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.]

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

American Airlines Workers Picket Company's Plans To Outsource Jobs, Cut Benefits

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Flight attendants and ground workers marched in picket lines Tuesday to protest American Airlines' plans to outsource jobs and cut pay and benefits under a bankruptcy reorganization.

Several of the protesters acknowledged having little hope of changing the company's course. Some said that they expect to be laid off soon.

There appeared to be 200 to 250 protesters at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. A few passengers disembarked from cars and rolled their bags into the international terminal while avoiding contact with the pickets.

The event was a reminder of the long and bitter divide between labor and management at American, the nation's third-largest airline. There may also be differences – at least in style – among the workers themselves. The pilots' union skipped the protest, preferring to take a less confrontational approach.

American and its parent, AMR Corp., filed for bankruptcy protection on Nov. 29 after running up billions of dollars in losses over the past decade. Two weeks ago, AMR laid out a plan to cut 13,000 jobs, kill its pension plans, reduce benefits and make other changes such as longer hours for some of its 88,000 employees.

Greek Debt Crisis: Greek Finance Minister Says Many In The Eurozone 'Don't Want Us Any More'

BRUSSELS — European finance ministers insisted Wednesday on much tighter oversight of Greece's spending and austerity efforts, despite politicians' assurances that Athens will go ahead with promised cuts and reforms to secure a euro130 billion ($170 billion) bailout.

Following a 3 1/2 hour conference call between the finance chiefs of the 17 countries that use the euro, the ministers welcomed the debt-ridden country's declaration that it had identified another euro325 million ($470 million) in cuts on top of the layoffs of thousands of public workers and other wage and pension cuts.

They also greeted written commitments from leaders of the two Greek parties that make up the coalition government to implement the promised cuts and reforms even if there is a change in power after elections expected in April.

But in a sign of deep distrust that has built up – especially among rich nations like Germany, the Netherlands and Finland – Jean-Claude Juncker, the prime minister of Luxembourg who also chairs the finance ministers' meetings, said the eurozone needed better ways to track Greek spending before new aid could be released.

"Further considerations are necessary" to ensure better surveillance of Greek finances, Juncker said, stressing that the new oversight had to ensure "priority is given to debt servicing."

Juncker's statement refers to a recent proposal by France and Germany to set up an account, separate from Greece's general budget, that would be dedicated to paying off Greece's massive debt. It was unclear whether this account would only manage the bailout money or whether government revenue could also be funneled into it.

Canada Derivatives Investigation: Citigroup, JPMorgan Among Banks Named In Collusion Probe

Canada’s Competition Bureau has launched an investigation into possible manipulation of the derivatives market by five of the world’s largest banks, multiple news sources confirm.

Competition Bureau spokeswoman Alexa Keating confirmed to Reuters that the agency is investigating "alleged collusive conduct" by the banks that may have manipulated the LIBOR rate for the Japanese yen.

The LIBOR, or London Interbank Offered Rate, is a widely-used measure of interest rates that is published by England’s banking association every day. It provides benchmark interest rates for loans in a variety of currencies, including the Japanese yen, and is used for various types of lending, including student and corporate loans.

Manipulation of LIBOR-linked derivatives may have affected the LIBOR rates, changing the borrowing costs for individuals and organizations around the world.

Though the Competition Bureau has not publicly stated which banks are being probed, documents obtained by Bloomberg News show the banks in question are Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, JPMorgan and Royal Bank of Scotland.

The great western power shift

To see the country moving West, you have only to board a flight from Montreal to Calgary, and hear almost nothing but French spoken in the waiting area at the gate.

On a full Air Canada flight on a weekday in mid-February, these Quebecers weren't going to Calgary for Stampede, nor to Banff to ski.

They were going to work in the oil patch, where a person with a skilled trade, an electrician or a welder, makes well over $100,000 per year. It's the same in Alberta's housing industry, which is clamouring for carpenters and plumbers.

But many of these passengers were guys in suits, consulting engineers and the like, heading from home to work.

SNC-Lavalin, for instance, is a major player in Calgary and the oilsands, whose daily output of more than 1.7 million unconventional barrels per day now accounts for more than half of Canada's production of crude oil.

Feds spent nearly $54,000 on pro-oil lobbying retreat over two days in London, England

OTTAWA-The federal goverment spent at least $53,563.23 on a two-day retreat last February in London, England that was organized to train its European diplomats to lobby on behalf of oil and gas companies against climate change legislation under consideration in Europe’s Parliament.

The figures were released by three federal departments in response to questions raised by Postmedia News last week.

The bulk of the spending went through the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, which sent more than a dozen Canadian diplomats from 13 different European offices and four senior officials from Ottawa to the gathering on Feb. 1 and 2, 2011 at a cost of $22,691.43.

The department also awarded an untendered $14,859.50 contract to an Ottawa-based consultant who delivered a workshop on lobbying techniques. The presentation on “how to do advocacy: what is the issue in Europe, how to address criticism and emotions?” was delivered on the second day of the meeting by Joanne Lemmex from JL Strategies Inc., a consulting firm.

Stockwell Day warned Tories against internet snooping

Team Harper should have listened to Stockwell Day.

When Day was Public Safety minister, he opposed the type of digital snooping that his successor, Vic Toews, is bringing forth with Bill C-30.

Last year when the question of handing police the extraordinary powers arose, Day stated that “We are not in any way, shape, or form wanting extra powers for police to pursue [information online] without warrants.” While having to get a warrant could make police work more difficult, Day held to the view that the citizen’s right to privacy was paramount.

In the summer when Toews’ intentions became known, I contacted Day and asked him what happened. “I won’t back away from what I said, nor would I want to,” Day wrote back.” He didn’t directly condemn Toews, saying he wanted to wait to till the details of the proposed legislation were in.

Now they are in and indeed the police are to get new powers to search the web without warrants. Given the storm of protest, the proposed legislation has touched off, it’s a good bet that the prime minister wishes he had heeded Day’s warning which I wrote about in a column – Pushing the Limits of State Surveillance – last August [Globe and Mail, August 17, 2011].

Canada's air pollution experts moved to 'other priorities'

Environment Canada has drastically cut back on its monitoring of air pollution that can cause health problems for Canadians, reassigning scientists involved in that monitoring to "other priorities."

In an email to CBC News, a department spokesman says Environment Canada is still providing "world class analysis" and will continue to "monitor the ozone through other means," but did not provide details on what those are.

The department was responding to recent warnings by leading atmospheric scientists that Canada's cuts to its ozone monitoring program are affecting the world's ability to monitor air quality and ozone depletion.

On Monday, five scientists from high-profile U.S. universities and NASA released a scathing critique of Canada's cuts to its ozone monitoring, saying it is jeopardizing the world's ability to watch for holes in the ozone layer and pollutants high in the atmosphere. The paper was published in the Eos, the newsletter of the American Geophysical Union that represents 61,000 Earth and space scientists from around the world. Information gathered in Canada feeds into worldwide networks.

Harper’s alienation of Quebec just what the Liberals need

MONTREAL—My neighbourhood drugstore was dealing with an acute stamp shortage last week. It had not run out of supplies altogether but some customers did not want to buy the few stamps it still had on offer. When presented with the Diamond Jubilee issue, many opted to take their shopping to a better-supplied counter.

For the record, the drugstore is located in a staunchly federalist section of Outremont.

At about the same time, the Quebec allotment of Jubilee medals was landing on Premier Jean Charest’s doorstep. It never made it to his desk. Instead the Ottawa package was swiftly redirected to the lieutenant-governor for handling.

In Quebec federalist quarters, including the provincial government, the Conservative monarchist rebranding of the country is seen as an ill-advised return to Canada’s colonial past.

Both of the above are mere vignettes but they illustrate in a small way the increasingly large disconnect between Stephen Harper’s government and Quebec’s federalist constituency.

Liberal MP Justin Trudeau’s statement that he would support an independent Quebec rather than live in a Canada where equality rights no longer had their place was only the latest manifestation of that malaise.

Decolonize together: Indigenous activists send strong message at Occupy Toronto talk

"I'm hopeful to see you all here visioning a different future. A future based on equality, diversity and respect for the land. And I'm excited and I'm hopeful for the impact that you're having on the world.... And so I say to you today...if you wish to align yourselves with the dispossessed and the marginalized, reject the language and ideology of colonialism, conquest and exploitation." - Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, January 23, 2012

Not long after protesters set up camp on Wall Street, indigenous activists began to question the use of colonial language to claim spaces that have been under occupation for over 500 years.

The unfortunate response, from some quarters, has been that Occupy Wall Street (OWS) should maintain a "united" front, disregarding the multiple hierarchies within the 99 per cent, as well as the rights and demands of indigenous peoples. Others, however, agree that there is a need to address this fundamental issue.

On Monday, January 23, Occupy Toronto sponsored a panel discussion, "Indigenous Perspectives on the Occupy Movement," at Beit Zaitoun. The speakers provided a forceful yet constructive critique. They recognized the hopefulness of Occupy's worldwide repudiation of capitalism, while also calling on activists to rethink the language and strategies of the movement so that it does not reinscribe colonialism by undermining Indigenous struggles. Furthermore, they proposed that a movement that seeks to seriously challenge economic inequality, environmental exploitation and other forms of oppression must stem from a commitment to decolonization.

Who wants 'closer' economic ties with China?

The Prime Minister's trip to China last week sparked a flurry of media coverage regarding prospects for "closer" economic ties between Canada and China. Some even speculated that another free trade agreement is in the works (as soon as the Harper government inks its planned deals, of course, with the EU, India, Korea, and the TPP!).

The pandas are cute, sure. But what are the dimensions of the current economic links between these two economies? Does that relationship benefit average Canadians? And do we want something even "closer"?

Here are a few factoids to throw into that particular discussion:

- Canada imported almost $50 billion in merchandise from China in 2011, almost all manufactured goods.

- We exported $17 billion, about half-and-half manufactured goods and resources.

- Our resource exports to China have almost quadrupled in the last 5 years. That's clearly what they want from us.

- We end up with two offsetting deficits.

- We have a very large deficit in manufactured goods: $38 billion in 2011.

- We have a significant surplus in resources (over $7 billion in 2011), but it offsets only one-fifth of the deficit in manufactures.

- The overall result is a large trade deficit of over $30 billion.

- Based on average labour intensity ratios, I believe the deficit in manufactured goods translates into the loss of 125,000 manufacturing jobs.

- And the GROWTH in the manufacturing trade deficit over the last decade (from $9.6 billion in 2001 to $38 billion last year) accounts for almost 100,000 of the jobs lost in manufacturing over that decade.

Canada's fossil fuels: They say radical, we say rational

We're not about to quit oil cold turkey. Does that mean we should continue with business as usual?

In Canada, "business as usual" means rapidly increasing oil sands exploitation and selling the bitumen as quickly as possible to anyone who wants it. It means continuing to import half the oil we use, mostly from the Middle East, while shipping oil extracted here to other countries. It means continued tax breaks and subsidies for fossil fuel companies while manufacturing and other value-added industries suffer because of our inflated petro dollar. It means low royalties and not putting away revenues for the future.

This could spell a bleak future: a failing economy as accessible oil starts to run out with few renewable energy sources to replace it; deteriorating health of citizens as water, air, and land become more polluted; increased droughts, floods, and water shortages as climate change increases.

But it doesn't have to be bleak. We could have a healthy and prosperous future. Canada could be seen as a world leader on energy, human rights, and global discourse. The solutions are not radical. They include such reasonable measures as slowing oil sands production, eliminating subsidies to an industry that hardly needs them, increasing royalties, setting up a rainy day fund for the revenues, and encouraging energy conservation and renewable energy development.

We could also learn to use fossil fuels more efficiently. For example, about 75 per cent of petroleum in North America is used for transportation. Automobiles waste 85 per cent of the energy from each litre of fuel burned. And the useful energy goes to moving a vehicle that typically weighs 10 to 20 times more than the passengers it carries. That translates to about one per cent efficiency to move passengers.

Iran boasts nuclear progress

(CNN) -- Iran flaunted a new generation of centrifuges and mastery of the nuclear fuel cycle Wednesday as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, clad in a white lab coat, was on hand to load domestically made fuel rods into the core of a Tehran reactor.

Also announced was an intent to start production of yellowcake, a chemically treated form of uranium ore used for making enriched uranium.

United Nations sanctions ban Iran from importing yellowcake. Domestic production would further Iran's nuclear self-sufficiency.

In a speech outlining the latest developments, Ahmadinejad said Iran was willing to share its nuclear knowledge with other nations that subscribe to the watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The U.S. State Department, however, dismissed Iran's announcements as bluster for a domestic audience.

"We frankly don't see a lot new here. This is not big news," said spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. "In fact, it seems to have been hyped. The Iranians for many months have been putting out calendars of accomplishments and based on their own calendars they are many, many months behind.

Justin Trudeau: reflections on a grown man

If you enjoy seeing somebody injure themselves trying to occupy two positions at once, have a look at Josée Legault. The Montreal Gazette columnist and former PQ strategist was largely responsible for viralizing Justin Trudeau’s weekend remarks on separatism; transcribing his remarks on her blog, she accurately noted how unthinkable Trudeau’s position would have been to his late father, and how surprising they were coming from any Liberal. Yet when the story blew up in English Canada a couple days later, Legault took umbrage. Those hysterical Anglos had distorted the story.
Mardi matin, l’histoire s’était rendue jusque dans les médias canadiens-anglais. [Tuesday morning, the story made it into the English-Canadian media.] Mais de manière plutôt déformée, voire caricaturée. [But in a rather deformed, even caricatured manner.]
D’où les hauts cris poussés à Ottawa et à travers le Canada à l’effet que le fils de Pierre Trudeau, tout à coup, serait tenté de devenir, un jour, qui sait, un méchant «séparatiste»… [Hence the outcry in Ottawa and across Canada to the effect that the son of Pierre Trudeau, all of a sudden, could be tempted to become, one day, who knows, a naughty “separatist”...]
Legault goes on to gripe about the “honesty” of this characterization. In fact, it is perfectly honest and in perfect concord with what Trudeau said, and Legault was correct to recognize it as news in the first place, even if she does not now like the result (perhaps because she has lost ownership of the scoop).

Farmers’ markets and grocery stores are subject to the same scrutiny, health official says

Food safety experts say there’s no clear winner in food safety between farmers’ markets and grocery stores, with both types of operations subject to rigorous health and safety inspections.

Comments made Feb. 7 by Loblaws’ chief Galen Weston about the safety of farmers’ markets may have caused an unintended stir in the industry, but it’s raised some important questions about how food is monitored once it gets to shelves and stalls.

“Farmers’ markets are great . . .” Weston began during a speech to a crowd of 600 at the Canadian Food Summit in Toronto. “One day they’re going to kill some people though.”

“I’m just saying that to be dramatic though,” he quickly added.

But Jim Chan, manager of food safety for Toronto Public Health, said food safety comes down to who’s running the show, not the type of operation they run.

“I won’t say that the risk level in all farmers’ markets is higher than other food premises. You cannot say that,” Chan said. “It’s all depending on the person who is operating that particular site.”

Municipal health inspectors are in charge of inspecting all food premises, including grocery stores and markets.

Sean Penn says U.K. provoking Argentina by sending Prince William to Falklands

MONTEVIDEO, URUGUAY—Sean Penn is accusing British media of pushing for war instead of diplomacy to resolve the United Kingdom’s dispute with Argentina over the islands both countries claim in the far South Atlantic.

The Oscar-winning actor said British journalists had twisted his comments the day before in support of Argentina’s push for a UN-sponsored negotiated settlement to the sovereignty dispute.

“Good journalism saves the world. Bad journalism destroys it,” Penn said.

London’s conservative Daily Mail called the statement “an ugly attack on the press” by a “left-wing U.S. actor” in its Wednesday editions and quoted a member of parliament, Patrick Mercer, as calling Penn’s comment “moronic.”

“My oh my, aren’t people sensitive to the word ‘colonialism,’ particularly those who implement colonialism,” Penn said Tuesday night.

Drummond Report: New roadmap for Ontario includes higher hydro bills, larger school classes

Gloom — or doom.

That’s the outlook for Ontario, according to a sweeping review of public services urging higher hydro bills, larger school classes, a streamlined health-care system that could lead to fewer hospitals, more expensive tuition and increased user fees.

Don Drummond, chair of the commission on public-service reform, on Wednesday delivered the roadmap for Ontario’s daunting journey.

It came in the form of a two-volume, 668-page report so weighty that a table collapsed when Ontario Provincial Police officers unloaded embargoed copies in the media lock-up.

“Ontario faces more severe economic and fiscal challenges than Ontarians realize,” said Drummond, a former TD Bank chief economist, warning the deficit would balloon from $16 billion this year to $30.2 billion by 2017-18 unless the hemorrhaging is stanched.

“Our message will strike many as profoundly gloomy. It is one that Ontarians have not heard, certainly not in the recent election campaign, but one this commission believes it must deliver,” he said, castigating all the major political parties for saying they could balance the books within five years relatively painlessly.

FBI Fliers Reveal Profile Of A Perfect Terrorist (They Pay For Coffee With Cash, Apparently)

If you're in Starbucks and notice a nondescript individual paying for their coffee with cash - watch out.

According to the FBI you might have found evidence of a terrorist plot.

A series of fliers distributed to companies around the United States by the FBI and the Bureau of Justice Assistance appear to give workers and business owners exactly this advice.

The fliers, as highlighted by the miscellania blog BoingBoing, are intended to help various businesses from hobby shop owners to car rental services identify suspicious people who might be involved in terrorist activity.

They have been collected online by the Public Intelligence collaborative research project, and are not normally released en masse by the FBI.

The fliers include much salient advice, such as pointing out the need for valid ID from customers purchasing large quantities of chemicals.

White Grandfather Detained While Walking With Black Granddaughter: Scott Henson Cuffed By Texas Police

A crime and politics blogger living in Austin, Texas, claims he was cuffed and detained by police for simply walking home with his five-year-old granddaughter.

The reason this happened, he says, is because he is white and she is black.

Scott Henson, a political consultant who blogs about the criminal justice system at Grits For Breakfast said he was walking home from a roller skating rink with his 5-year-old granddaughter Ty last Friday night when he was stopped by a female deputy.

The officer told him that there were reports of a white man kidnapping a black girl and he was ordered to step away from Ty as the officer questioned the girl, the New York Daily News reported.

"He's my Grandpa!" was Ty's response, according to Henson's blog.

After a few minutes of questioning, Henson and Ty were allowed to walk home. They were just two blocks away when they were stopped by five flashing police cars and a crowd of police.

Iran Nuclear Threat Brings No U.S. Enthusiasm For A Military Strike

WASHINGTON -- The threat of punishing U.S. military strikes underlies Washington's campaign to halt Iran's nuclear weapons program. But there is no enthusiasm evident within the U.S. military for a war many believe would be messy, bloody, unpredictable and ultimately inconclusive.

Seeking to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons, President Barack Obama has focused on coordinating international economic pressure against Iran and moved to strengthen economic sanctions just last week. But he warned in the Jan. 24 State of the Union address, "Let there be no doubt: American is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal."

It's a truism of diplomacy to never to make a threat that you're not prepared to carry out. There is no doubt that if ordered, the U.S. military would launch devastating attacks against Iran. Whether such strikes would come along with or instead of Israeli attacks, tactical planning is already under way, as is done routinely for a variety of potential military operations the Pentagon might be ordered to carry out, senior officers said.

"If called upon, I have no doubt that the armed forces of the United States will deal with whatever contingencies might unfold there," Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said last week when asked about a possible military confrontation with Iran.

JPMorgan Chase CEO: I Was Safer In Lebanon Than With The Occupy Protesters

For Jamie Dimon, the shelter of his Upper East Side mansion isn't enough to keep him safe from the Occupy protesters. Instead, the JPMorgan Chase CEO said he felt safer halfway around the world that October day when protesters occupied the sidewalk outside his Manhattan home.

"That particular day, I was in Lebanon, Beirut doing business over there and I was probably safer over there too," Dimon told Fox News.

In October, the protesters took their march to Dimon's home, along with the homes of other of super-rich New Yorkers including real estate developer Howard Milstein and hedge fund manager John Paulson. At the time, Dimon was likely meeting in the safety of Beirut's corporate conference rooms, but the city is in the volatile region of the Middle East -- violence currently raging in Syria is threatening to spill over into Lebanon.

Though Dimon was a target of the Occupy movement, he told Fox News that he agrees with some of their points.

Keystone XL Pipeline: Texas Farmer Wins Temporary Restraining Order Against TransCanada

A coalition of environmentalists, conservative property rights activists and landowners are mounting a full court press against TransCanada in an attempt to derail the oil company's attempts to build the controversial Keystone XL pipeline in Texas. On Monday, they won a small victory when a Lamar County judge issued a temporary restraining order against the company's plans to do construction work on a farm near Paris, Texas.

The coalition's efforts are reminiscent of another battle during the last decade over eminent domain in Texas, concerning a massive "superhighway," known as the Trans-Texas Corridor, that Republican Gov. Rick Perry had sought to build with the help of a Spanish company. Perry lost that fight to a coalition of conservative ranchers and environmentalists, dealing him a serious political blow.

"We are involved because it's starting to look a whole lot like the Trans-Texas Corridor battle," said Terri Hall, founder of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom. "When push comes to shove, it's clear to me that my party is more interested in oil and gas interests than property rights," added Hall, a Republican.

Debra Medina, a property rights activist and Republican, has counted 89 cases so far in Texas where TransCanada had exercised eminent domain, she said. The company cites the pipeline's status as a "common carrier" under Texas law as the reason for its ability to use governmental power to take land. Eminent domain battles have periodically erupted as TransCanada has bought easements on property for the pipeline that would cross six U.S. states if built.

Private Prison Corporation Offers Cash In Exchange For State Prisons

As state governments wrestle with massive budget shortfalls, a Wall Street giant is offering a solution: cash in exchange for state property. Prisons, to be exact.

Corrections Corporation of America, the nation's largest operator of for-profit prisons, has sent letters recently to 48 states offering to buy up their prisons as a remedy for "challenging corrections budgets." In exchange, the company is asking for a 20-year management contract, plus an assurance that the prison would remain at least 90 percent full, according to a copy of the letter obtained by The Huffington Post.

The move reflects a significant shift in strategy for the private prison industry, which until now has expanded by building prisons of its own or managing state-controlled prisons. It also represents an unprecedented bid for more control of state prison systems.

Corrections Corporation has been a swiftly growing business, with revenues expanding more than fivefold since the mid-1990s. The company capitalized on the expansion of state prison systems in the '80s and '90s at the height of the so-called 'war on drugs,' contracting with state governments to build or manage new prisons to house an influx of drug offenders. During the past 10 years, it has found new opportunity in the business of locking up undocumented immigrants, as the federal government has contracted with private companies in an aggressive immigrant-detention campaign.

And Corrections Corporation's offer of $250 million toward purchasing existing state prisons is yet another avenue for potential growth. The company has billed the "corrections investment initiative" as a convenient option for states in need of fresh revenue streams: The state benefits from a one-time infusion of cash, while the prison corporation wins a new long-term contract. In addition, supporters of prison privatization have argued that states can achieve cost savings through outsourcing, as prison corporations give fewer benefits to employees.

Judge Right to Stick to Her Guns in Smickle Case

Ontario Superior Court Judge Anne Molloy was absolutely right in saying a three-year sentence to Leroy Smickle for photographing himself on a computer camera with a pistol is "cruel and unusual punishment."

It's also a ridiculous sentence for no crime.

For as long as I can remember, people like me have been railing that carrying a gun while committing a crime should get an automatic, irreversible sentence with no time off, regardless of whether the weapon was used.

In other words, if swiping a candy bar is the offence, the perpetrator might get a token sentence for that crime -- but a mandatory three years for carrying a weapon while committing it.

The mandatory aspect seems not to apply in many cases: witness some of the shootings that have occurred in Toronto, where the shooter is out on bail for another crime in which he carried a gun.

Smickle, 30, was not committing a crime. In fact, he apparently has no record.

What he was doing was using a laptop computer to photograph himself posing with the pistol. It wasn't even his gun. The police broke in to the apartment in search of someone else's illegal gun.

Honduras Prison Fire Kills At Least 300 Inmates

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras -- A fire started by an inmate tore through a severely overcrowded Honduran prison, burning and suffocating inmates in their locked cells and killing as many as 356 people in one of the world's deadliest prison fires in a century, authorities said Wednesday.

The local governor, a former prison employee, told reporters that an inmate called her moments before the fire and said he was going to set the facility on fire and kill everyone inside.

Survivors told investigators that an unidentified inmate screamed "We will all die here!" as he lit fire to his bedding late Tuesday night in the prison in the central town of Comayagua. The lockup housed people convicted of serious crimes such as homicide and armed robbery.

The blaze spread within minutes, killing about 100 inmates in their cells as firefighters struggled to find officials who had keys, Comayagua fire department spokesman Josue Garcia said.

 "We couldn't get them out because we didn't have the keys and couldn't find the guards who had them," Garcia said.

Others prisoners were set free by guards but died from the flames or smoke as they tried to flee into the fields surrounding the facility, where prisoners convicted of crimes grow corn and beans on a state-run farm. Rescuers carried shirtless, semi-conscious prisoners from the facility by their arms and legs. One hauled a victim away from the fire by piggyback.

Paola Castro, the governor of Comayagua state, said at a press conference that she had received a call several minutes before the first reports of a fire from a prisoner whom she did not name, who told her that "I will set this place on fire and we are all going to die!"

Settlement of land claims key to economic and social development

Proponents of the Northern Gateway Pipeline have touted the obvious economic and trade benefits of the proposal while expressing frustration at the length and complexity of the regulatory process.

A rigorous regulatory process is indeed a foundational element of sound decision-making. It is also crucial to building the public consensus fundamental to the successful development of large-scale projects. At the same time, a process should be timely and efficient. While these twin objectives are far from incompatible, they require intellectual integrity and transparency from all sides.

In what has passed for “debate” thus far on the issue, we’ve only heard the shrill doomsday rhetoric from opponents and advocates alike. Their cases have been far from comprehensive and sometimes appear to deliberately ignore key questions. For that reason, their arguments have been far from convincing. In fact, they have been dangerously polarizing and have sown confusion and distrust. There can be no winners when confidence erodes and leadership abdicates responsibility to provide citizens with a full and complete picture. That is the only way we can make reasonable judgments.

There has been an elephant in the room that all parties have been assiduously avoiding. The lack of any serious movement on treaties with First Nations is the central obstacle to any meaningful development of much of Canada’s resource endowment.

Global capital markets call the uncertainty surrounding the land claims of BC First Nations the “Canadian Discount”. It is impossible to quantify the opportunity cost of this perpetual state of uncertainty with respect to who holds title to what are “disputed” lands. But as long as that cloud exists, any meaningful development will not occur.

Canada risks being left empty-handed in Asia

His recent visit to China might be called The Education of Stephen Harper.

Far from the truculent finger-pointing that once characterized his government’s attitude to China – an attitude it still displays elsewhere – Mr. Harper buried whatever criticisms he made of China’s terrible human-rights record in closed-door meetings. In public, it was all sweetness and light, trade deals and photo ops with pandas.

The Chinese, almost in passing, mentioned perhaps an eventual free-trade deal, to which Mr. Harper correctly replied that the issue was way too complicated for any early decision.

The Chinese are keen on free trade in goods, where they enjoy a massive advantage, and on raw materials, for which they display a voracious appetite. They aren’t so keen on discussing intellectual property (stealing patents or insisting on getting them in joint ventures is endemic in China), government procurement, competition policy or anything else that might jeopardize the state-capitalist firms that dominate the Chinese economy.

So forget a Canada-China free-trade deal any time soon, which leaves Canada holding an empty bag in the Asia-Pacific theatre. For all the government’s talk about Asia’s importance, and despite the Prime Minister’s China trip, not much is happening on the trade liberalization front for Canada in the Asia-Pacific region.

Controversial author wants Omar Khadr barred from Canada

FBI psychiatrist says so-called child soldier who killed a U.S. soldier and is jailed at Guantanamo Bay is 'highly dangerous ... full of rage'

Convicted al-Qaida terrorist Omar Khadr is due to be returned to Canada any time now - something Ezra Levant is working to scotch.

The scrappy journalist, lawyer and Conservative-minded activist is trying to goad the tough-on-crime Harper government to revisit its pact with the U.S. government to repatriate the Canadian prisoner at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

In his just-published book titled The Enemy Within: Terror, Lies and the White-washing of Omar Khadr, Levant asserts the Conservatives would be justified in nixing the deal.

That's because it was struck before a pertinent psychiatric report was issued, a report Levant says that Canadian officials did not see.

Ex-Ornge director describes 'stunning' request for her resignation

A board member of Ontario’s air ambulance service says that the chairman of Ornge asked her to step down in 2006 after she questioned plans to use taxpayers’ money for a charity.

Rainer Beltzner delivered the news to Enola Stoyle over lunch a few days after the board met to discuss the charity Ornge was creating. Ms. Stoyle said he informed her that Chris Mazza, CEO at the time, was “very upset” that she did not support his plans for the charity and she had to leave.

“It was quite stunning to me,” Ms. Stoyle told The Globe and Mail on Tuesday.

Ms. Stoyle, now associate director of a graduate program in management and accounting at the University of Toronto, said Dr. Mazza was the kind of charismatic leader who could get those around him to share in his vision at Ornge. She was excited, she said, to be part of an organization that was responsible for all aspects of Ontario’s air ambulance service, and never imagined that she would be shown the door just for asking how taxpayers’ money could be used for a charity.

Ms. Stoyle was not alone. Another director also upset Dr. Mazza by asking questions. Shanon Grauer, a corporate lawyer at McCarthy Tétrault, was not invited to stay on after her two-year term on the board expired in 2007, sources say.

Gun case shows danger of mandatory minimum sentencing

Canada has no business sending Leroy Smickle to the federal penitentiary for three years. Alone in a private home, the Toronto man was holding a loaded handgun that apparently didn’t belong to him, and trying to take a photo of himself on a laptop. It’s an unusual situation – life is funny that way. And that is why judges often need some manoeuvring room, and why mandatory minimum penalties may be deemed cruel and unusual punishment, as this one was.

The Criminal Code has 46 offences with mandatory minimum penalties, a good number of them put there by the Conservative government. Some make sense, like the mandatory life sentence with no parole for 25 years for first-degree murder. But sometimes the real point seems to be to declare that judges can’t be trusted to protect Canadians. And justice may get lost.

Mr. Smickle had no criminal record when he was charged at 27. He has a full-time job as a cleaner, and a family. He chose not to go out to a club with his cousin, the judge said, because he had to be up for work the next day. Alone, he did a stupid thing by picking up that gun. At the same moment, the police showed up with a search warrant to look for guns in his cousin’s home, and broke down the door. He immediately dropped the gun and laptop. That he was not shot and killed by police verges on the miraculous, and is a credit to the police.

The penitentiary is no place for Mr. Smickle. He acted stupidly, as Madam Justice Anne Molloy of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice wrote, but he is not in need of rehabilitation. The only purpose federal jail time would serve would be to school him in criminal matters, and sever him from his job and family. As Judge Molloy said, three years is “grossly disproportionate,” and therefore cruel and unusual punishment under the Charter of Rights. Canada could send a message and still allow for exceptional cases to be exempt from the obligatory minimums, as England and Wales do.

Parliament has every right to set parameters for sentencing and to try to ensure that a strong message of deterrence is sent to those who have guns. (A previous Liberal government had adopted a one-year minimum in 1998.) But mandatory minimums can put such strict constraints on judicial discretion that they create injustices. In this case, the ends did not justify the means, and Judge Molloy was right to say so.

Original Article
Source: Globe 
Author: editorial 

Immigration reform: Fast and furious, not cohesive

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced further changes would be made to Canada's immigration system at the 2012 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

The prime minister's speech highlighted the growing concern of the impact that Canada's aging population will have on the nation's economic stability. He expressed its potential to undermine the nation's largely prosperous and stable economic position by threatening social security programs and the creation of further labour shortages.

He's right about the aging population, which is expected to double to 9.3 million by 2030. And he's right about the challenges to Canada's long-term stability, as the Old Age Security system will increase from $36.5 billion in 2010 to $108 billion by 2030.

But in terms of the immigration plan, over the last few years the changes to Canada's system have been dizzying, and the system is complex and does not lend itself to easy answers.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has expressed a need to prioritize English and French language skills, proactive linking of employers in Canada to prospective immigrants abroad, and to focus on trades people to fill labour shortages. These priorities are laudable in a system in need of change and by a minister and a department who have not shied away from difficult challenges.

The approach, however, has been to reduce intake and process recent applications at a higher pace than those remaining in the backlog. Since February 2008, there has been a severe restriction on skilled worker applicants, and in June 2011 the entrepreneur class was suspended, and an annual application cap of 700 was placed on investor class applications. In November 2011, parental sponsorships received a two-year moratorium.

Some of these policy decisions may have to be revisited in a wholesome review of the overall vision moving forward. Here is why.

Palestinian government ties in question after unity deal

Harper government says it won't support a Palestinian government that includes Hamas as it currently stands.

The Harper government says it won't support a future Hamas-Fatah unity government unless Hamas renounces violence and recognizes Israel, leading some analysts to fear that Canadian aid to the region is in jeopardy.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Mashal signed a power-sharing deal in Doha, Qatar on Feb. 6 that states that Mr. Abbas would head a new interim government, one that would make room for new Palestinian presidential and parliamentary elections.

Since 2007, Hamas and Fatah have effectively controlled two different Palestinian territories; Fatah has controlled the West Bank while Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip. But in the spring of 2011, the two began to reconcile, leading to the Feb. 6 deal.

Canada funds projects in the West Bank and Gaza, but lists Hamas as a terrorist group, meaning Canadian officials have very limited contact in Gaza and officially none with its government.

Legal, political hurdles ahead for China investment deal

There are many potential obstacles on the road to implementing Canada's investment deal with China, say economists and legal analysts—yet some argue there is also a sense of momentum that has been absent in other similar deals.

During his trip to China Feb. 7 to 11, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the completion of talks, ongoing since 1994, on a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement with China.

FIPAs lay out the ground rules on what actions governments are allowed to take against foreign firms operating in their country, and much hay has been made about the deal's potential benefits and drawbacks for Canadians.

But the announcement also reminded many in Ottawa circles about another major FIPA, one with India that was wrapped up almost five years ago, in June 2007, and has yet to be signed by the government or ratified by Parliament.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade maintains that in October 2009, India put the brakes on the process, saying it "had some concerns with the agreed text." This situation is still unresolved—this January, the Indian government told Embassy there is still some legal work to be done on the agreement.

The Conservatives and their F-35 fairy tale

OTTAWA—If the definition of insanity really is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, then it appeared the NDP needed some quick intervention.

As reliable as the Centennial Flame, a New Democrat would rise each afternoon around 2:25 or so to ask whether the government was rethinking its multi-billion purchase of 65 F-35 fighter jets.

With the same regularity, associate defence minister Julian Fantino would rise to read a prepared answer, assuring everyone that the government was proceeding with the best jet at the best price.

But it turns out there was a method to the opposition madness.

As, one by one, Ottawa’s allies in this bulk buying spree backed off, delayed or cut back its order, Fantino’s answers took on the air of a fairy tale.

And now, it is no longer a question of when the Conservatives move to a Plan B on its jet procurement program, but when — and how.

It has taken months but the “jets and jails” argument made by the opposition parties to paint the Conservatives as profligate spenders on agenda items Canadians don’t see as priorities is finally being heard.

'Snoop and spy' bill could be costly overreach

Vic Toews, Canada’s Public Safety Minister, has framed any debate of the Conservative government's new lawful access bill in the simplest terms: Canadians can either stand with the government, or with child pornographers.

Of course, the dichotomy is false. It is possible to oppose this bill without supporting child pornography. The federal and provincial privacy commissioners who have already spoken out against the proposed law didn't do so because they've fallen under the lobbying spell of Big Paedophilia.

For the record, the new bill (dubbed The Protecting Children From Internet Predators Act) would give police the ability to demand personal customer information, such as names, phone numbers, IP addresses and other data, from Internet Service Providers without a warrant. It would also force those ISPs to install surveillance capability on their networks. With a warrant, police could monitor and collect detailed information on a user's online activity.

Proponents of similarly sweeping new Internet laws, including such heavily criticized pieces of legislation as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the United States, have long sought to portray critics of those proposed laws as insidious – the kind of people who don't want any law to impede their ability to do something immoral or illegal online. If you don't download copyrighted material, why oppose a strong new copyright law? If you don't download child pornography, why oppose a strong new lawful access bill? If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.

New bills encroach on our privacy

Forty-five years ago, the late Pierre Trudeau famously said "the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation."

Then justice minister, he had introduced an omnibus crime bill that tackled societal taboos like abortion and divorce and uttered his pithy line to reporters outside the House of Commons while specifically defending the privacy rights of homosexual couples. It was a decidedly Liberal approach befitting 1967, the dawning of the Age of Aquarius.

In its own determined haste to rewrite the current Criminal Code, the Conservative government would rather push us in the direction of 1984. George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, that is.

The Stephen Harper government has already introduced its omnibus crime bill, C-10, and that's not the problem, since the legislation contained therein is hard-hitting and should put criminals behind bars where they belong. Critics have complained about the inflexibility and harshness of mandatory minimum sentences for so-called minor offences, but there is at least no doubt the legislation targets people who break the law.

However, the government on Tuesday tabled bills C-50 and C-51, its ironically named "lawful access" legislation. Today, it is nothing of the sort. Our current government believes it should have the right to invade not only our bedrooms but our telephone conversations and computer hard drives - surreptitiously and without regard for accepted judicial process - on the supposition that the guilty will be more easily unearthed if the innocent also have to surrender their expectation of privacy to faceless investigators.

With 'em or against 'em

The Conservatives have their majority. They no longer have any excuse to act like schoolyard bullies. Yet they can't seem to stop.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has been the worst offender lately, demonizing anyone who dares criticize his policy. When the Opposition raised valid questions about the government's quiet directive to use information obtained by torture, Toews responded, "The NDP would not take appropriate action to ensure that the lives of Canadians were protected" in an emergency. "That is why those members are over there. They are not fit to be trusted with the security of Canadians."

As a veteran politician who spent six years on the other side of the House himself, Toews should be wary of ad hominem attacks based on a party's electoral fortunes. They could very well come back to haunt him.

This week, Toews moved on to legislation that will allow the state easier access to the private information of Canadians - the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act. In response to a question from Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia about why Canadians should trust the government to only use these powers for their stated purpose, Toews went on the offensive again, saying Scarpaleggia "can either stand with us or with the child pornographers."

George W. Bush might have believed that the world was divided into those who were with him and those who were with the terrorists, but the reality was always more nuanced. The question of what to do with intelligence of questionable origins is one that reasonable, good-hearted people can debate.

The same is true of the question of how much access police should have to online information without a warrant. If Toews is sure of his ground, he could have simply articulated his arguments and let them stand on their merits. His choice to reduce the debate to insults suggests that the government's policies on torture and Internet snooping are not as unassailable as the Conservatives pretend.

The instinct to demonize civil libertarians is a dangerous one, since many Conservative voters value freedom highly. The Conservatives seemed to acknowledge as much when they killed the mandatory long-form census.

This is the same government fighting to lock people up for significant sentences for minor crimes. Maintaining an uneasy tension between the freedom-loving side of the Conservative party and the lock-em-up side might be a successful political strategy, but it makes for lousy policy.

Original Article
Source: ottawa citizen 
Author: --  

The Tories weren't elected to spy on us

Three days before the May 2 federal election when Stephen Harper and his Tories won a majority, this newspaper endorsed him and his party to govern Canada.

We did that for two reasons: a belief, after too many years of ineffective minority governments, that Harper was the only leader capable of forming a majority, and a view that the Harper team would best manage Canada's economy and federal spending. Many Canadian voters agreed.

But we now join what should become an even larger (and hopefully louder) majority of Canadians in denouncing and opposing the Tories' so-called "lawful-access" legislation that will give police unprecedented access to the personal information of Internet users — names, addresses, phone numbers and online ID numbers — without court oversight.

We are also disgusted — a strong word, but accurate — at Public Safety Minister Vic Toews's statement that those who oppose his police-state laws are supporters of pedophiles and child-pornographers. That's an appalling thing for Toews to say about his fellow Canadians and he should apologize.

As well, both Canada's police chiefs and justice department officials say the invasive, totalitarian new powers are not needed to catch bad guys. The Tories should axe the "lawful-access" bill; we didn't elect them to spy on us.

Original Article
Source: the province 
Author: editorial 

Conservative Bill C-30 will let police spy on Canadians online

One can only congratulate Canada’s Public Safety Minister Vic Toews for taking George W. Bush’s Churchillian call to freedom in 2001 — “you’re either with us or with the terrorists” — and raising him one with Monday’s House of Commons classic, “He can either stand with us or with the child pornographers.”

Toews was speaking of a conscientious Liberal MP who had dared question the Harper government’s new bill allowing free-ranging police online surveillance of Canadians. Francis Scarpaleggia, the Liberal public safety critic, had been doing his job — rather well, in fact — by saying that the bill has police “preparing to read Canadians’ emails and track their movements through cellphone signals, in both cases without a warrant.”

The lovely and fragrant Toews, a towering intellect and rollerblader — I’m only saying this in preparation for my arrest on child porn charges, when I’ll require traction for my abject begging — guards our children with a Tea Party level of threat and thuggery. It’s a move that most politicians would not have dared make. But we have a Conservative majority in this country. This bill will pass. How can it not?

So Toews got carried away. Or did he? The Conservatives are punitive and paranoid. What’s so private that you wouldn’t want the RCMP to see it? Something to hide, buddy?

Bill C-30 includes, as reports online: requiring telecommunications and Internet providers to give up subscriber data, including name, address, mobile phone number and IP address (your online ID). And that’s before they get a warrant.

Online privacy erosion dismays critics

Government and law enforcement access to people’s electronic communications is the norm in dictatorships around the world, but the same intrusion appears to be creeping into North America, say opponents of a new online surveillance bill tabled in the House Tuesday.

During Iran’s Green Revolution of 2011, for example, the country’s Revolutionary Guard effectively monitored cellphone traffic and activity on social media such as Twitter and Facebook to identify anti-government protest ringleaders and arrest them, said Ron Deibert, director of the Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto.

He cites other, more extreme examples, where governments have completely shut down their countries’ internet to exert control and quell opposition, including in Egypt last year, Burma in 2007 and Nepal in 2005.

“Cyberspace, the whole communications ecosystem we live in, has really become a domain equal in importance to air, sea, land and space, except that it’s an artificial domain. It’s something we created and we depend on for commerce, for social networking, for communicating the exchange of ideas,” Deibert said in an interview with CBC Radio’s Spark.

“It’s a very fragile ecosystem, even though we take it for granted. Just because it’s open now, doesn’t mean it will always be that way. In fact, the trend we see is an enclosure occurring and … it’s escalating.”

Bill aimed at internet predators empowers Big Brother government

Just before Christmas, I was given a very personal introduction to the dark side of the Internet.

Working as a talk-show host on the radio, I received an e-mail so deranged it could not be assigned to that ample stack of insults, barbs, and denunciations that are an everyday feature of the business. My habit was to answer garden-variety diatribes with two words, “Feel better”? Half the value of the format is therapeutic, letting people blow off steam. Still, this was different and I sought advice from Ottawa’s chief of police before deciding what to do. In the opinion of Vern White, the e-mail’s author had broken the criminal code and action was justified and advised. An investigation is now ongoing.

The excellent detective assigned to the case laid out my options. These included establishing the identity of the sender and giving them a notification – a formal letter from the police alerting them that what they had done was a crime and that authorities knew who they were. The officer informed me that in 99 percent of the cases that does the trick – you never hear from the person again.  

The other option was going the Full Monty, finding the person, and laying a charge. The advantage to that approach was that occasionally the police are able to get to a psychotic person in need of an intervention before they do harm – maybe to themselves, maybe to someone else. I was advised that this had already happened in the city in a similar threat to a broadcaster. That person’s stalker ended up in a mental institution. So the police said they were glad I was taking the situation seriously. The feeling was, and is, mutual. The Ottawa police have been superb.

Internal memo to Harper defends CBC/Radio-Canada in spat with Quebecor

OTTAWA - The Harper government is defending the CBC in the public broadcaster's nasty spat with Quebecor over advertising dollars, an internal memo shows.

For more than two years, the president and CEO of Quebecor has claimed that CBC and its French-language arm, Radio-Canada, have boycotted the company's newspapers when choosing where to advertise its programs.

As recently as Jan. 23, Pierre Karl Peladeau suggested in a published letter that CBC may be trying to "punish" Quebecor for exercising its rights to free speech, an apparent reference to Sun Media's frequent criticisms of spending and secrecy at the public broadcaster.

Sun Media is the Quebecor unit that operates the Sun newspaper chain in major cities, as well as the Sun News channel.

"Such an attack on fundamental rights held dear by Canadians is all the more deplorable for having been conducted by a Crown corporation that is supposed to be accountable to Canadians," Peladeau wrote to Hubert Lacroix, president and CEO of CBC.

Damn the Torpedoes: Peter MacKay Firmly Behind the Victoria-Class as He Accuses MP Who Raised Sub Questions Of Being Against Military Personnel

Royal Canadian Navy officers got some good news Tuesday with Defence Minister Peter MacKay’s re-affirmation that the Harper government still stands firmly behind the Victoria-class subs. There have been suggestions in Ottawa that the government might cut loose one of the submarines to save some money.

Additional questions about the sub fleets’ future have been raised Monday and Tuesday after the CBC obtained photos showing the extent of the damage on the Corner Brook, which slammed into the ocean floor last summer.

The photos showing a 10-foot by 12-foot hole in the front of the submarine. They were taken by someone who had access to the submarine as it was being lifted out of the water at 4 a.m. sometime last summer. It’s the first time the public and media have been given an idea of the extent of the damage since the Navy has not released any pictures.

The photos have already prompted political commentators to allege the RCN, worried about yet another round of negative publicity, tried to cover-up the full extent of the damage. Those types of allegations were also made in the Commons on Tuesday.

Katimavik Cuts: Trudeau-Era Youth Program On Tories' Chopping Block

OTTAWA — Katimavik, the youth service program championed by former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, is on the Conservative government’s chopping block, The Huffington Post Canada has learned.

“This has been coming for a long time,” Liberal MP Justin Trudeau said Tuesday of the program that his father established in 1977.

“It has been obvious that a program that empowers young people, that encourages them to get out and across the country and serve communities and discover how much they can make a difference in the world, and across Canada, is going to be cut.”

Sources told HuffPost the Tories have discussed slashing the group's funding completely but what the government has settled on hasn't been confirmed.

Heritage Minister James Moore’s office insisted Tuesday, however, that Katimavik isn’t on its deathbed just yet.

“No decisions have been made,” Moore’s spokesman James Maunder said.

Katimavik, which means “meeting place” in Inuktitut, is a national volunteer service program for Canadians aged 17 to 21 and involves placements in many communities across the country. More than 30,000 people have taken part in the program, which saw its federal funding killed in 1986 by the Brian Mulroney government, then revived in 1994 by the Liberals under Jean Chrétien. A registered charity, the program is currently funded the Canadian Heritage department and donations.

Mother of four murdered by boyfriend

Less than six months ago, Helyna Rivera uttered her last words to her grandmother over the telephone.

"Grandma, how are my babies?" she asked. "I gotta go. Please say a prayer that I'll be safe."

But prayers couldn't protect the 25-year-old mother trapped in an extremely abusive relationship. Rivera was only 17 when she met the first man of her life.

And she loved him. Even though he was a control freak who wouldn't let her have a life of her own.

"She wore a tremendous mask but we knew at times there was trouble," says Renee Hess, her grandmother. "And we didn't know the depth of her trouble until it was too late."

On the sidewalk outside police headquarters on College Street in Toronto, Hess stands at the microphone during the seventh annual rally for missing and murdered indigenous women.

Decolonize together: Indigenous activists send strong message at Occupy Toronto talk

"I'm hopeful to see you all here visioning a different future. A future based on equality, diversity and respect for the land. And I'm excited and I'm hopeful for the impact that you're having on the world.... And so I say to you today...if you wish to align yourselves with the dispossessed and the marginalized, reject the language and ideology of colonialism, conquest and exploitation." - Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, January 23, 2012

Not long after protesters set up camp on Wall Street, indigenous activists began to question the use of colonial language to claim spaces that have been under occupation for over 500 years.

The unfortunate response, from some quarters, has been that Occupy Wall Street (OWS) should maintain a "united" front, disregarding the multiple hierarchies within the 99 per cent, as well as the rights and demands of indigenous peoples. Others, however, agree that there is a need to address this fundamental issue.

On Monday, January 23, Occupy Toronto sponsored a panel discussion, "Indigenous Perspectives on the Occupy Movement," at Beit Zaitoun. The speakers provided a forceful yet constructive critique. They recognized the hopefulness of Occupy's worldwide repudiation of capitalism, while also calling on activists to rethink the language and strategies of the movement so that it does not reinscribe colonialism by undermining Indigenous struggles. Furthermore, they proposed that a movement that seeks to seriously challenge economic inequality, environmental exploitation and other forms of oppression must stem from a commitment to decolonization.

Women's memorial march: 'Watch out world! We're coming... and we're still full of love!'

Canada's oldest memorial march for missing and murdered women entered its third decade yesterday. Nearly 2,500 people walked through the streets of downtown Vancouver, drumming, singing, and praying at places where dozens of poor and mostly Indigenous women were killed.

With nearly 600 women on the Native Women's Association of Canada's missing or murdered list, it's both a tragedy and an inspiration that so many people continue to speak out and demand systemic change to prevent more deaths.

This year's memorial events expanded into two days -- coinciding with the ongoing Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, which has become clogged with state lawyers defending police from allegations of wrong-doing, cover-up and conspiracy. I've attended the hearings, but little but the government side has been heard.

Still outraged at the expulsion of community groups from the Inquiry -- thanks to Premier Christy Clark's refusal to fund their legal representation -- some of those groups took over the Granville and Georgia intersection for five hours yesterday and shared the stories of missing and murdered women.

Angus Reid and the 'False Dilemma' Fallacy

The pollster's latest survey on abortion posed misleading questions that rendered the answers invalid, yet claimed to be neutral and unbiased.

It is upsetting when supposedly secular agencies promote anti-abortion politics while pretending to be neutral and unbiased. Such is the case with pollster Angus Reid, which conducts polls in many countries around the world on political and sociological topics.

Angus Reid in Canada recently published a poll on abortion with two misleading questions that clearly rendered the answers invalid. Yet the results were widely reported by the media as if they actually meant something. The two questions (and their corresponding available answers) are as follows:

  1. Thinking about abortion, which one of these statements comes closest to your own point of view?
    1. There should be laws which outline when a woman can have an abortion in Canada.
    2. There should be no laws on this matter – a woman should have the unrestricted right to have an abortion at any time up to the moment of birth.
    3. Not sure.
  2. One issue that has raised debate recently concerns the use of abortion as a means of gender selection. In some cultures and groups, female fetuses are aborted because of a preference for males. Thinking about this, which one of these statements comes closest to your own point of view?
    1. There should be laws which outline whether a woman can have an abortion based solely on the gender of the fetus.
    2. There should be no laws on this matter – a woman should have the unrestricted right to have an abortion in any circumstance.
    3. Not sure.

The Commons: Stephen Harper begs for clarity

The Scene. “Our government’s commitment is clear,” the Prime Minister said one afternoon two weeks ago.

“Mr. Speaker, once again, the government has been repeatedly clear,” he said the day after that.

“Mr. Speaker, I was very clear,” he said the next day.

“We have been very clear,” he clarified the day after that.

Shortly thereafter, Mr. Harper departed for China. He returned to the House this afternoon to pick up approximately where’d he left off. “Mr. Speaker,” he said,  ”I think the government is very clear in this regard.”

The Prime Minister’s preference for rhetorical clarity thus established, it is likely worth reflecting on all we’ve heard these last few weeks.

That, for instance, those convicted of murder should be provided with rope and offered the opportunity to commit suicide. That if you should see someone attempting to make off with your ATV, it would be reasonable to fire a few bullets over the perpetrator’s head. That the registration of firearms in this country has something in common with the policies of Hitler. That a refusal to use information obtained through torture might result in “mass death” or otherwise imperil the constituents of St. John’s East. That those who oppose the government’s online surveillance legislation choose to stand with child pornographers. And that the government’s policies on military procurement are derived from the word of God.

Harper's fighter-jet project hits pricing turbulence

The financial straits of Canada’s allies have caught up with the next generation fighter bomber that Ottawa plans to buy: Both the United States and the jet maker are now confirming the average cost of the F-35 Lightning will rise after order delays by cash-strapped governments.

It’s further heartburn for the Harper government, with Opposition parties contrasting Conservative plans to delay old-age security benefits in the years ahead with plans to sink upward of $9-billion into 65 stealth jetfighters.

The Pentagon this week confirmed it would postpone orders for 179 F-35s to save $15.1-billion and allow more time for testing. Italy announced Tuesday it would cut its order and Britain has said it will wait until 2015 to decide its purchase.

Acting Pentagon acquisition chief Frank Kendall told reporters on Tuesday that the U.S. decision and any delays in international orders would drive up the average price per unit of the F-35, the Pentagon's costliest weapons program.

Likewise, in Oslo, Lockheed Martin Corp. executive vice-president Tom Burbage told reporters that the U.S. decision to drag out its purchases of the F-35 would increase the price of the plane somewhat.
“It will raise the overall average cost of the total procurement of all the airplanes bought,” Mr. Burbage said.

Israel and Iran: at war in the shadows

An apparent attempted bombing in Bangkok Tuesday lent greater credence to the belief that Iran lies behind a wave of bombings apparently directed at Israeli targets.

A series of explosions in the centre of the Thai capital led police to two men, identified as Iranians, who had rented a house where the first blast took place. One of the men, captured as he attempted to evade police, was seriously wounded when he attempted to throw a grenade. The second was arrested at the airport as he tried to board a flight.

The Bangkok blasts came on the heels of a bombing in New Delhi on Monday that injured the wife of an Israeli diplomat and an attempt against Israeli embassy staff in Tiblisi that failed when the bomb was discovered and defused. Israeli leaders have been quick to blame Iran for them all.

“The attempted terrorist attack in Bangkok proves once again that Iran and its proxies continue to perpetrate terror,” said Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak on a visit to Singapore.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described Tehran on Monday as the “largest exporter of terrorism in the world.”

Iran has denied involvement in any of the incidents.

MPs seek to bolster their powers of public-spending oversight

Backbench MPs are launching a sweeping study of their own powers Wednesday in hopes of wrestling back some long lost influence over public spending.

Parliament routinely rubber stamps more than $230-billion in annual spending presented to them as a fait accompli by the Prime Minister and his ministers in cabinet. Calls to reform the ancient spending review process have flared up under Liberal and Conservative governments, but the frustration of MPs remains.

In a House of Commons where the name calling and insults flying in both directions appears to be reaching a new all-time low, this review by the Government Operations committee is – for now – a rare place of all-party harmony.

“This is an important study,” said rookie MP Alexandre Boulerice, who’s been surprised to learn that the myriad spending reports the government provides to MPs are often of little use because of the way they are presented.

For instance, the budget presents an overview of government spending and is followed a few days later by the main estimates, which contain more detailed spending plans by government departments. Yet the main estimates do not include any new measures from the budget. Those come months later in supplementary estimates.

Doug Ford, fellow conservative clash over Build Toronto CEO’s $453,000 salary

Councillor Doug Ford and a fellow fiscal conservative clashed Tuesday over the salaries of executives at Build Toronto, Toronto’s city-owned real estate company.

Lorne Braithwaite, Build’s CEO, was paid $453,000 in 2010, including a bonus of $153,000. A senior vice-president, Don Logie, made $318,000, including a bonus of $106,000.

Build Toronto does not get direct handouts from taxpayers, but pays its employees with the money it makes selling or developing surplus public land.

The company was launched in 2009; 2010 was its first full year of operation. It returned a $20 million dividend to city coffers in 2011, and its chair, Oxford Properties Group CEO Blake Hutcheson, says it expects to provide $70 million this year.

Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, the Build critic whose successful council motion forced the company to disclose the salaries, called the bonuses exorbitant. But Ford, Build’s vice-chair, strongly defended them.

Drummond report: ‘Controversial’ prescription in store for health care

Don Drummond’s “very controversial” prescription for what ails the province will include some radical surgery to Ontario’s $47 billion health-care system.

Sources told the Star the former TD Bank chief economist’s 700-page report on reforming public services devotes 100 of its 362 recommendations to health, which accounts for 42 per cent of program spending.

The findings will be unveiled Wednesday at a Queen’s Park lock-up for the media and opposition parties before being made public at 2:15 p.m.

While some recommendations would be politically difficult to implement — like removing coverage of certain procedures from OHIP — Health Minister Deb Matthews warned Tuesday “this is a time of significant change in health care.”

“We know there are places in the health-care system where we are spending money that does not need to be spent,” said Matthews, who is pushing reforms in an “action plan” she unveiled two weeks ago.

The TTC subway report Mayor Rob Ford doesn’t want you to read

Mayor Rob Ford has been sitting on a TTC report that shows job growth projections are so far off target in North York and Scarborough that it’s not advisable to build a subway linking the two centres.

Sources say Ford was given the analysis almost a year ago, after he demanded to know why the TTC wanted to build a light rail transit line along Sheppard, and not the subway it favoured 25 years ago.

The 11-page report, obtained by the Toronto Star, concludes it is ill-advised to build subways when job numbers, office development and transit ridership are so low.

“The world changed,” a source told the Star. “The mayor got the report,” but it has not gone public because “they don’t like the answer they got. The information is important because it explains why the TTC’s opinion is different today than in 1986.”

For example, planners projected 64,000 added jobs would come to the North York Centre, near Yonge and Sheppard, between 1986 and 2011. In fact, as of 2006, employment had grown by only 800 jobs over the two decades, the report says.

Scarborough Centre, at McCowan and Highway 401, was forecast to grow by 50,000 jobs. Figures for 2006 reveal a net loss of 700 jobs and a total of 13,700.

Lochmuir salmon? It doesn't exist: How supermarkets invent places and farms to trick shoppers into buying premium food

Salmon from 'Lochmuir' may sound extra special.

But don't go looking for the farm on the map - it doesn't actually exist.

Marks & Spencer, which sells 11,000 tonnes of 'Lochmuir' salmon a year, invented the location as part of its branding. The fish actually comes from farms all over Scotland.
Similarly, the supermarket's 'Oakham' chickens are not from a farm in Rutland, but from farms across East Anglia, Scotland and Northern Ireland, according to a Which? investigation.

Meanwhile Tesco sells 'Willow Farm' chicken, but the meat is actually sourced from farms all over the country, the probe found.

The supermarkets are perfectly within their rights; it is not against regulations to invent a location for branding purposes, unless a product is protected geographically.

Which? found more than half of its readers surveyed always or sometimes look at where their food came from. Around seven in ten people said it was important for food to be properly labeled with its origin.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: 'Using a place name can create the illusion of a more personal shopping experience like a farmers' market, or evoke images of a specific location.

Original Article
Source: dailymail 
Author: Amy Oliver