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.]

Monday, February 20, 2012

South Korea Military Drills: Seoul Begins Live Fire Exercise Despite Pyongyang's Threat

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea on Monday conducted live-fire military drills from five islands near its disputed sea boundary with North Korea, despite Pyongyang's threat to attack.

South Korea reported no immediate action by North Korea following the drills, which ended after about two hours. The drills took place in an area of the Yellow Sea that was the target of a North Korean artillery attack in 2010 that killed four South Koreans and raised fears of a wider conflict.

The heightened tension comes two months after the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. His young son Kim Jong Un has taken the helm of the nation of 24 million.

South Korean military officials said they were ready to repel any attack. Residents on the front-line islands were asked to go to underground shelters before the drills started, according to South Korea's Defense Ministry and Joint Chiefs of Staff.

North Korea's military maintained increased vigilance during the South Korean drills, though it hasn't done anything suspicious, a South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff officer said on condition of anonymity, citing department rules. He refused to provide further details because he said they involve confidential military intelligence on North Korea.

The Sun On Sunday To Launch: News Corp. Says New Tabloid Will Be Published Next Week

LONDON -- The successor to Rupert Murdoch's scandal-tarnished News of the World newspaper will start publication in a week's time, a senior News Corp. executive said Sunday.

In an email to staff, News International CEO Tom Mockridge said that Murdoch himself would be staying in the British capital to oversee the launch of The Sun on Sunday.

Mockridge said he was sure that "every one of us will seize the opportunity to pull together and deliver a great new dawn" for the newspaper.

The Sun on Sunday will replace the top-selling News of The World, which was closed in July after revelations that members of its staff had routinely hacked into phones and paid bribes to score exclusives. The ensuing scandal stunned Britain's establishment, led to dozens of arrests and resignations, and has spawned a wide-ranging official inquiry into U.K. media ethics.

For-Profit Higher Ed and the Occupy Movement

The Occupy movement is planning a March 1 national action around educational inequality, and if protestors are looking for inspirational reading, they should head over to Harper’s and devour Christopher Beha’s gonzo account of enrolling at the Jersey City campus of the University of Phoenix.

The for-profit college serves half a million students online and at 200 real-world campuses across the country. It earned $4.5 billion last year, the majority of it from federal student loans. Supporters of Phoenix’s business model argue that if the United States is to live up to President Obama’s ambitious goal of every American completing at least one year of post-high school education or training by 2020, massive, private companies like Phoenix will have to be involved. But as Beha demonstrates in his devastating piece, the “education” Phoenix provides does little to improve the life outcomes or professional options of its students, about three-fifths of whom drop out within a year of enrolling, saddled with student debt and with no degree to show for it. Introductory Phoenix courses, with names like “Foundations of University Studies,” are stultifyingly content-free—except for the fact that they seek to further inoculate students with the ideology of “college for all.”

Opposition Jumps On Surveillance Bill Confusion

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews' office sought to clear up confusion over the government's online surveillance bill Sunday, following comments by the minister that suggested he was surprised by some of the bill's contents.

In an interview that aired Saturday on CBC Radio's The House, Toews told host Evan Solomon he would seek an explanation for wording in Section 17 of Bill C-30, which outlines "exceptional circumstances" under which "any police officer" can request an internet service provider turn over customer information without a warrant.

In an email to CBC News on Sunday, Toews' director of communications, Mike Patton, wrote that "the Minister has said numerous times, nothing contained in the legislation gives officers further powers to access any sort of communication without a warrant."

Canada must act now to prevent African famine, official says

Immediate action is needed to prevent a large-scale famine in West Africa following the failure of life-giving seasonal rains, World Vision Canada president Dave Toycen said Sunday.

Reached by Postmedia News as he toured a village in rural Mali, Toycen said the situation is already becoming grim for local residents.

“It feels like we’re sliding into a crisis here,” he said. “It’s just the beginning of something that can really have a devastating impact.

“Twenty per cent of people in here Mali — about three million people — we think will be affected by this.

“We’re encouraging our government of Canada to be aggressive on this, and they’ve got a history of concern for food security,” he added. “We’re trying to avoid the ‘Horn of Crisis’ reality here in West Africa.”

The Canadian International Development Agency has not yet pledged any additional funds to the developing crisis. A spokesman for Minister Bev Oda said that although the situation is “concerning,” no course of relief action has been decided.

A victory, but at what price?

After Moammar Gadhafi's death, NATO saw its victory as complete. But as David Pugliese writes in the last of a three-part series, Libya's new leaders are struggling to gain control and al-Qaeda has benefitted from the power vacuum

The death of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi on Oct. 20 was greeted with relief in the capital cities of NATO nations.

His demise meant the war was all but over. In Ottawa, officials in the Prime Minister's Office and the Privy Council Office went to work planning the largest military victory parade the country had seen in decades.

The Conservative government wanted a major event: a flypast of CF-18 fighter jets and other aircraft, a parade, a choir and a feting of hundreds military personnel in the Senate chambers.

The emphasis was on portraying all those who had taken part in the Libyan mission - from cooks to clerks to pilots and aircrew - as "heroes."

Airport screeners stealing from passengers

MONTREAL - A veteran British Columbia airport security screener has been charged and quietly convicted after being caught red-handed stealing a $100 bill from a passenger's bag at a security checkpoint.

A second security screener at Ottawa International Airport hastily resigned his job after he was caught taking home a laptop left behind by a distracted passenger.

The two incidents have emerged during QMI Agency's ongoing investigation into rogue airport security screeners who've stolen from Canadian airline passengers.

No announcement was made in the cases by the RCMP, which arrested the Vancouver screener, or by the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA), the federal Crown corporation that oversees pre-flight security operations at the nation's airports.

CATSA officials told QMI Agency last year that they were "unaware" of any Canadian airport security screeners ever being arrested or convicted for stealing from airline passengers and insisted they kept no records about such cases. QMI has found otherwise.

Last fall, QMI revealed the case of Denis Bouffard, a Montreal security screener caught stealing from passengers at Trudeau International Airport for eight months in 2002.

The War of 1812: Stupid but important

The War of 1812 saw the last foreign invasion on Canadian soil. Ironically, its commemoration has become a battleground in Canada. The arrival of the war’s bicentennial has ushered in a national debate on its significance in both Canada and the United States, the level of government support it deserves and, of course, that 200-year-old chestnut: Who, if anyone, won?

Some critics say the War of 1812 should never have been fought to begin with – a stupid war. It’s generally agreed that the conflict, which returned all parties to the status quo after three years of brutal clashes, didn’t gain much. But it’s the wrong question to ask in considering its significance and commemoration. The fact is, it was fought, and like other wars, it had important effects on geography, people and history.

While little may have been gained, one key thing was not lost for Canadians: sovereignty from the United States. Had the American invasion been successful, Canada might be a very different place. The war also had an impact on first nations, which suffered disproportionate losses (including the promise of an independent aboriginal nation), French and English Canada, and black Canadians. And it set Canada on the path to nationhood. The war’s legacy offers essential teachable moments in Canadian history and identity, to which contemporary topical debates can only add nuance and richness.

Environment clashes raising Leslie’s profile

MP motivated by knowing she’s doing something real

Halifax MP Megan Leslie has found herself at the forefront of one of the most contentious issues in Canadian politics.

As the NDP environment critic, she engages in daily clashes in the House of Commons with Environment Minister Peter Kent and Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver that have gotten increasingly nasty.

Leslie was likened to a traitor when she took a trip to Washington, D.C., to talk about green partnerships and possible alternatives to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline from the Alberta oilsands to Texas.

Leslie has become one of the highest-profile members of the official Opposition. This stoked rumours that she would be a candidate to replace Jack Layton as party leader, but she ended up staying on the sidelines.

Leslie spoke to The Chronicle Herald over the weekend from outside Montreal, where she was taking French lessons. Her answers have been edited for length.

Internet snooping: Slogans and jingoism aren’t enough

There are times in the life of every government when the best tactic is an orderly advance to the rear. That’s where the Conservatives are today after a furious public backlash made them rethink their new online surveillance legislation.

Majority governments rarely change course willingly and it’s doubtful that Stephen Harper is going along happily this time either. But the cyber law was too far off the course of public opinion. The wiser option now is to regroup.

The bill’s political problems literally start with its absurd name: the "Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act." It has a real name too, but whatever you call it, the bill set off alarms about government’s power to intrude in the private lives of Canadians.

As written, the law would make it much easier for police, security agents and bureaucrats to locate and identify people online, often without warrants. It would force Internet service providers to open a "back door" to government snoops.

Warrants could also be obtained to monitor private communications, track people’s online movements and spy on their online activities.

MPs slam ‘shoddy, hasty’ annual review of feds’ spending estimates, Franks calls it ‘depressing’

The House Government Operations Committee wants to strengthen Parliamentary oversight as it takes a hard look at the estimates review.

Parliament’s review of the federal government’s billions of dollars of spending every year in the estimates has been “shoddy and hasty” for too long, say MPs, and it’s time to come up with some reforms.

The House Government Operations and Estimates committee, which was created 40 years ago specifically to help review the spending bills, started a study of the estimates process Feb. 15.

“I think that the degree to which we do that is pretty shoddy and hasty. I think there’s a lot of changes that could be made so that Members of Parliament undertake that responsibility more seriously,” said Liberal MP John McCallum (Markham-Unionville, Ont.) who is vice-chair of the committee.

The estimates outline every cent a government is asking for permission to spend in that fiscal year.

They come out in phases, three or four times a year, in thick powder-blue books containing billions in funding.  So far in 2011-2012 Parliament has authorized $259.4-billion in spending, and the government has the option of tabling one further round of estimates before the end of the fiscal year March 31.

MPs warn democracy will ‘unravel over time,’ want to change Commons rules

MPs want to limit the government’s power to use time allocation, and closed-door Commons committee meetings, and want to breathe new life into the rules of the game.

Democracy will “unravel over time,” if MPs don’t take the opportunity to preserve it in the House of Commons, say MPs who are currently reviewing the House rules. MPs want to change the Standing Orders, or rules, to limit the government’s power to use time allocation on bills and debates, limit the majority governing closed-door Commons committee meetings, change Question Period, and generally breathe new life into the overall rules of the game in Ottawa.

The House Affairs Committee will study the Standing Orders and report back to the House by May 18. A majority of MPs would have to approve every change in the Standing Orders, or House rules.

“This place is the single most important democratic institution in the country. Canadians have to have confidence that what happens here reflects their voices, their concerns. We’re here to represent them. That requires transparency and it requires accountability and if things happen behind closed doors Canadians absolutely no way of engaging in the politically process. That’s fundamentally wrong,” said NDP Whip Chris Charlton (Hamilton Mountain, Ont.) on Friday while debating possible changes to the House rules in order to strengthen Parliament.

Canada threatens trade war with EU over tar sands

Canada has threatened a trade war with European Union over the bloc's plan to label oil from Alberta's vast tar sands as highly polluting, the Guardian can reveal, before a key vote in Brussels on 23 February.

"Canada will not hesitate to defend its interests, including at the World Trade Organisation," state letters sent to European commissioners by Canada's ambassador to the EU and its oil minister, released under freedom of information laws.

The move is a significant escalation of the row over the EU's plans, which Canada fears would set a global precedent and derail its ability to exploit its tar sands, which are the biggest fossil fuel reserve in the world after Saudi Arabia. Environmental groups argue that exploitation of the tar sands, also called oil sands, is catastrophic for the global climate, as well as causing serious air and water pollution in Alberta.

Darek Urbaniak, at Friends of the Earth Europe, which obtained the new documents, said: "These letters are further evidence of Canadian government and industry lobbying, which continuously undermines efforts to combat climate change. We find it unacceptable that the Canadian government now openly uses direct threats at the highest political levels to derail crucial EU climate legislation."

On the environment Canada is a rogue state

There are so many areas of conventional democratic governance being challenged or eliminated by the Harper wrecking crew it is hard to keep up. Those searching for a line in the sand that even this government won't cross still haven't found it. So far, it seems, there is nothing in the broad field of democratic governance (save the military and prisons) that is sacrosanct.

Minimally, all governments take seriously the protection of their citizens; otherwise there is scarcely any point in having one. Yet a recent CBC report reveals that that the Harper government has virtually eliminated monitoring of the ozone layer over Canada. The government has shut down four of five very sophisticated monitoring stations leaving only a single station -- at UBC in Vancouver -- still gathering information about this critical aspect of our environment.

In doing so, Canada is once again demonstrating that it is becoming a rogue state. The monitoring of the ozone layer -- which protects the earth from harmful radiation -- is an international task requiring the co-operation of many countries. Canada, because of its enormous territory and its large share of the Arctic where the ozone layer is most threatened -- is absolutely key to global monitoring. Last week, according to CBC TV's Environmental Unit, "...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."

Air travel and carbon footprint

A bi-annual vehicle emissions test got me thinking about my personal carbon footprint. A lot of broad-brush numbers and calculators exist out there to calculate one's footprint, but I've never found them to be very reliable because they have to generalize across a very heterogeneous population in terms of location, type of dwelling and size, family size, and fuel sources.

For example, when I had my home energy audit done last year, the report came back that our home could reduce its GHG emissions by 3.1 tonnes if we reduced our energy consumption by 31 per cent. This is based on inputting data about our house into a model from Natural Resources Canada, and it is complete bunk. It may well reflect national averages or something like that, but we only have a small gas fireplace, whereas the main components of our energy use, space and water heating, are electric powered (which in B.C. is 90 per cent hydropower).

Lo and behold, when I downloaded our gas consumption history from the utility, it came up 0.43 tonnes per year. On the vehicle side, we try not to drive the old gal too much (20-year old Corolla; hoping to replace it with something fully electric at some point). Our AirCare inspection gave us a report back that we had emissions of 2.6 tonnes per year. In both cases these were averages over the past two years.

So 3 tonnes per year for the household, which amounts to 1 tonne per person (hooray for household economies of scale), that is, me, in terms of direct emissions attributable. And on this score I'm looking pretty good, as per capita direct emissions for B.C. are 3.5 tonnes, and for Canada, 4.5 tonnes.

First Nations warn an emergency about to become a catastrophe

OxyContin is a powerful and potentially addictive painkiller. As has been noted in a number of other news reports, abuse of this drug is a Canada-wide problem.

A crisis is declared
In November of 2009, the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN), which represents 49 First Nations in northern Ontario (a population of about 45,000 people) declared a "Prescription Drug Abuse State of Emergency."
This resolution notes that prescription drug abuse, particularly of opioids like OxyContin, is an escalating crisis and calls upon both levels of government to immediately enhance community-based programming to deal with it.

By September of 2011, policing and addictions were stretched to the breaking point in many NAN communities and the response from provincial and federal governments is described by NAN as "minimal."

Another First Nations crisis ignored.

Responsibility for health-care services
In Canada, most people access health-care services through provincial programs and infrastructure. Status Indians and "recognized" Inuit are a federal responsibility when it comes to health care.

Health Canada provides First Nations and Inuit with "a limited range of medically necessary health-related goods and services to which these individuals are not entitled through other plans and programs."

Under this Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB) program, certain prescription and over-the-counter drugs are covered (paid for) if the patient does not have private insurance. Only drugs on the NIHB Drug Benefits List are eligible for this coverage.

France Elections: Marine Le Pen, Far-Right Presidential Candidate, Slams Sarkozy For Bowing To 'Islamic Radicals' Over Halal Meat Claims

LILLE, France, Feb 19 (Reuters) - French far-right leader Marine Le Pen switched her presidential campaign back to immigration on Sunday, accusing Nicolas Sarkozy of bowing to Muslim pressure over how animals are killed for meat, to try to head off his attempts to poach her supporters.

Le Pen had sought to attract voters by shifting from a traditional emphasis on immigration and French identity to leaving the euro and imposing protectionist barriers, to exploit discontent over the debt crisis in Europe and globalisation.

But at a congress of her National Front party in Lille, Le Pen returned to familiar anti-immigration territory, saying she had proof that all meat in Paris was halal - killed by cutting the animal's throat and letting its blood drain out.

"This situation is deception and the government has been fully aware of it for months," Le Pen said. "All the abattoirs of the Paris region have succumbed to the rules of a minority. We have reason to be disgusted."

Le Pen's aides said she would file a legal complaint on the matter. During her closing speech she said the government was bowing down to "Islamic radicals".

The main meat industry association, Interbev, denied the allegation, saying the vast majority of the meat in Paris was not slaughtered under halal practices, but the episode showed Le Pen was trying to win back wavering voters.

PBO Page challenges Finance Department to deliver on promise to release long-term fiscal report

Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page’s term expires in one year and it’s unclear what will happen to the office once he’s gone, but until then, Canada’s spending watchdog says he will continue to challenge the transparency of the federal government’s multi-billion-dollar spending.

Last week, Mr. Page called on the feds to produce findings that Old Age Security is unsustainable after renewed attacks on his credibility by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty (Whitby-Oshawa, Ont.), and he has turned his attention to producing a cost analysis of the federal government’s controversial omnibus crime bill.

Mr. Flaherty recently blasted the PBO’s OAS report for contradicting the office’s fall 2011 Fiscal Sustainability Report, while members of the opposition have used it as fodder in charging the government with manufacturing a crisis over the sustainability of Canada’s pension system.

Last week, Mr. Page responded to criticisms in an open letter to Parliamentarians. The four-page letter details the PBO’s methodology in analysing fiscal sustainability and challenges the government to improve the transparency and accountability of its own budget process.

Canada needs a national housing strategy to help end poverty, says Sen. Cordy

GOVERNMENT CONFERENCE CENTRE—Poverty is not only a reality for hundreds of thousands of Canadians, it’s a national problem that costs all Canadians.

“Canada has a filthy little secret,” Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada and MP for Saanach-Gulf Islands B.C., said of Canada’s levels of poverty. “And it’s one that costs us 5.5 per cent to 6.5 per cent of our GDP.”

 That’s $86.3-billion to $102-billion annually.

On Feb. 14, the Dignity for All campaign hosted a panel on poverty featuring politicians and poverty activists from across the political spectrum in Ottawa at the Government Conference Centre. In addition to Ms. May, Nova Scotia Liberal Senator Jane Cordy, Ontario Conservative Senator Don Meredith, NDP Human Resources critic Jean Crowder (Nanaimo-Cowichan, B.C.), Bloc Québécois MP Jean François Fortin (Haute-Gaspésie-La Mitis-Matane-Matapédia, Que.), Canada Without Poverty’s Harriet McLachlan, and Leilani Farha from the Dignity for All took part in the panel.

Bureaucrats still working on diversity in public service

While women, aboriginal peoples, visible minorities and people with disabilities may be working in the public service in greater numbers than ever before, employment equity is still “not a reality” in the federal public service, say Senators and bureaucrats.

“In 2010–11, Canada’s public service was more representative of our diverse population than ever before, with all employment equity groups participating in greater numbers in the public service,” said Treasury Board President Tony Clement (Parry Sound-Muskoka, Ont.) in the government’s report on employment equity in the public service, tabled Feb. 10.

“The employment equity act came into place in 1986, it’s been 26 years now and we are still struggling with representation,” said Liberal British Columbia Senator Mobina Jaffer.

Sen. Jaffer chairs the Senate Committee on Human Rights, which has been studying employment equity in the public service for several years. The group met Feb. 13 with union and government officials.

While women, aboriginal peoples, and persons with disabilities are in the public service at rates higher than their availability in the workforce, visible minorities are still under-represented.

Further, all four groups are still under-represented in the topmost levels of public service.

Federal mining agency can't find work

A federal agency created by the Conservative government to mediate complaints about Canadian mining operations abroad has spent more than $1.1 million in the past two years, but has yet to mediate anything.

At the same time, the agency — the Office of the Extractive Sector Corporate Social Responsibility Counsellor — has racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in travel, entertainment, training, meetings, reports and other expenses, documents obtained by CBC News show. Renovations to a federal government office to accommodate the agency's three employees alone cost Canadian taxpayers $189,000.

Its senior official, Marketa Evans, has been flying around the world to conferences, roundtables, workshops and other meetings — in all, 47 trips to Africa, South America, Washington and cities across Canada. She earns up to $170,000 a year.

What the agency hasn't done is mediate a single complaint against a Canadian mining company, the third federal agency CBC News has uncovered that is spending a lot to achieve little.

As CBC reported recently, the Employment Insurance Financing Board is supposed to invest surplus EI funds — except there aren't any. And the Public Appointments Commission bureaucracy lives on years after it was scrapped.

Opposition jumps on surveillance bill confusion

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews' office sought to clear up confusion over the government's online surveillance bill Sunday, following comments by the minister that suggested he was surprised by some of the bill's contents.

In an interview that aired Saturday on CBC Radio's The House, Toews told host Evan Solomon he would seek an explanation for wording in Section 17 of Bill C-30, which outlines "exceptional circumstances" under which "any police officer" can request an internet service provider turn over customer information without a warrant.

In an email to CBC News on Sunday, Toews' director of communications, Mike Patton, wrote that "the Minister has said numerous times, nothing contained in the legislation gives officers further powers to access any sort of communication without a warrant."

Patton said Section 17 "simply extends the powers of a police officer to request 'phonebook' information — from the limited number of officers in a normal circumstance to any officer in an emergency."

When Solomon read out the section during The House interview, Toews said, "I'm not familiar with that framing of the concern because, as I understand it, they can only ask for this information where they are conducting a specific criminal investigation."

"This is the first time I'm hearing [that] this somehow extends ordinary police emergency powers," Toews said. "In my opinion, it doesn't. And it shouldn't."

Coal, not oil sands, the true climate change bad guy, analysis shows

One of the world’s top climate scientists has calculated that emissions from Alberta’s oil sands are unlikely to make a big difference to global warming and that the real threat to the planet comes from burning coal.

“I was surprised by the results of our analysis,” said Andrew Weaver, a University of Victoria climate modeller, who has been a lead author on two reports from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “I thought it was larger than it was.”

In a commentary published Sunday in the prestigious journal Nature, Weaver and colleague Neil Stewart analyze how burning all global stocks of coal, oil and natural gas would affect temperatures. Their analysis breaks out unconventional gas, such as undersea methane hydrates and shale gas produced by fracking, as well as unconventional oil sources including the oil sands.

They found that if all the hydrocarbons in the oil sands were mined and consumed, the carbon dioxide released would raise global temperatures by about .36 degrees C. That’s about half the total amount of warming over the last century.

Shale oil boom drives down prices versus rest of world

North America’s crude market is increasingly diverging from the international scene, as rising U.S. production and weak demand pose long-term challenges for Canadian-based oil companies.

The U.S. is forecast to lead the non-OPEC world in crude production this year, with Canada not far behind. But that surge in supply is splashing against constraints in pipeline and refining capacity, and against a “peak demand” scenario in which U.S. consumption is not expected to return to the 1985 high water mark any time soon.

That stands in sharp contrast to the international crude market. Globally, high-growth emerging markets like China are driving demand higher, while new production capacity is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few Persian Gulf states. Geopolitical risks – like the standoff over Iran’s nuclear ambitions – add strain to a fundamentally tight market.

The result is a sharp disconnect between international oil prices and what U.S. and Canadian producers can get for their crude, a divergence that will widen if refiners and pipeline companies fail to keep up with rising production.

Santorum bets on ultraconservatism to edge Romney in race for Republican nomination

Presidential contender Rick Santorum, perhaps the most conservative leading candidate for the Republican nomination since Barry Goldwater in 1964, is playing to the ultraconservative, evangelical Christian wing of the party for his surge past Mitt Romney in the race to challenge President Barack Obama.

Mr. Santorum is finding strength among the highly motivated segment of Republican voters who have tended to dominate party turnout in primary elections and caucuses. He appears to be ignoring the fact that voters turned against his hard-right politics when he was badly defeated in a 2006 bid for a third term in the U.S. Senate from Pennsylvania.

The Republican party establishment is believed to be deeply concerned about Mr. Santorum eclipsing Mr. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and multimillionaire venture capitalist. Mr. Romney still holds an edge in delegates to the party's nominating convention this summer and a huge financial and organizational advantage. But conservatives have shown a deep discontent with his candidacy over his past, more moderate views on sensitive issues such as abortion.

Concerns about Mr. Santorum as the possible Republican nominee may be a reflection of the stunning landslide defeat the party suffered in 1964 with Mr. Goldwater at the head of the ticket. Not only was he crushed by incumbent President Lyndon B. Johnson, but Republican candidates for Congress suffered deeply by association.

Euro zone to decide on Greek bailout

Greece’s bailout-or-bust moment finally seems to have come after months of false starts and broken promises.

In the afternoon, central European time, the euro zone’s 17 finance ministers are to meet to iron out the last wrinkles of a €130-billion bailout package that will spare Greece from defaulting on its debt this time next month, when the treasury must redeem €14.5-billion in sovereign bonds. If Greece were to default, it would probably get the bum’s rush out of the euro zone and print drachmas in the hope of devaluing its way out of debilitating recession.

The background noise before the meeting started suggested the bailout was all but assured, though we have heard this before. Francois Baroin, Frances’s finance minister, assured that “the political commitments have been made” for the bailout, Greece’s second since the spring of 2010, when the European Union and the International Monetary Fund loaned Athens €110-billion.

Greek finance minister Evangelos Venizelos had a similar message ahead of the meeting. “We expect today the long period of uncertainty, which was in the interest of neither the Greek economy nor the euro zone as a whole, to end,” he told reporters. “The Greek people send to Europe the message that they have made, and will make, the necessary sacrifices for our country to regain its position of equality within the European family.”

A mean town just got a whole lot meaner

OTTAWA—This is a small town.

The orbit inhabited by politicians, aides, lobbyists and journalists is smaller still.

In this village, two blocks from the halls of Parliament, stories are swapped over pints regarding the loves lives, infidelities, indiscretions and sexual orientation of ministers, MPs, aides and journalists.

Some are true, some no doubt fanciful. Others are merely vengeful, because this has become a meaner town over the years, a partisan playground where slights, real or imagined, are tallied and scores settled.

Beyond the aggrieved parties, such tales are of interest largely to those habitués of a tiny downtown radius, from the Confederation Building on the west to the Metropolitain Brasserie on the east.

The details of Vic Toews’s divorce were dissected here years ago, but largely, except for a few published details, they stayed here.

Children who are gender nonconforming at greater risk of abuse

A Harvard study says one in 10 children is at risk of abuse and more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder if they exhibit gender behaviour different than that typically expressed by their biological sex.

A new study led by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that when children’s activities, interests and pretend playing isn’t that typically expressed by their biological sex — “gender nonconformity” — they face an increased risk of being physically, psychologically and sexually abused.

They also face an increased risk of suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), linked to risky behaviour such as engaging in unprotected sex and physical maladies such as chronic pain.

“The abuse we examined was mostly perpetrated by parents or other adults in the home,” said lead author Andrea Roberts, a research associate in the Department of Society, Human Development, and Health at Harvard.

“Parents need to be aware that discrimination against gender nonconformity affects one in 10 kids, affects kids at a very young age, and has lasting impacts on health,” said Roberts.

“Oftentimes when people think of non-conforming kids, they think of boys insisting on wearing dresses or girls insisting on cutting their hair short,” she said. “But that’s not the type of behaviour we're talking about here. We’re talking about two or three in every classroom. We're talking about a subtle level of non-conforming.”

There was little if any correlation between gender nonconformity and sexual orientation, said Roberts. Most children who were gender nonconforming were heterosexual in adulthood.

Down and Outraged

Those left on the outside after the collapse struggle to maintain dignity in the face of grim employment prospects and a pervasive culture of self-blame.

For a person from the educated middle class who is going to pieces spiritually from lack of employment, the hardest thing is maintaining appearances. Practically every cent and reserve of dignity is diverted into the illusion of gentility. Your clothes, technology, home, and public habits cannot be shabby. If a professional acquaintance suggests an expensive lunch, there is no avoiding it. If he or she says, “I’ll just message you when I’m leaving for the restaurant,” you must possess the proper gadget for receiving messages while in transit, for you can’t await word on your home computer when the acquaintance expects to meet 10 minutes later.

Accompanying this financial shadow play is the anguish of what to call yourself. Diplomas, publications, and authenticity of intellect don’t define your status – credibility comes from your institutional base. Establishing this base is increasingly difficult. Look at the appellations people use when they publish little essays and commentaries: There are an astonishing number of fellows, advisers, experts, strategists, associates, analysts, and specialists, not to speak of freelancers and of course consultants, whose titles are not linked to any institution. Despite privileged backgrounds, this group’s privilege is now almost entirely theoretical. Lack of property, land, stock, and savings point to the decline of their class and status. Still, their most sickening fear comes from finding themselves marooned outside institutions, with little hope of climbing back in and no skills on which to rely when their ideas and insights are of no monetary value.

The People Strike Back

The fight against online spying is just starting to heat up.

Last Tuesday, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews introduced Bill C-30 (a.k.a. the “Lawful Access Bill”) into the House of Commons. One day earlier, in a foolish attempt to demonize critics of this controversial bill, Toews proclaimed that citizens “can either stand with [the government] or with the child pornographers.” The media heard this and, unsurprisingly, went wild.

The frenzy and public backlash is not without reason: Bill C-30 would bring us an expensive, expansive surveillance structure, creating a giant data registry that records (and allows authorities access to) the private information of any Canadian, at any time, without a warrant. It is outrageous to suggest that anyone who opposes these ideas supports child pornographers. Furthermore, the government has failed to present any evidence that the expansion of these online spying powers is necessary.

Fines a slap on the wrist for banks cheating U.S. government

Sticking it to Uncle Sam should attract harsh punishment. But the fines Citigroup (C-N32.920.210.64%) and Bank of America (BAC-N8.02-0.07-0.87%) will pay – $158-million (U.S.) and $1-billion respectively – to settle claims they defrauded the U.S. government look easily handled. Citi has even admitted fraud in its dealings over home loan insurance. A ban from participating in the government’s mortgage insurance programs would be a better deterrent. But unfortunately, Washington needs big banks too much.

BofA’s alleged misdeeds are still murky since its settlement was conveniently wrapped up in the broader $25-billion deal between federal and state enforcers and big mortgage servicing banks over so-called robo-signing transgressions. But the complaint against Citi offers a brutal account of the drive for profit squashing quality control. The Federal Housing Administration ended up insuring shoddy Citi mortgages that, in some cases, were in default within six months.

Federal insurance programs rely to a large extent on banks’ good faith in delivering mortgages that genuinely meet the required standards. Citi’s admission that it failed to do this came only after someone blew the whistle last year. It was a breach of the government’s trust and it has cost taxpayers money.

The penalties for ripping off the government usually go beyond dollars and cents. Yet Citi’s fine, in particular, is hardly crippling. And BofA has already set aside enough money to cover a good chunk of its settlement. A temporary ban on doing business with the FHA, on the other hand, would deliver more punch and show others in the industry that Washington won’t tolerate abuses of its largess.

Yet that’s unlikely to happen. The FHA, once a niche player focused on low-income housing, now backs about a third of new mortgages including super-sized ones for wealthy home buyers. The market for FHA-qualified mortgages runs $25-billion a month. While Citi has only a 2 per cent share, BofA is the largest player with more than 26 per cent, according to FTN Financial, using mortgage servicing as a proxy for origination activity. Booting offending banks out of the government’s program could make mortgages even harder to come by.

At least that’s what the banks and other interested groups will have told their government masters, who are worried about the still weak housing market in an election year. So Citi and BofA will pay their fines and promise to clean up their acts – while taxpayers can only hope the government will hold them to it.

Original Article
Source: Globe

U.S., Britain warn Israel against attacking Iran

 Tensions in the Middle East rose Sunday as Tehran said it has stopped oil shipments to Britain and France and reportedly docked a warship at a Syrian port, while American and British officials warned Israel against attacking Iran.

In their warnings, both the chairman of the U.S. joint chiefs of staff, General Martin Dempsey, and British Foreign Secretary William Hague said an Israeli attack on Iran would have grave consequences for the entire region and urged Israel to give international sanctions against Tehran more time to work.

 “I’m confident that they [Israel] understand our concerns, that a strike at this time would be destabilizing and wouldn’t achieve their long-term objectives,” Gen. Dempsey told CNN.

His concerns were echoed by Mr. Hague, who stressed it was “not a wise thing at this moment” for Israel to attack Iran.

“I think Israel, like everybody else in the world, should be giving a real chance to the approach that we have adopted, of very serious economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure, and the readiness to negotiate with Iran,” Mr. Hague told BBC.