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.]

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Hill Dispatches: Toews wants provinces to stop enforcing the still-legal Firearms Act

When the bill to abolish the long gun registry (C-19) was being debated in the House and in Committee a number of months ago supporters kept reassuring Canadians that ending the "wasteful and ineffective" registry would not mean ending all controls on firearms.

Here is what Public Security Minister Vic Toews told the House Committee considering C-19 last November:

"Firearm owners will still require a valid licence to purchase or possess firearms and to purchase ammunition. They will still be required to undergo background checks . . . Moreover, owners of restricted and prohibited firearms will still be required to register their firearms with the RCMP."

A number of C-19 supporters talked about the so-called "green books" in which gun shop owners have, for many years, had to maintain information on purchases of firearms.

Canada is world’s biggest oil loser by buying high, selling low

Canada buys high and sells low when it comes to crude oil, costing the world’s 10th largest economy billions in lost revenue as it expands production from one of the world’s largest energy deposits.

The gap between Alberta’s exported Western Canada Select and Brent oil imported into Ontario and Quebec was about $30.50 a barrel yesterday, and that difference is creating a drag on growth according to Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney.

Annual losses of about $19-billion may persist for a couple of years amid a lack of ready alternatives for oil sands bitumen. TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline to U.S. Gulf coast refineries was delayed by President Barack Obama while Enbridge Inc.’s proposed Northern Gateway project to the west coast faces environmental hearings and growing opposition in British Columbia. There are no advanced proposals to ship oil from Alberta east to the rest of Canada.

U.S. Military Taught Officers: Use ‘Hiroshima’ Tactics for ‘Total War’ on Islam

The U.S. military taught its future leaders that a “total war” against the world’s 1.4 billion Muslims would be necessary to protect America from Islamic terrorists, according to documents obtained by Danger Room. Among the options considered for that conflict: using the lessons of “Hiroshima” to wipe out whole cities at once, targeting the “civilian population wherever necessary.”

The course, first reported by Danger Room last month and held at the Defense Department’s Joint Forces Staff College, has since been canceled by the Pentagon brass. It’s only now, however, that the details of the class have come to light. Danger Room received hundreds of pages of course material and reference documents from a source familiar with the contents of the class.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff recently ordered the entire U.S. military to scour its training material to make sure it doesn’t contain similarly hateful material, a process that is still ongoing. But the officer who delivered the lectures, Army Lt. Col. Matthew A. Dooley, still maintains his position at the Norfolk, Virginia college, pending an investigation. The commanders, lieutenant colonels, captains and colonels who sat in Dooley’s classroom, listening to the inflammatory material week after week, have now moved into higher-level assignments throughout the U.S. military.

Joe Arpaio Lawsuit: Justice Department Complaint Reveals Disturbing Allegations

The Justice Department filed suit Thursday against Maricopa County, Ariz. Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his office for unlawfully discriminating against Latinos, and in turn, disregarding basic constitutional rights.

Arpaio said Wednesday that he'll fight the charges in court. "And then we'll find out the real story. They're telling me how to run my organization," he said. "I'd like to get this resolved, but I'm not going to give up my authority to the federal government. It's as simple as that."

Here are some of the disturbing allegations from the 32-page lawsuit about the conduct of Arpaio and his office. (Read the full lawsuit here, and the story about it here.)

Paul Ryan Budget: House Passes Bill To Spare Defense, Cut Food Aid, Health Care

WASHINGTON -- The House on Thursday passed its plan to spare the military's growing budget from mandatory cuts, instead slashing Medicaid, benefits for federal workers and programs to help feed hungry Americans.

The House drew up the "reconciliation budget" in hopes of heading off automatic cuts mandated in last summer's deal to raise the nation's debt limit. Under that deal, $1.2 trillion must be "sequestered" -- that is, cut -- from the budget over the next 10 years, with about half coming from the military. Such reductions would still allow the defense budget to grow by 20 percent.

The House GOP plan passed 218 to 199, with 16 Republicans and all Democrats voting no. It replaces about $100 billion in the mandatory cuts next year and more than $300 billion over the next decade.

Europe At Risk Of A 'Lost Decade' Of Lower Economic Growth, Bank Says

AMSTERDAM, May 10 (Reuters) - Europe is at risk of a Japanese-style "Lost Decade" of low economic growth, weak consumer spending, poor company investment and tougher borrowing conditions, the Dutch central bank said on Thursday.

It said in a report there were some similarities between Europe's current situation and Japan in the 1990s, when the latter suffered from a troubled financial sector and reduced private sector spending.

"Now that the risk emerges that Europe also faces a 'Lost Decade' of low economic growth, the Japanese experience offers important insights," the central bank said in its semi-annual risk report on the Dutch financial sector.

Japan's situation showed the need for the central bank to aggressively fight deflation, and let banks take credit losses quickly, the bank said, adding that fiscal stimulation did not offer a way out of low economic growth.

'Naked' Scanners Being Pushed On Travellers Even Though Canada's Government Hasn't Tested Them

Canadian airport security officers are pushing travellers to use 'naked' scanners that were not independently tested and are now tied to documented cases of severe headaches and at least one unexplained radiation burn.

Ottawa says it assessed the manufacturer's information but didn't conduct its own tests on the machines. The manufacturer says the scanners are safe and are independently tested by purchasing governments — though that hasn't happened in Canada or the United States.

Passenger complaints obtained by The Huffington Post Canada suggest security screeners repeatedly breached protocol by forcing passengers — including children, pregnant women and those with illnesses — to enter full-body scanners rather than perform requested pat downs. Screeners also failed in a number of cases to inform travellers they could opt for a pat down instead.

When passengers expressed health and safety concerns, officers repeatedly disregarded their complaints or treated them rudely.

Harper rewards defeated minister Lawrence Cannon with Paris post

Stephen Harper has appointed his former foreign minister, Lawrence Cannon, as Canada’s ambassador to France.

Mr. Cannon lost his seat as part of the NDP’s near-sweep of Quebec ridings a year ago, and has been rewarded by his former boss with one of the most plum diplomatic postings in Canada’s foreign service.

He’s the second defeated Tory minister to be made an ambassador since that election, after Jean-Pierre Blackburn was appointed ambassador to UNESCO, also in Paris, last December.

Mr. Cannon is a former provincial Liberal minister from Quebec who switched parties to join Mr. Harper as a Quebec adviser when the Conservatives were still in opposition. Since last October, he had worked as a consultant for law firm Gowlings Lafleur Henderson in Ottawa as chair of its government affairs group.

His appointment as ambassador in Paris has been rumoured almost since the day he was defeated in May, 2011. He replaces Marc Lortie, a veteran foreign service officer who has been in Paris since 2007, an unusually long tour in a diplomatic posting.

The post is one of a handful of the top-ranked ambassadorships in Canada’s foreign service – where Washington is the biggest job – like postings to London, Beijing, or the United Nations.

Original Article
Source: Globe

Game Over for the Climate

GLOBAL warming isn’t a prediction. It is happening. That is why I was so troubled to read a recent interview with President Obama in Rolling Stone in which he said that Canada would exploit the oil in its vast tar sands reserves “regardless of what we do.”

If Canada proceeds, and we do nothing, it will be game over for the climate.

Canada’s tar sands, deposits of sand saturated with bitumen, contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history. If we were to fully exploit this new oil source, and continue to burn our conventional oil, gas and coal supplies, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eventually would reach levels higher than in the Pliocene era, more than 2.5 million years ago, when sea level was at least 50 feet higher than it is now. That level of heat-trapping gases would assure that the disintegration of the ice sheets would accelerate out of control. Sea levels would rise and destroy coastal cities. Global temperatures would become intolerable. Twenty to 50 percent of the planet’s species would be driven to extinction. Civilization would be at risk.

An F-35 option: Produce the Pacific Rim Fighter

Sixty-five single-engine strike fighters are meant to replace 138 twin-engine multi-role CF-18s, now down to 77. They would spend almost all of their time having their Klingon cloaking device repaired.

To have an effective air force capability in the near- to mid-term, Canada will have to operate two different fighter aircraft types, and that is not a bad thing. The F-35 is looking to be neither affordable nor efficient as a do-everything fighter, and we must have aerial intercept capabilities for all three coasts, plus some ground attack forces for expeditionary operations.

If the Joint Strike Fighter program does produce a cost-effective first strike combat aircraft sometime in the mid-2020s, then we could procure a couple of squadrons of them to complement the 50 or more modern fighters that will replace most of the CF-18s in the near term.

On the chance that the JSF does not come to fruition, then we will still be involved in technologies that can be applied to future aircraft, such as a workable F-22 Raptor, or a more international Eurofighter-type aircraft.

Feds, budget officer differ over releasing budget cut details

The Conservative government says it cannot release details of budget cuts, but a new report by the Parliamentary Budget Office aims to blow up that claim.

Tony Clement, president of Treasury Board, says he is “handcuffed” by labour contracts and parliamentary rules, so he cannot report the details of cuts in the 2012 budget.

The government plans to cut $5.2 billion and over 19,000 jobs during the next three years. But few details have been released and much of what is known comes from unions reporting pink-slip numbers to the media.

Clement said the full scope of the cuts can’t be known until 2013.

But that didn’t ring true to Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page. He decided to bypass Clement and ask the departments and agencies directly.

Northern Gateway pipeline faces ‘unbreakable’ wall

Prime Minister Stephen Harper may have the legislative muscle to ram his controversial oilsands pipeline through Parliament.

But Jackie Thomas and a host of equally stubborn British Columbia Indian chiefs are here to tell him that the proposed Northern Gateway conduit is far from a done deal.

“We will be the unbreakable wall,” Thomas tells me in a Toronto coffee shop. “No, we are the unbreakable wall.”

Two other B.C. chiefs sitting at the table nod silently.

Thomas is head of the Saik’uz first nation near Prince George. She and about 50 other B.C. Indians opposing the planned Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline are in Toronto.

On Wednesday, they led a noisy demonstration on King Street outside the hotel hosting Enbridge’s annual general meeting.

Harper government rhetoric isn’t helping Alberta

You can almost hear cringing coming from Alberta every time federal Environment Minister Peter Kent opens his mouth these days.

If Kent and his equally combative cabinet colleagues think they are somehow helping companies in the oilsands with their relentless verbal attacks on environmental groups and, by extension, anyone with legitimate questions about oilsands and other major energy projects, they are not paying attention.

Alberta politicians, academics, even business people are openly talking about the need for a “social licence” backed by strong environmental performance to successfully do business, even about a carbon tax, in some cases — a lesson hammered home during the Keystone pipeline debate.

The Conservative government in Ottawa, meanwhile, undermines attempts to build that social licence and gain wider public support at every turn.

Conservative MPs double maximum penalty for masked rioters to 10 years

OTTAWA - Conservative MPs have agreed to impose a maximum 10-year prison term on protesters who wear masks during a riot.

A proposed private members' bill would make it a crime for protesters to wear a mask or disguise while participating in a riot or unlawful assembly, and this week the Harper government put its weight behind the legislation.

The Conservative majority on a House of Commons committee that's examining the bill has taken matters a step further by doubling the proposed maximum prison term to 10 years from five.

Government MPs passed the amendment over the objections of the NDP opposition, who argue the bill is a sham because wearing a mask to commit any crime is already an offence under the Criminal Code.

Blake Richards, the Conservative backbencher who proposed the new legislation, has said he sees the law as being mainly preventative in nature, allowing police to step in and arrest masked participants before protests spiral out of control.

The hard-line amendment to double the maximum penalty is just the latest in a spate of government tough-on-crime measures rolled out as Conservative support appears to be slipping in public opinion polls.

Original Article
Source: winnipeg free press
Author:  CP

Majority of oilsands ownership and profits are foreign, says analysis

OTTAWA — More than two-thirds of all oilsands production in Canada is owned by foreign entities, sending a majority of the industry's profits out of the country, says a new analysis released Thursday by a British Columbia-based conservation group.

The research by Forest Ethics Advocacy was based on an analysis of shareholder information in January 2012 from Bloomberg Professional of more than a dozen companies, including nine with headquarters in Canada, and six with their head offices in other countries. It found 71 per cent of the ownership of oilsands production was foreign, while the foreign-based companies controlled 24.2 per cent of the sector's production.

"Some notably Canadian oil companies, such as Suncor, Canadian Oil Sands and Husky, are predominantly owned by non-Canadians," said the report. "The data also shows us that more than half of Canada's oil and gas revenue goes to foreign entities."

Greece unemployment hits record

Greece’s jobless rate hit a new record in February, underlining the hardship that drove voters to reject an international bailout and plunge the country deeper into crisis in Sunday’s election.

Greece’s recession, one of the worst in postwar Europe, has put more than one in five people out of work.

A majority of Greeks on Sunday rejected the terms of a €130-billion EU/IMF bailout that is keeping the country solvent but only in exchange for harsh debt-cutting measures.

The election left pro- and anti-bailout parties almost evenly divided and deadlocked over how to form a government. A second poll in a few weeks seems almost certain.

“With unemployment continuing to rise, it may yet push more Greeks into voting for anti-austerity parties,” said Alastair Newton, senior political analyst at Nomura, citing the growing risk of a disorderly default and even exit from the euro zone.

The Commons: A long night of known unknowns

Less than 10 minutes into the evening, the NDP’s Jack Harris seemed to give up hope.

“I can see what kind of night this is going to be,” he sighed.

Mr. Harris stood here for the purposes of questioning the Minister of Defence and the Associate Minister of Defence, no less than four hours set aside for the purposes of scrutinizing the government’s policies and plans. The ministers in question—Peter MacKay and Julian Fantino—sat along the front row of the government side, each with a large binder of papers in front of them. With the two ministers sat Chris Alexander and Laurie Hawn, parliamentary secretaries present and past, each with their own large binder of papers. And in front of the four Conservatives sat three officials, including the chief of defence staff, at a small table placed in the centre aisle, each official having arrived with a large binder of papers.

With so much paper present, the night had seemed so full of promise.

Rick Salutin: Is dissent alive and well in Canada?

Rick Salutin used to be a respectable columnist at The Globe & Mail. Then he got fired, and happily (as he tells it), became “unrespectable” again.

But the fact that the left-wing dissident ever had a weekly column in a national mainstream publication speaks to the evolution of dissent in Canada, he argues.

“Think about the media for a minute in the 1960s,” Salutin told a crowd of over 100 people who gathered at the Ottawa Public Library for a lecture on the health of dissent, hosted by Prism Magazine on April 21.

“Jeez, think about TV or any newsroom... there were no women; there were only white men, they all wore white shirts and ties, and the range of opinions was quite narrow. There was nothing like the range of opinions that you can hear in public discourse in the media now. You heard almost nothing about race, nothing about gender; it wasn’t until very late when you heard about women’s rights. You might have heard a little about poverty but not a lot. You heard nothing about the environment,” he explained.

Sideshow Rob - The crybaby-in-chief drags us down

I am deeply embarrassed to have Rob Ford as the mayor of Toronto, the city that’s my home, the city where I was born, the city that I love. Since I am so often accused by anonymous strangers on the internet of being biased against the mayor, I thought I might as well get this declaration out in the open.

The City Of Toronto Act requires the mayor to “act as the representative of the city both within and outside the city.” So Rob Ford is, officially and otherwise, the living symbol of my civic identity. In that respect, I am not an impartial observer. It’s personal. His thundering lunacy reflects on me, and on all of us.

Rob Ford was representing us on his Newstalk 1010 radio show this past weekend when he allowed his invited guest, David Menzies of Sun News Network, to speculate on whether it would be fair to ask “practicing homosexual” George Smitherman whether he’s likely to die of AIDS. Menzies then accused the Toronto Star of sending “its most effeminate reporter” to cover the mayor so that if Ford popped him one, it would look bad. For good measure, the guest taunted a CBC personality for being a recovering alcoholic, and called one member of council a “liar” and another “bitter, with daddy issues.” The mayor of Toronto laughed as the guest spewed venom and said, “That’s phenomenal.”

Rob Ford’s silent treatment

Rob Ford came. He weighed in. He left without taking any questions from the press assembled outside his office Tuesday morning, May 8, there to test that threat he made last week not to talk the media as long as Toronto Star reporters are present.

The mayor is blaming his highly publicized altercation with Star reporter Daniel Dale for the silent treatment he’s now giving the whole City Hall press corps.

To recap: Dale went to the mayor’s Etobicoke home to check out a piece of adjacent parkland Ford wants to buy from the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, he says for security reasons – or to give his kids more room to play. Both are offered as reasons in Ford’s letter to the TRCA. The mayor says he called 9-1-1 after he “caught” Dale “spying” on him from the woods behind his backyard fence.

Let’s put aside the nitty-gritty of that “he said, he said” for now.

Rob Ford gives policy the finger

Toronto politics certainly isn’t boring these days. It has weird personal drama, outlandish characters, conflict, great quotes and over-the-top headlines.

One thing it does not have, however, is tangible ideas for addressing the city’s challenges. This is typically an area where the mayor takes the lead, but City Hall is now described by many as a toxic work environment and rudderless.

Mayor Ford’s office refuses or is unable to engage in matters outside a narrow field, and all the attention focuses on personalities.

While it’s true that city staff continue to provide day-to-day services, they lack the authority, which must come from council, to tackle the big questions and prepare Toronto for the future.

Ford allies refuse to move meeting from Jewish holiday

Rob Ford’s allies are being accused of punishing a disobedient councillor by refusing his request to reschedule a meeting that conflicts with a Jewish holiday.

Councillor James Pasternak, who is devoutly religious, cannot attend a budget committee meeting on May 28 because it falls on Shavuot, a holy day that is currently not recognized on the city's calendar. At council on Wednesday he co-sponsored a motion by Councillor Josh Colle that would have amended the calendar to include the holiday, but it was voted down, with the mayor, his brother, and his closest allies opposing it.

Pasternak's request will now be considered by a committee instead, but not in time to change the budget meeting later this month, and he says he won’t attend.

Tories 'afraid' of revealing budget details, NDP says

The Conservative government is afraid of Canadians finding out what's in the budget implementation bill, NDP House leader Nathan Cullen said today after the government refused to split the bill to make it easier to study.

Government House leader Peter Van Loan, speaking after more than a day of talks with Cullen, said the NDP will oppose the 400-page bill anyway, so the Conservatives wouldn't split the bill for committee study.

In announcing the government won't compromise, Van Loan had said, "Canadians expect their government to take action.

"The NDP came to a decision to oppose this budget within minutes of its release. They now propose to change one budget bill they oppose into seven budget bills, all of which they will continue to oppose."

Cullen said it wasn't about whether the New Democrats liked the bill.

Ottawa tells aerospace industry not to stir the pot on F-35s

Ottawa is asking Canada’s aerospace industry to avoid making waves over the F-35 controversy as it sets up a new process to purchase its next fleet of fighter jets.

While Canadian firms have expressed nervousness at the confusion surrounding the file, government officials told the country’s main players in the aerospace field that they are still committed to the Joint Strike Fighter program.

The continued Canadian participation in the program ensures that contracts can keep flowing as Ottawa reviews its decision to enter into a contract with manufacturer Lockheed Martin to purchase the jets that will replace the CF-18s at the end of the decade.

One of the top bureaucrats in Ottawa’s new national fighter jet secretariat, Tom Ring, told a meeting of the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada this week that he is hoping for less media coverage as the new federal body is being established.

Temporary foreign workers and the labour market

Further to recent commentary regarding the Harper government's dramatic expansion of the Temporary Foreign Worker (TWF) program, consider this shocking factoid.

Even before the expansion of the program envisioned in the current omnibus "budget" bill, temporary foreign workers (who do not have the same rights as other Canadian workers, and whose presence here depends entirely on keeping their employers happy) already accounted for almost 30 per cent of all net new paid jobs created in Canada between 2007 and 2011.

The TFW data in the above table comes from the annual CIC tables, based on the stock of TFW workers as of December 1 each year. Comparing those figures to total paid employment (employees, not counting self-employed) over the same time period, it turns out that over 29 per cent of all net new positions went to TFWs.

Netanyahu and his surprise coalition: Will the Israeli left finally stir?

Israelis barely had time to absorb the news that they were heading into a summer election when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu yesterday pulled the rug from underneath the charade. Rancourous early electioneering had provided cover for a secret agreement between Netanyahu and the main opposition party, Kadima, to form a new, expanded coalition government.

Rather than facing the electorate in September, Netanyahu and his hardline rightwing government are expected to comfortably see out the remaining 18 months of his term of office. Not only that, but he will now have the backing of more than three-quarters of the 120-seat Israeli parliament, leading one commentator to crown him the "King of Israel".

The announcement may have taken Israelis by surprise but it fully accorded with the logic of an increasingly dysfunctional Israeli political culture.

A Call for Economic Justice

At the 12th Association for Women's Rights in Development International Forum, a powerful call for a more equitable economic system.

Against the backdrop of ancient mosques, 2,400 people from across the globe gathered in April at the 12th Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) International Forum in Istanbul, Turkey.

It was a special gathering in many respects. The crowd consisted mostly of women, the majority of whom were from the global South, and we were able to spend four days debating how to change economies to advance women’s rights and further equality and justice.

From the opening plenary’s powerhouse lineup of speakers to more intimate sessions designed to deepen our understanding of the global economy, the message was clear – the economy is a woman’s issue. Current models of economic growth have not resulted in greater freedom or equality for women. In fact, they have hurt women most.

Netanyahu, Barak, and Mofaz are delegitimizing Israel

The delegitimization of Israel has been accelerating at a dizzying pace these past couple of weeks − only this campaign is being waged here, in Israel, not by critics abroad.

This latest attack of delegitimization is much more serious than what goes on in the rest of the world. This time the country is being delegitimized in the eyes of its own people. In the end, not only will the world stop believing Israel, Israelis themselves will stop believing in it or its institutions.

So the international organizations are asked to hold their fire. The people at the top here are doing the work for them. A line, albeit a crooked one, connects the mischief leading to the “unity” government to the state’s mischief in the case of Beit El’s Ulpana neighborhood, and this line spells out only one thing to Israelis, particularly younger ones: Fraud and lies are the way to go.

Those clucking their tongues at the wildness of today’s young people might want to remember that the rot starts at the top. The next time a teenager exits a courtroom, he can say what he learned from his prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, that he’ll “consider” and “think about” what he’ll do in view of the verdict; and the next time someone is accused of fraud, he can point to his role model, Shaul Mofaz.

Fixing Gross Inequality Is Not Socialism

What if the president proposed something big -- something that really focused on a broader question, such as the fundamental inequality in America? Well, surely, if he did so, he would be labelled a socialist! Not socialist as defined in the academic sense, or as the rest of the world uses it in its political life, but in the crude way that Republicans have always used it -- as a brickbat to throw at their political opposition.

This has all happened before. In the 1936 election, when FDR proposed the "radical" safety net of Social Security, his Republican opponent Gov. Alf Landon painted a portrait, familiar to FDR's detractors, of the president as a communist and socialist:

    Imagine the field opened for federal snooping. Are these 26 million going to be fingerprinted? Are their photographs going to be kept on file in a Washington office? Or are they going to have identification tags put around their necks?

Fortunately, Americans ignored him and gave FDR an overwhelming victory.

Russian President Vladimir Putin Pulls Out Of G-8 Summit, Meeting With Obama

WASHINGTON -- Russian President Vladimir Putin is skipping a planned visit to the United States this month for an economic summit and a much-anticipated meeting with President Barack Obama, the White House announced Wednesday.

The Russian leader told Obama by phone that he is unable to join the other leaders of the Group of Eight industrial nations meeting outside Washington on May 18-19 because he needs to finish work setting up his new Cabinet, the White House said. The Obama administration had moved the gathering to the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland from the planned venue in Chicago partly to accommodate Putin.

Neither the White House nor the Kremlin had discussed the change in plans until Wednesday, but a White House official said National Security Adviser Tom Donilon was informed of it when he visited Putin and other Russian officials in Moscow last week.

There was no immediate confirmation of the change in plans from the Kremlin.

Mexican Poet Javier Sicilia Leads U.S. Peace Caravan to Expose Drug War’s Human Toll

One of Mexico’s best-known poets, Javier Sicilia, laid down his pen last year after his 24-year-old son was murdered by drug traffickers in Cuernavaca, Mexico. In his son’s memory, Sicilia created the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity to urge an end to the drug violence — violence that has left an estimated 60,000 dead, 10,000 disappeared, and more than 160,000 Mexicans displaced from their homes over the past six years. Sicilia is now in the United States to launch a month-long peace caravan to "bring to the American people’s conscience their shared responsibility for the thousands of dead, missing and displaced in the drug war."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

Nicholas Katzenbach, Unsung Hero of America's Desegregation

When we think back upon the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s we usually think of the marches and the fire hoses, of Martin Luther King and Eugene "Bull" Connor, of Brown v. Board of Education and Southern judges and grandiloquent presidential proclamations. We seldom think about the dedicated and loyal men and women of the federal government who literally, often at great personal peril, enforced the new desegregation policies.

One of these brave public servants, a true American hero, was Nicholas Katzenbach, who died Tuesday night in New Jersey at the age of 90. The obituaries note that he served as the 65th attorney general of the United States, under President Lyndon Johnson, but even if Katzenbach had never worked a day in his life after 1965 his place in American history would have been secured. When it came to the ugliness of race in America, when it came to the battleground, he both talked the talk and walked the walk.

Scott Brown Goes Birther on Elizabeth Warren

On Tuesday, Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) went birther on Elizabeth Warren. "Serious questions have been raised about the legitimacy of Elizabeth Warren's claims to Native American ancestry," Brown said in a statement released to the press.

But given the available evidence concerning Warren's ancestry, Brown is essentially implying there may have been an elaborate, years-long effort to fake his opponent's heritage—not unlike the conspiracy envisioned by right-wing activists who sought "answers" about President Obama's citizenship. (The Brown campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)

This faux controversy stems from a series of articles in the Boston Herald, which reported that Warren had listed herself as Native American in a Harvard Law School faculty directory. (Brown's top adviser, Eric Fehrnstrom, is a former Herald reporter.) This fueled criticism on the right that Warren had falsely claimed Native American status to advance her legal career. Now this bizarre kerfuffle has snowballed well beyond that, as conservatives pursue an in-depth probe of Warren's great-great-great grandmother's ethnicity and whether Warren's great-great-great-uncle lied about it.

US Soldier Trained Neo-Nazis in Florida for "Race War"

The 10 members of a Florida-based neo-Nazi militant group arrested last week received training in close-quarters combat and other Army-approved tactics from a member of the US Army National Guard, according to court filings.

The co-conspirators, alleged to be members of the violent white-power American Front, face felony charges for hate crimes, paramilitary training, and preparing for a coming "race war" against blacks, Jews, and immigrants at a fortified compound in the marshlands of St. Cloud, Florida, just south of the amusement-park haven of Orlando.

Who is Ryan Riley, and how has he been able to lead the life of both a trained American soldier and a card-carrying neo-Nazi? I've reached out to the Missouri National Guard and the Osceola County Sheriff's Office, who booked the Florida conspirators, for comment. Both said they'd get back to me and I'll add an update as soon as they do.

Alberta Election: Danielle Smith, Wildrose Party Leader, Downed By Climate Change Denial, Says Former Premier

EDMONTON - Former Alberta premier Ed Stelmach says Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith's refusal to admit climate change exists cost her party a shot at victory in last month's election.

"I was confident we were going to win," Stelmach said Wednesday when asked about the election by reporters following a legislature social function.

"(But) as with any election you wait for the other team to do something that I'm quite sure today they're questioning, (which were) some of the comments about climate change."

"When you're going to put somebody on an international stage to sell this province, you better listen to your customers around the world before you draw a line in the sand."

Stelmach, premier from 2006 until he retired and was replaced late last year by Alison Redford, didn't run in the past election but helped out candidates by knocking on doors.

As U.S. cuts, Canada pressed to ramp up its defence spending

Canada is finding itself stuck between efforts to slash federal spending and fresh pressure from the United States to ramp up its defence budget and pick up the slack in the wake of deep cuts south of the border.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper will join other NATO leaders in Chicago later this month to discuss missile defence, Afghanistan - and the future of the military alliance itself.

The meeting comes as some members, notably the U.S. and the United Kingdom, are planning to scale back defence spending due to significant austerity measures in the aftermath of the economic recession.

Following a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. is looking to cut more than $50 billion from its defence budget next year and $600 billion over the next decade as the country tries to find $1.2 trillion in spending cuts.

Tobacco company knew smoking was deadly in the ’80s, memo shows

MONTREAL—An internal memo showing that Imperial Tobacco has known cigarettes to be deadly and addictive since the 1980s has been entered into evidence in Quebec’s $27 billion class-action lawsuit against Big Tobacco, despite repeated objections from the company’s lawyers.

In the memo, Bob Bexon, Imperial Tobacco’s former director of Marketing Research and Development, admits that the only thing keeping tobacco companies in business is the addictiveness of cigarettes.

“The only remaining ‘benefit’ of cigarette smoking is the psychological assist it provides in terms of stress reduction,” Bexon writes in the confidential memo. “If our product was not addictive we would not sell a single cigarette next week in spite of these positive psychological attributes.”

N.L. marine medical calls routed to Italy

When Shang Rideout called for medical assistance for his ailing father Ronald, skipper of the fishing vessel Sherry Ann Chris, he did not expect to speak with a doctor in Rome — and did not expect the doctor to have difficulty understanding him.

CBC News has learned that radio calls for medical help from ships needing to speak with a doctor while in Newfoundland and Labrador waters have been routed to CIRM, a free service in Rome.

The move comes in the wake of Ottawa's recent shuttering of the Maritime Rescue Sub-Centre in St. John’s.

But the federal government said the move was an interim measure, and that "a Canadian solution has now been found" with a contract being signed late Wednesday with the company that used to provide the service.

Rideout has first-hand experience with the new medical calls protocol.

Government mum over cost of lawyer defending Harper in defamation suit

OTTAWA — The Conservative government is refusing to reveal how much Canadian taxpayers are being charged to pay a private-sector lawyer hired to represent Prime Minister Stephen Harper and three other people who are among those being sued for defamation by former Tory cabinet minister Helena Guergis.

On Parliament Hill Wednesday, opposition politicians reacted with dismay — accusing Harper of unacceptable secrecy in an effort to hide his irresponsible spending.

The developments occurred in the wake of an exclusive Postmedia News report which revealed that the government bypassed the use of a staff lawyer from the Department of Justice to handle the lawsuit for Harper.

Surprise, surprise: Canada lags in e-commerce

The government’s Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology has released its report (links to PDF) on e-commerce in Canada, titled “Pursuing the Promise.”

It paints the same picture we’ve known for some time now–that despite Canadians being among the most prodigious users of the Internet, they really aren’t doing much online business-wise. With the amount of effort the government has put into this area, a more accurate title for the report might therefore be “E-Commerce in Canada: Half-Assedly Pursuing the Promise.”

Canadian businesses are investing 40 per cent less in information and communications technologies, or about $2,400 less per worker, than American businesses, the Committee heard from witnesses. Some of that has contributed to the fact that only 1 per cent of retail expenditures in Canada are from online transactions, compared to 8 per cent in the United States.

B.C. Mountie sues force for harassment

CBC News has learned the high-profile Mountie who first spoke out against sexual harassment in the national police force is suing her employer, alleging years of "persistent and ongoing" sexual harassment and bullying.

In a notice of claim obtained by CBC News Wednesday, Cpl. Catherine Galliford alleges she was sexually assaulted, harassed and bullied during her 16 years on the force.

The notice names Canada's attorney general, B.C.'s justice minister, four Mounties, an RCMP doctor and a Vancouver police officer.

Galliford was the face of the B.C. RCMP for years, revealing charges had been laid in the Air India bombing and announcing the arrest of serial killer Robert William Pickton.

As prisons close, complaints of overcrowding rise

Inmates in Canada’s federal prisons have been sleeping in trailers, interview rooms, family visiting spaces and gymnasiums, while the percentage of prisoners sharing cells built for one has nearly doubled in under three years, according to documents obtained by The Globe and Mail.

The documents, obtained from access to information requests, suggest a penal system stretched to capacity. Canada’s prison population has been rising since 2005 after years of steady decline, growing 7 per cent between March 31, 2011 and May 1, 2012.

Part of the latest increase can be attributed to the government’s tough-on-crime agenda. At the same time, the government will lose 1,000 beds after it closes aging penal facilities such as Kingston Penitentiary and Leclerc Institution in Laval, Que., but says it will more than make up the difference with new units.

Toronto housing bubble talk dismissed

The head of Canada’s biggest bank and one of the country’s leading developers said the housing market is not in a bubble, even as one economist said Toronto is caught in a “condo craze.”

Canadian housing starts rose to the highest since September 2007 last month, led by multiple-unit projects, Canada Mortgage & Housing Corp. said yesterday. The annual pace of home starts rose 14 percent to 244,900, Ottawa-based CMHC said.

Participants at Bloomberg’s Canada Economic Summit in Toronto said talk of a housing bubble is overblown.

“When we look at the overall marketplace, there might be pockets of vulnerability but we remain quite comfortable,” said Gordon Nixon, chief executive officer of Royal Bank of Canada “Frankly, I’d like to see the rhetoric come down a little bit.”

Flemingdon Community Food bank facing $30,000 rent arrears

A Toronto food bank is tens of thousands of dollars in debt and has launched an urgent appeal for help to save it from closing its doors.

The Flemingdon Community Food Bank, which is open daily and serves the high-needs area of Thorncliffe Park and Flemingdon Park, owes its landlord $30,000 in rent — and is unsure of how it will cover costs as it faces an influx of new clients.

“From 1,000 families three years ago, the clients doubled last year, and over the past nine months, we have seen the largest increase,” said Abdul Hai Patel, acting chair and treasurer of the board of directors of the food bank. “We have 3,800 families registered right now,” he said.

Food banks across the city are seeing a spike in their numbers at a time when the cost of food is increasing, and charities have been slapped with a fee for waste collection as of July 1.

Colin Powell's New Book: War With Iraq Never Debated

WASHINGTON -- In his new book, former Secretary of State Colin Powell provides what may be the most authoritative confirmation yet that there was never a considered debate in the George W. Bush White House about whether going to war in Iraq was really a good idea.

In a chapter discussing what he calls his “infamous” February 2003 speech to the United Nations where he authoritatively presented what was later exposed as gross misinformation about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, Powell notes that by that time, war “was approaching.”

“By then, the President did not think war could be avoided,” Powell writes. “He had crossed the line in his own mind, even though the NSC [National Security Council] had never met -- and never would meet -- to discuss the decision.”

The National Security Council, which was at the time led by Condoleezza Rice, is the president’s foremost advisory body for national security and foreign policy.

Chris Mazza rejected discount on helicopter deal, former ORNGE exec says

ORNGE paid about $7 million more for 12 helicopters than it had to, a Queen’s Park committee was told Wednesday.

Former ORNGE aviation boss Rick Potter said he negotiated millions of dollars off the purchase price AgustaWestland was charging and then was surprised when ex-ORNGE CEO Chris Mazza told him to pay the full price.

“Are you freaking crazy?” Potter recalled telling Mazza when he confronted the boss of the air ambulance service. The savings related to extra money he said AgustaWestland was attempting to charge for obtaining government certification that the helicopters could carry carry a greater weight than usual, a requirement because the choppers were being used for air ambulance work.

In his testimony, Potter described the savings he negotiated as $10 million. He said ORNGE ended up paying Agusta $7.2 million in additional charges.

Rob Ford and the Banality of Excess

Rob “The Polarizer” Ford has turned city council into a spectator sport in Toronto. Rogers TV’s online feed of city council meetings has been drawing more eyeballs. The mayor’s hi-jinx has provided city hall watchers with an endless stream of drama, comedy, and tragedy – in a word – entertainment. But the same old song and dance isn’t doing it for me anymore.

In one week Mayor Rob Ford has threatened to beat up a pesky reporter, celebrated World Press Freedom Day by refusing to take questions from reporters and again snubbed the LGBQT community by declining to attend a flag raising ceremony. Plus, the supposed agenda setter can barely rally five votes in council for something as un-sexy as zoning and planning policy reform. Under different circumstances, any one of these events might be worthy of hysterical headlines, resignation demands or lame-duck prognoses. But under Ford at this point it’s all just par for the course. The gaffes are starting to blur together.

Public Works downgraded 'secret' F-35 letter to AG's office two weeks after sending it

PARLIAMENT HILL—A letter from the Public Works deputy minister revealing internal concern about sole-sourcing the $25-billion F-35 stealth jet project, while defending the decision against criticism from Auditor General Michael Ferguson, was originally classified as “secret” when it was sent to Mr. Ferguson last February.

The secret classification, which Mr. Ferguson’s office told The Hill Times on Wednesday would have prevented the auditor general’s office from using the information or revealing it, was downgraded two weeks later at the AG’s office’s request and resent with a lower security classification, according to a note at the bottom by Public Works deputy minister François Guimond.

The letter was among several Mr. Guimond and National Defence deputy minister Ron Fonberg sent to assistant auditor general Jerome Berthelette as they were protesting a report on the F-35 project that accused National Defence and Public Works of failing to exercise due diligence. In Public Works’ case, the auditor general’s report said it did not demonstrate due diligence during the process that led Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) and his Cabinet to select the expensive and sophisticated Lockheed-Martin F-35 stealth fighter and attack plane to replace Canada’s aging CF-18 fighter jet fleet.

Mulcair steps up environmental attacks after Tories refuse to split omnibus bill

The NDP stepped up their attacks on the government’s green credentials in Question Period on Wednesday, accusing the Tories of using a 421-page budget bill to sneak through legislation that will dismantle the nation’s environmental protections.

The verbal sparring in Parliament came hours after the Harper government flat-out refused to split up the dense omnibus budget bill, as requested by the Opposition.

Conservative House Leader Peter Van Loan in a news conference Wednesday said the government wants its economic program passed quickly. The NDP continues to contend the bill won’t get the scrutiny it deserves because of its hefty size.

“Canadians will no longer have the right to participate in public hearings. Key independent agencies will be cut out of the process, and ministers will have the power to ignore the facts, ignore the science, and reverse any decision they don’t agree with,” NDP leader Thomas Mulcair said in the House of Commons, about the environmental legislation in the bill.