heavily on a 20-year-old environmental assessment, sided firmly with Ford and subways.

ORNGE founder Chris Mazza used air ambulance expertise for own business interests

A company owned by ORNGE founder Dr. Chris Mazza struck a personal deal in January 2011 to use the publicly funded air ambulance service for his own business interests, a key document shows.

In a flurry of activity, Mazza and almost all of his hand-picked executives at the non-profit ORNGE left the non-profit air ambulance service on Jan. 1 that year and began working for one of a series of personally owned consulting companies that were paid, often exorbitantly, with taxpayers’ money.

The Star has obtained a document that shows how, on the same day, a Mazza-led partnership — ORNGE Global Management Inc. — entered into an agreement to make use of many aspects of the air ambulance service that Ontarians pay $150 million a year to support.

“The partnership has been founded and organized to develop and operate businesses utilizing, among other things, intellectual property to be obtained under licence from ORNGE,” states a shareholder agreement between Mazza, personally, and ORNGE Global Management Inc.

Court ruling compels Ottawa to protect killer-whale habitat

It’s time for the federal government to respect the law – and get serious about saving killer whales.

That’s not the view of a bunch of woolly headed environmentalists, but of the Federal Court of Appeal, which has declared that the Minister of Fisheries acted illegally by ignoring provisions of the Species at Risk Act designed to protect critical habitat.

“Ministerial discretion does not legally protect critical habitat within the meaning … of the Species at Risk Act, and it was unlawful for the minister to have cited provisions of the Fisheries Act in the killer whales Protection Statement,” the court found.

Not just wrong-headed or short-sighted – but unlawful.

The ruling, issued on Feb. 9 means the government of Canada has got to start protecting habitat vital to the survival of killer whales on the West Coast. And that means a whole lot of ocean has to be managed differently – with everything from fish farms, to new docks, to tanker traffic seen through a different lens.

“We feel really good about this ruling,” says Gwen Barlee, policy director of the Wilderness Committee, which was one of nine environmental groups that pursued the case with the help of Ecojustice, a non-profit law organization.

“It’s a strong decision, a unanimous decision by three judges, and we are hoping the government will now stop dragging its feet and will start protecting killer whales and all the other endangered species in Canada,” she said.

Monsanto guilty of chemical poisoning in France

(Reuters) - A French court on Monday declared U.S. biotech giant Monsanto(MON.N) guilty of chemical poisoning of a French farmer, a judgment that could lend weight to other health claims against pesticides.
In the first such case heard in court in France, grain grower Paul Francois says he suffered neurological problems including memory loss, headaches and stammering after inhaling Monsanto's (MON.N) Lasso weedkiller in 2004.

He blames the agri-business giant for not providing adequate warnings on the product label.

The ruling was given by a court in Lyon, southeast France, which ordered an expert opinion of Francois's losses to establish the sum of damages.

Lawyers for Monsanto could not immediately be reached for comment.

Previous health claims from farmers have foundered because of the difficulty of establishing clear links between illnesses and exposure to pesticides.

"I am alive today, but part of the farming population is going to be sacrificed and is going to die because of this," Francois, 47, told Reuters.

He and other farmers suffering from illness set up an association last year to make a case that their health problems should be linked to their use of crop protection products.

The agricultural branch of the French social security system says that since 1996, it has gathered farmers' reports of sickness potentially related to pesticides, with about 200 alerts a year.

But only about 47 cases have been recognised as due to pesticides in the past 10 years. Francois, who suffers from neurological problems, obtained work invalidity status only after a court appeal.


The Francois case goes back to a period of intensive use of crop-protection chemicals in the European Union. The EU and its member countries have since banned a large number of substances considered dangerous.

Monsanto's Lasso was banned in France in 2007 following an EU directive after the product had already been withdrawn in some other countries.

France, the EU's largest agricultural producer, is now targetting a 50 percent reduction in pesticide use between 2008 and 2018, with initial results showing a 4 percent cut in farm and non-farm use in 2008-2010.

The Francois claim may be easier to argue than others because he can pinpoint a specific incident - inhaling the Lasso when cleaning the tank of his crop sprayer - whereas fellow farmers are trying to show accumulated effects from various products.

"It's like lying on a bed of thorns and trying to say which one cut you," said a farmer, who has recovered from prostate cancer and asked not to be named.

The French association of crop protection companies, UIPP, says pesticides are all subject to testing and that any evidence of a cancer risk in humans leads to withdrawal of productsfrom the market.

"I think if we had a major health problem with pesticides, we would have already known about it," Jean-Charles Bocquet, UIPP's managing director, said.

The social security's farming branch this year is due to add Parkinson's disease to its list of conditions related to pesticide use after already recognising some cases of blood cancers and bladder and respiratory problems.

France's health and environment safety agency (ANSES), meanwhile, is conducting a study on farmers' health, with results expected next year.

(Writing by Gus Trompiz; Editing by Muriel Boselli, Sybille de La Hamaide and Jane Baird)

Original Article
Source: reuters 
Author: Marion Douet 

After Mortgage Settlement, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac Face Renewed Pressure On Principal Reduction

Top law enforcement officials in several states are signaling they will pressure Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to correct what is widely seen as one of the biggest deficiencies of the $25 billion mortgage settlement announced on Thursday: It simply doesn't help that many homeowners.

Borrowers whose loans are backed by the government-controlled mortgage giants -- nearly half of all outstanding mortgages in the United States -- are not eligible for payouts under the deal. State officials who negotiated the deal say they could not convince Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, or the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees the loan giants, to join onto the settlement because they are steadfastly opposed to principal reductions -- loan write-downs for borrowers whose homes are at risk of foreclosure.

"This is a glaring weakness of the overall settlement," said one state official who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Fannie and Freddie were absolutely opposed to principal reduction. You'd ask why, and they'd say 'moral hazard to the taxpayer.'"

So far, the mortgage giants and the FHFA have only said that they're avoiding principal reduction because of the cost to taxpayers.

Principal reductions are hailed by many economists and housing experts as the most effective way to help homeowners who are underwater on their mortgages, owing more than the home is worth. About 1 in 5 homes in the U.S. are currently underwater.

EDMONTON - The Alberta government is changing the rules for post-secondary students applying for loans to get them through the school year.

Advanced Education Minister Greg Weadick (WED'-ick) says the province will no longer consider a student's earnings, RRSPs or parental income when determining a loan.

Students will have to show at least $1,500 has been put aside towards their education — and single parents won't have to contribute anything.

The government is also streamlining applications so that students will only have to deal with one organization called Student Aid Alberta.

Other changes include dropping interest charges from the six-month repayment grace period after graduation.

The Alberta Liberals say the attempt to revise student aid is "stingy" and they suggest loans should be forgiven for those who work in the province after graduation and pay taxes.

Original Article
Source: Huff 
Author: canadian press 

Canada Asbestos Industry Undeterred By Criminal Convictions In Italy

MONTREAL - Canada's asbestos industry said it had nothing to fear Monday after two men were criminally convicted in more than 2,000 asbestos-related deaths in Italy.

Construction-firm executives Jean-Louise de Cartier of Belgium and Stephan Schmidheiny of Switzerland were each handed 16-year prison sentences for negligence following a trial that officials called historic.

A representative for Canada's controversial asbestos sector said he doesn't think similar criminal charges could ever be laid against industry players here.

"I personally believe that there is no possibility," said Guy Versailles, a spokesman for Montreal asbestos salesman Baljit Chadha and Quebec's Jeffrey Mine.

Versailles said if it were possible, such charges likely would already have been filed against people in a highly scrutinized industry that has lost many civil lawsuits for past unsafe practices of the 1950s, '60s and '70s.

"The victims and the lawyers have been so persistent on this — for decades — milking the industry dry that anything they could do and anything governments could do would have been done," he said Monday following the verdict in Italy.

"I think it's as simple as that."

Take Your Insults Back to the Playground, Ezra Levant

In a column written this past weekend for the Toronto Sun, author and television host Ezra Levant advanced two questionable assertions. The column follows comments made in the House of Commons by Conservative MP Larry Miller comparing the 1990s Liberal government's intentions behind establishing a long gun registry to Adolf Hitler's racist and genocidal policies.

First, Levant compares Nazi suppression of civil liberties and personal freedom in general -- and German gun control policies both under Hitler and before him in particular -- to Canadian gun control policies. "The lesson is, don't let the government take away your rights," he writes, regardless of the intent behind right-limiting legislation.

Levant's general comparison is -- like Miller's -- obscene. To place the limitation of all so-called "rights" in one basket (i.e. to insinuate that Nazi persecution of Jews and other minorities can be compared with regulating firearms) is to trivialize crimes against humanity and hence to insult the memory of those who perished in the Holocaust.

Furthermore, according to Levant, apparently it is a fundamental "right" to be able to purchase a firearm without being required to register it, regardless of the consequences that this may have on public safety.

Committee Watch: Official Languages at the centre of the in camera storm

It seems that reports of the death of the Conservative campaign to force debate behind closed doors may have been a tad premature. For the last week and a half, the traditionally convivial official languages committee has been beset by a pitched battle over a government-backed motion to go in camera for all committee business. 

Unlike a similar skirmish at Government Operations, however, this debate is taking place in public -- and, barring a nifty bit of procedural artistry on the part of the government, is likely to stay there for the foreseeable future, as committee rules prohibit the introduction of a motion to go back in camera until after the in camera motion has been decided.

So, how did a debate over holding future meetings in secret end up on the record? For that, we have to go back to what would turn out to be a fateful session on the morning of February 2, when, att some point during the first hour of what had been scheduled to be an in camera session, the opposition parties found themselves unexpectedly, if temporarily, in the majority.

No doubt sensing that the moment was likely to be fleeting, they joined forces to turn the tables on the government, and brought forward a snap motion to open the doors.  (Motions to go in camera, or public, require no notice, and are non-debateable.)

In challenge to Ottawa, judge refuses to impose mandatory sentence

An Ontario Superior Court judge has refused to impose a mandatory three-year sentence on a man caught with a loaded handgun, putting the courts on a collision course with the federal government’s belief in fixed sentences that provide judges with little discretion.

In a decision Monday, Madam Justice Anne Molloy added fuel to a rising sense of judicial anger over mandatory minimum sentences by striking down the compulsory term as cruel and unusual punishment.

Instead, she sentenced the defendant, Leroy Smickle, to a year of house arrest. Judge Molloy concluded that Mr. Smickle, a 30-year-old Toronto man with no criminal record, had merely been showing off by striking a “cool” pose over the Internet when police happened to burst into an apartment on March 9, 2009, in search of another man.

The government has adamantly held to the view that mandatory minimums are a necessary restraint on judges who might impose inappropriately lenient sentences for certain offences. That is part of a larger tough-on-crime agenda that includes everything from harsher prison sentences to restricting parole and pardons.

Several months ago, in another major challenge in Ontario Superior Court, a similar sentencing provision was upheld in a firearms case, Regina v. Nur. That, combined with the Smickle ruling, could well result in a high-profile appeal that goes all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Tories on e-snooping: ‘Stand with us or with the child pornographers’

Canada’s privacy commissioners will be surprised to hear it, but the Conservatives are accusing anyone who opposes their bill to give police new powers to monitor the Internet of supporting child pornography.

A similar comment might have cost Stephen Harper the 2004 election. But with the next election years away, it’s hard to know whether or when Public Safety Minister Vic Toews will change his tune.

Mr. Toews will introduce Lawful Access legislation, as it is commonly called, into the House of Commons Tuesday. Previous versions of the bill failed to make it through minority parliaments, but now that the Conservatives have a majority it is almost certain to pass.

The bill will require Internet service providers to store and to make available to the government and police forces information on the Internet activity of their customers.

Police will require a warrant to obtain that information. But the bill would also permit them to obtain IP addresses (which identifies someone on the Internet), email addresses, mobile phone numbers and other information without any warrant.

"Real Despair" Sweeps Through Greece as Severe Austerity Measures Demanded by EU-IMF Cripple Nation

Greece continues to face political turmoil over a sovereign debt crisis that has embroiled the country for almost two years. On Monday, the Greek government said it would hold new elections in the face of massive demonstrations against a new austerity package that was approved on Sunday in exchange for a European Union-International Monetary Fund bailout. Under the austerity deal, Greece will fire 15,000 pubic sector this year and 150,000 by 2015. The minimum wage will be reduced by 22 percent and pension plans will be be cut. As lawmakers voted, 100,000 people protested outside the parliament building in Athens. Some protesters engaged in rioting, looting and setting fire to dozens of stores and buildings. Some 160 people were detained and dozens were treated for injuries. To discuss the latest in Greece, we’re joined by Maria Margaronis, London correspondent for The Nation magazine. She was in Greece last week covering the economic crisis there. Margaronis says Greece faces an “impossible choice” to “either default on its loans by March when it owes a massive loan payment, or to accept this desperate austerity program, which will further sink the economy. ...The Greek people have really had enough of this: People are exhausted and desperate. On the street in Athens, there’s a sense of everything breaking down."

Original Article
Source:  Democracy Now!
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