Democracy Gone Astray

Democracy, being a human construct, needs to be thought of as directionality rather than an object. As such, to understand it requires not so much a description of existing structures and/or other related phenomena but a declaration of intentionality.
This blog aims at creating labeled lists of published infringements of such intentionality, of points in time where democracy strays from its intended directionality. In addition to outright infringements, this blog also collects important contemporary information and/or discussions that impact our socio-political landscape.

All the posts here were published in the electronic media – main-stream as well as fringe, and maintain links to the original texts.

[NOTE: Due to changes I haven't caught on time in the blogging software, all of the 'Original Article' links were nullified between September 11, 2012 and December 11, 2012. My apologies.]

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Scientists lash Harper government for pulling plug on Experimental Lakes Area

Scientists from Harvard University, the Smithsonian Institute, and other elite research centres are condemning a decision by the Harper government to shut down a world-class freshwater research program.

A program called the Experimental Lakes Area, a region of 58 lakes near Kenora, Ont., that scientists have used for groundbreaking experiments, will be scrapped as part of federal budget cuts.

Those cuts come with 40 layoffs in Winnipeg's regional Fisheries and Oceans Canada office. Many of those who are being laid off are biologists, chemists and other scientists who form the ELA's core.

Syria massacre survivor tells of killing of army defectors at Jebel al-Zawiya

Crouching in a gap between two grey boulders, Mohammed Rahman Sohail first heard the screams of defiance, then the machine guns opening up.

Down the valley, around 300 metres away, he could make out about 100 men like him hiding behind jagged rocks, desperately trying to outmanoeuvre the turrets pointing their way.

The tanks and men with machine guns had moved out from nearby villages and readied themselves on the high ground, herding their captives like dogs corralling stock to this small forsaken valley on a mountain plateau in northern Syria.

With the men trapped below, gunmen loyal to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad walked steadily around the ridge until every man beneath them had no chance of escape.

Prisoners must be given right to vote, European court rules

Prisoners in the UK must be given the right to vote, the European court of human rights (ECHR) has ruled, though ministers may determine which inmates should be enfranchised.

The appeals section of the Strasbourg court reaffirmed its decision that blanket disenfranchisement of all those serving time is illegal and imposed a fresh timetable for Britain's delayed compliance with similar past rulings.

The keenly anticipated ruling on Scoppola vs Italy brings some political relief in confirming there is significant leeway allowed in how the rights are granted, meaning that individual countries may choose to exclude certain groups of serious offenders, such as murderers and rapists.

The Cost of College

It was satisfying to watch the two Presidential candidates find their ways to absolutely opposed positions on gay marriage. Elections are supposed to present us with clear choices like that, but they usually don’t. Just two weeks earlier, on an issue that affects many more people, Barack Obama had taken a stand that he evidently thought would also showcase a sharp contrast between him and Mitt Romney. A temporary reduction in an interest rate that makes some federal student loans more affordable is due to expire on July 1st, and Obama called for its extension.

Republicans in Congress have fought Obama on the interest rate, saying that keeping it low would add to the federal deficit. Last month, in response, Obama delivered a rip-roaring address at the University of North Carolina, in which he mocked the Republicans for wanting to make hardworking, non-affluent students victims of their budget-cutting impulses. Just the day before, however, Romney had let it be known that he, too, is in favor of extending the rate. This was a contrast that he chose not to draw.

Do We Still Need the Voting Rights Act?

The chances to remake American law—and maybe American society—are stacking up for the Supreme Court. Next month, the Justices will render their verdicts on the Affordable Care Act and on the Arizona immigration law. The fate of affirmative action in university admissions will likely be determined by the Roberts Court in its next term, and now another blockbuster appears headed for the Justices as well. The future of the Voting Rights Act—probably the Great Society’s greatest landmark—will almost certainly be in the Court’s hands next year.

The heart of the Voting Rights Act is its famous Section 5, which essentially put the South on perpetual probation. In rough terms, the law requires the states of the old Confederacy (as well as a few smaller areas outside the South) to submit any changes in their electoral law to the Justice Department for what’s known as “pre-clearance”—to make sure that the changes don’t infringe on minority voting rights. Before Section 5, states and municipalities could simply change their rules—about everything from the location of polling places to the borders of district lines—and dare civil-rights activists to sue to stop them. It was a maddening, and very high-stakes, game of whack-a-mole. As a result of Section 5, though, the Justice Department monitored these moves and made sure there would be no backsliding on voting rights.

JPMorgan Hearing: Market Regulators Warn They're Broke, Outgunned By Wall Street

Two of the most important financial regulators in the country have a message for Congress: We need more money.

At a hearing before the Senate Banking Committee Tuesday morning, Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Schapiro and Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Gary Gensler told lawmakers that the demands on their agencies to expand oversight are growing, but that their pocketbooks are not.

"We’re way underfunded at the CFTC," Gensler told lawmakers, after a question on the subject from Senator Chuck Schumer (D- N.Y.). "Imagine if, all of a sudden, there are eight times the number of teams on the [football] field, but only seven refs," Gensler said. "There would be would be mayhem on the field. The fans would lose confidence."

Mark Traina, New Orleans School Psychologist, Stirs Up Firestorm With Tweets About 'Black Thugs'

A school psychologist in New Orleans is under fire for posting racially inflammatory comments online amid a debate about the school system's treatment of black and special education students.

The Jefferson Parish school system is investigating Mark Traina after some of his postings -- including “Young Black Thugs who won’t follow the law need to be put down not incarcerated. Put down like the Dogs they are!” -- were highlighted by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports.

Traina's comments - including “Serpas should be warning people to STAY THE HELL OUT OF NEW ORLEANS! These Black Dudes will Kill You!” - were posted on his Twitter feed and on the Website. In an April Tweet, he wrote that 17-year-old Trayvon Martin's killer George Zimmerman was "the real victim and held his ground."

Iran Nuclear Talks: Deal Reached On Nuclear Weapons Probe, UN Nuclear Chief Says

VIENNA — Despite some remaining differences, a deal has been reached with Iran that will allow the U.N. nuclear agency to restart a long-stalled probe into suspicions that Tehran has secretly worked on developing nuclear arms, the U.N. nuclear chief said Tuesday.

The news from International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano, who returned from Tehran on Tuesday, comes just a day before Iran and six world powers meet in Baghdad for negotiations and could present a significant turning point in the heated dispute over Iran's nuclear intentions. The six nations hope the talks will result in an agreement by the Islamic Republic to stop enriching uranium to a higher level that could be turned quickly into the fissile core of nuclear arms.

There was a possibility that the conference may be delayed by weather. A sand storm closed down Baghdad's airport's Tuesday.

Mitch McConnell: President Obama Is Attacking Capitalism

WASHINGTON -- The White House has laid siege to capitalism, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declared Tuesday.

Asked if President Barack Obama's campaign attacks on Mitt Romney's time running the private equity firm Bain Capital were out of bounds, McConnell didn't answer directly, but instead accused Obama of undermining the American economic system.

"I do think that it's interesting to note that the whole notion of our success and of capitalism seems to be under attack by this administration across the board, not just in the campaign, but through the actions of the government itself," McConnell said at a Capitol Hill press conference.

Members of Congress Want to Know: Did Scott Walker Lie Under Oath?

Members of Congress who questioned Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker when he testified before a US House committee last year are asking the chairman of that committee to help them determine whether whether the controversial anti-labor governor made deceptive statements while under oath.

The ranking Democratic member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings, joined Virginia Congressman Gerry Connolly and Connecticut Congressman Christopher Murphy in signing a letter to Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-California, which asks Issa to contact Walker and seek “an explanation for why his statements captured on videotape appear to contradict his testimony before the committee.”

The Congressmen began their letter: “We are writing to request that you ask Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to clarify his testimony before our Committee hearing on April 14, 2011, in light of a new videotape taken of Governor Walker three months earlier and an article published last week by The Nation entitled “Did Scott Walker Lie Under Oath to Congress?” Did Scott Walker Lie Under Oath to Congress?’”

It’s Official: Watching Fox Makes You Stupider

People who work at Fox News might like to think that they are despised by real journalists only because they are conservative and most journalists are liberal. Anyone who read the admiring obituaries of William F. Buckley Jr. in mainstream and liberal outlets would know that is nonsense. Journalists, both liberals and ones with no ideology in particular, are quite capable of respecting conservative pundits and reporters who deserve their respect.

But Fox does not. The reason is not because it holds a set of values that others may not share. And that is only partially because it claims to be “Fair and Balanced” when it is neither.

Rather, it is because it fails the fundamental test of journalism: are you informing your audience? According to a new study by Farleigh Dickinson University, Fox viewers are the least knowledgeable audience of any outlet, and they know even less about politics and current events than people who watch no news at all.

Is Congress Really Authorizing US Propaganda at Home?

Late last Friday, Buzzfeed reporter and Rolling Stone contributor Michael Hastings broke what looked like a big scoop: Congress was quietly planning to lift a 64-year-old law preventing the US government from using propaganda on its own citizenry. Before the House passed its defense budget bill Friday afternoon, Hastings reported, a bipartisan group of congressmen tacked on an amendment that would "essentially neutralize" a set of time-tested guidelines "that had been passed to protect U.S. audiences from our own government's misinformation campaigns."

Progressive thinkers balked at the news: Mideast expert Juan Cole decried the amendment as "the creeping fascism of American politics…by our representatives, who apparently have never read a book on Germany in the 1930s-1940s or on the Soviet Union in the Stalin period." On civil libertarian Jonathan Turley's site, guest blogger Elaine Magliaro asked: "How about some propaganda for the people paid for by the people being propagandized?"

The Tea Party Patriots' Fundraising Fail?

Following the defeat of Sen. Richard Lugar in Indiana's GOP primary, the Tea Party Patriots were quick to claim partial credit for taking down the long-serving moderate. To underscore the group's clout (and push back against chatter about the movement's slow demise), TPP cofounder Jenny Beth Martin revealed to an interviewer that her organization's most recent IRS filing shows that TPP had raised more than $12 million. This impressive figure wasn't exactly proof of TPP's role in dispatching Lugar, but Martin's disclosure did raise a question: Where did all that money go?

The group's full IRS filing, obtained by Mother Jones, offers details on TPP's spending that may make conservative activists wonder about about TPP's fiscal responsibility. It covers the fiscal year ending in May 2011 and shows that TPP spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on high-priced political fundraisers (in one case paying a firm tens of thousands of dollars more than it was able to raise during the reporting period), shelled out more than a half-million dollars in travel expenses, and paid its once-volunteer leaders six-figure salaries.

Family Violence In Canada: Spousal Abuse Accounts For Half

OTTAWA - Statistics Canada says about 99,000 Canadians were victims of family violence in 2010, with spouses accounting for almost half the abuse.

The agency quotes police-reported data to show that about 50 per cent of such violence was committed by a spouse, with 17 per cent blamed on a parent, 14 per cent on an extended family member, 11 per cent on a sibling and nine per cent on a child, usually a grown child.

The report says the risk of being a victim of family violence was twice as high for women, mainly because of spousal abuse.

In 2010, police reported approximately 48,700 victims of spousal violence, with more than 80 per cent of victims being women age 15 or older.

The report says rates of family violence in the provinces and territories follows the same pattern of overall crime, with Ontario and Prince Edward Island having the lowest rates of police-reported violence.

The territories, Saskatchewan and Manitoba had the highest rates.

Original Article
Source: huffington post
Author: CP

Keystone XL Would Raise Gas Prices, Report Finds

WASHINGTON -- The Natural Resources Defense Council on Tuesday released a report dispelling the myth that the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would lower gas prices. Rather, the opposite is true, findings show.

On a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, report author and NRDC attorney Anthony Swift called the pipeline's impact on gasoline prices "one of the most misunderstood issues surrounding the proposed Keystone XL," adding that when TransCanada originally proposed the pipeline, they pitched it as a way to increase the cost of oil in the United States, providing increased revenue for Canadian producers. Since then, proponents of the pipeline in the United States have pitched it as a means of decreasing U.S. gasoline prices.

Canada House Prices: Correction Would Cost Banks Tens Of Billions, Fitch Says

If Canada’s housing market experiences the price correction so many analysts and institutions expect, it won’t just hurt the homeowners who bought overpriced properties. It’ll directly impact Canada’s banks, who would lose tens of billions of dollars with even a modest market correction, says a new report from Fitch.

Despite this warning, mortgage lenders are now fighting new restrictions meant to make lending more responsible in Canada, saying some Canadians could lose their homes if the rules come into force.

Fitch Ratings Agency ran stress tests looking at the banks’ exposure to mortgages, and found that a 10 per cent decline in the value of the mortgages would cause $91.3 billion-worth of damage to the biggest six banks. But that number would drop to $41.5 billion once insurance policies from government-controlled agencies, such as the CMHC, pay out.

No Canadian Troops for Afghanistan Beyond 2014 But Can Harper Be Trusted On That Commitment?

So the news coming out of the NATO meeting in Chicago is that Canada will withdraw all of its soldiers from Afghanistan in March 2014, on schedule.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper confirmed that Monday as the NATO summit ended. “The time has come,” Harper said. “All the benchmarks, all the milestones are being met to make this possible.”

Instead, Canada will provide more than $300 million over the next three years to Afghan security forces.

But some of those in uniform suggested to Defence Watch that the government’s position might change in 2014 if the situation in Afghanistan hasn’t improved.

Conservative MPs argue DFO cuts won't hurt research

Two Conservative members of Parliament from New Brunswick are defending the latest round of cuts to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, saying the department’s research capacity won’t be hurt.

DFO’s budget is being reduced by nearly $80 million. Late last week, about 16 scientists and librarians received layoff notices at the St. Andrews Biological Station.

The library at the St. Andrews Biological Station will close and library services will be consolidated on the west coast, in Halifax and in Ottawa.

But John Williamson, MP for New Brunswick Southwest, said the cuts won’t be as dramatic as they seem.

Federal government could be sued over fisheries reform, minister admits

OTTAWA — Fisheries and Oceans Canada acknowledges its reputation and capacity to protect the nation's water are at risk because of a "change agenda" that also could be overturned in court, the department's minister, Keith Ashfield, said in a report tabled this month in Parliament.

But the report suggested the department is considering "communications" tools as part of a marketing campaign "to maintain public trust" along with the morale of scientists and experts in its workforce.

The report on the department's plans and priorities proposed "rigorous" efforts to review budgets and respond to the risk that budget cuts may hamper its capacity to "maintain appropriate service levels for internal and external clients."

New EI rules more modest and sensible than earlier advertised

The Conservatives will unveil their employment insurance reforms this week, in a move that will prove to be a huge disappointment to the opposition parties.

The Liberals and NDP have been salivating at the prospect of EI changes that will force doctors to flip burgers and Maritime fishermen to go west, or risk losing their benefits.

The reality will be more modest and grounded in common sense. Regular EI recipients will be expected to commute up to an hour to take a job and will have to accept work that pays 70% of their average income.

But these are reasonable changes, designed to remove disincentives to work. At the moment, jobs that pay less or offer “less favourable” conditions can be turned down, without risk of losing benefits.

Conservatives ask court to dismiss election case

Conservative MPs are asking the Federal Court to dismiss an application to review the federal election results in seven ridings.

Seven MPs have submitted documents arguing the applications for judicial review were filed too late and don't contain specific allegations that would demand the election results be overturned.

The court documents are in response to a legal action supported by the Council of Canadians that asked the court to review the election result in seven ridings after allegations of voter suppression surfaced in the midst of an Elections Canada investigation into fraudulent robocalls in Guelph, Ont. The calls in Guelph redirected voters to the wrong polling station.

The documents were submitted to the court Friday and released by the Council of Canadians on Tuesday.

Raitt meets with CP union as midnight strike deadline looms

Officials with Canadian Pacific Railway (CP-T74.920.811.09%) and the union representing nearly 5,000 of its workers met with federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt Tuesday in the hopes of avoiding a strike.

“The union understands the government wants us to continue bargaining and get a deal, and that’s what we’re going to do,” said Douglas Finnson, vice-president of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference.

Mr. Finnson described the meeting with Ms. Raitt as “very positive,” but said he couldn’t comment on the specific topics that were discussed.

The major points of contention are pensions, some work rules and fatigue management, he added.

Tories backtrack on EI rule, say minister speaking in 'generalities'

A federal minister from New Brunswick said unemployed workers on EI will be required to accept reasonable job offers that are within an hour’s drive of their home, but officials are now stressing that Keith Ashfield was only speaking in “generalities.”

The federal fisheries minister appeared to be offering up a rare bit of detail on the Conservative government’s promised Employment Insurance reforms, when he spoke about commute times and EI in a CBC Radio interview.

“People that can find employment within an hour’s drive of their home, that would be reasonable in our opinion. And hopefully people will be able to fill some of the positions that [are] appropriate to their skill level to find meaningful employment,” said Mr. Ashfield.

Massive Montreal rally marks 100 days of student protests

A river of red-clad protesters is rippling through downtown Montreal on this, the 100th day of Quebec’s student strikes.

Small events are being held in support of the Quebec one in other Canadian cities, as well as Paris and New York.

Tens of thousands of people are gathering and preparing to march in Montreal, carrying signs, chanting slogans, and wearing the iconic red square of the province’s student movement.

In the crowd are supporters from outside Quebec.

While less than one-third of Quebec’s post-secondary students are actually on strike, they have attracted some support from people angry at the provincial government over its emergency law that sets rules on protests.

Income Inequality: Canada Faces Financial Crises, Greater Instability As Wage Gap Grows, Study Warns

Income inequality is set to widen in Canada in the coming years, a trend that will lead to greater instability and could trigger future financial crises, a new study argues.

Released on Tuesday by the left-leaning Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the paper maintains that repeated financial collapse is the inevitable outcome when a small minority stockpiles capital while everyone else accumulates debt.

“There’s been a lot of attention focused on the growth in consumption at the top end -- people living in monster homes while the homeless are on the street outside,” said study author Lars Osberg, an economist at Dalhousie University. But what hasn't been talked about, he argues, is the impact that the growing savings of the rich are having on the economy.

According to Osberg, it’s these savings -- whether loaned on capital markets to finance consumption or poured into stocks -- that have a destabilizing effect on the financial system.

B.C. killer whale expert out of work as feds cut ocean-pollution monitoring positions

VICTORIA - Canada's only marine mammal toxicologist at the Institute of Ocean Sciences on Vancouver Island is losing his job as the federal government cuts almost all employees who monitor ocean pollution across Canada.

Peter Ross, an expert on killer whales and other marine mammals, was the lead author of a report 10 years ago that demonstrated Canada's killer whales are the most contaminated marine mammals on the planet. He has more than a 100 published reports.

Now, he's a casualty of the Conservative's budget cuts, one of 75 people across Canada told this past week his services will no longer be needed because the Department of Fisheries is closing the nation's contaminants program.

For about a decade, Fisheries and Oceans has been trying to offload the program to Environment Canada, Ross said. Instead, this week, it axed it.

Learn French, Canada, it’s good for you

The big news in Quebec universities is not just about tuition fees. It’s also about top-notch research.

This month, ACFAS – l’Association francophone pour le savoir – held its 80th annual scientific congress in Montreal. One of the highlights was a symposium on bilingualism and multilingualism, which asked: What determines the capacity of humans to learn more than one language, and how does this affect brain development?

There was plenty of discussion and debate, especially between two eminent McGill University colleagues. Psychology professor Fred Genesee has spearheaded decades of research on language acquisition, and along the way has challenged several myths. He’s found that a child’s brain is not unilingual but rather bilingual, and thus fully wired to learn two languages at once, coherently and effectively, without confusion. Meanwhile, Karsten Steinhauer, the Canada Research Chair in Neurocognition of Language, has discovered lent his expertise in new technologies such as electroencephalography (yes, it’s a word!) to bust a few myths as well: namely, that only children have the capacity to learn a new language. It turns out that adult brains have similar capacities, but it’s the method of training – specifically, immersion – that determines success. Like riding a bike or playing tennis, practice makes perfect.

ACOA cuts regional development funding

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency is eliminating its funding to regional economic development groups in the Atlantic provinces, effective next year.

The federal agency has decided to discontinue annual operational funding to the regional development authorities in Nova Scotia, regional development boards in Newfoundland and Labrador, community economic development agencies in New Brunswick, and similar community-based organizations in Prince Edward Island, a memo to all organizations states.

"The Government of Canada's agenda is focused on strengthening business growth and eliminating overlap and duplication," the letter states.

U.S. workers: Need job, can’t travel to Alberta

With the U.S. unemployment rate stuck above eight per cent, Americans need jobs. And Alberta needs more workers—as many as 114,000 in the next decade, according to provincial figures. It seems like the perfect opportunity—bring trained U.S. workers to help fill the labour shortage in booming Alberta. Yet hiring those workers is difficult, employers complain.

“It hasn’t been our first place to look,” says Jim Finnigan, human resources manager for the North American Construction Group, an Edmonton-based company that serves the oil sands in mining, heavy construction and pipelines. Finnigan needs heavy equipment mechanics, welders, electricians for electric cable shovels, as well as project managers, civil estimators and various types of engineers. He’s brought them in from as far away as Chile and Ireland, and dealt with long delays in government approvals and the uncertainty of skills testing when they arrived. (Some Chileans had to be sent back, he says, because they didn’t have the language skills to pass highly technical written exams even though their spoken English was fine.)

Syria Prisons Are 'Human Slaughterhouses,' Ex-Detainee Says

AMMAN, Jordan -- A prominent Palestinian writer who was jailed in Syria for nearly three weeks described the facilities as "human slaughterhouses," saying security agents beat detainees with batons, crammed them into stinking cells and tied them to beds at night.

Salameh Kaileh, 56, was arrested April 24 on suspicion of printing leaflets calling for the ouster of Syrian President Bashar Assad, who is fighting a 15-month-old uprising against his rule. Kaileh's story offers a rare inside glimpse into the conditions faced by detainees held by the country's feared security services.

"It was hell on earth," Kaileh told The Associated Press on Sunday, nearly a week after Syrian forces released him and deported him to Jordan. Speaking at his friend's home in an Amman suburb, Kaileh had bluish-red bruises on his legs, which he said were the result of beatings with wooden batons that were studded with pins and nails.

Occupy Activists: Chicago NATO Summit Helped Revitalize Movement

As Occupy activists from around the country begin heading home to their respective cities after a weekend of protests in Chicago, many say the massive gathering has helped revitalize a movement that has gone months without staging the kind of headline-grabbing spectacle that made "99 percent" a popular concept.

Ever since police forces around the country started evicting protestors from their encampments about two months after the tents first went up, people in the movement have found themselves responding to a discouraging refrain: "Is Occupy still going on?" This weekend's protests should leave little doubt that it is, if nothing else.

The Sellout of the Ivory Tower, and the Crash of 2008 (Excerpt)

Re-printed from Predator Nation: Corporate Criminals, Political Corruption, and the Hijacking of America; Copyright © 2012 by Charles Ferguson. Published by Crown Business, a division of Random House, Inc.

Many people who saw my documentary film about the 2008 economic crisis, Inside Job, found that the most surprising, and disturbing, portion of the film was its revelation of widespread conflicts of interest in universities, think tanks, and among prominent academic experts on finance, economics, business, and government regulation. Viewers who watched my interviews with eminent professors were stunned at what came out of their mouths.

Over the last thirty years, in parallel with deregulation and the rising power of money in American politics, significant portions of American academia have deteriorated into "pay to play" activities. These days, if you see a famous economics professor testify in Congress, appear on television news, testify in a legal case or regulatory proceeding, give a speech, or write an opinion article in the New York Times (or the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal, or anywhere else), there is a high probability that he or she is being paid by someone with a big stake in what's being debated. Most of the time, these professors do not disclose these conflicts of interest, and most of the time their universities look the other way. Increasingly, professors are also paid to testify for defendants in fraud trials, both civil and criminal. The pay is high -- sometimes a quarter of a million dollars for an hour of congressional testimony. But for banks and other highly regulated industries, it's a trivial expense, a billion or two a year that they barely notice; and just as with politicians, it's a very good investment, with very high benefits.

Budget bill to upend RCMP health care

When young Canadians join the Mounties, one of their first orders of business is to cut up their provincial medical card and join the national police force’s special health-care system.

However, a provision in the Harper government’s omnibus budget bill would bring RCMP officers back into the Canadian health-care mainstream, with services overseen by the provinces. The legislative change in Bill C-38 heralds a series of other modifications to the health and benefits package offered to Mounties, including sick leave, the employee assistance program and disability leave.

The RCMP argues the changes will save at least $25-million a year in administrative and health-care costs, and will improve on a system that is increasingly “costly and complex.”

Attorney: "NATO 3" Activists Detained on Terror Charges in Chicago Are Victims of Police Entrapment

Following a weekend that saw nearly 100 arrests of protesters at the NATO summit in Chicago, we speak with National Lawyers Guild attorney Sarah Gelsomino, who represents one of the five activists charged with terror-related crimes. Two are accused of attempted possession of explosives or incendiary devices, and three more are accused of conspiracy to commit terrorism, material support for terrorism and possession of explosives. Gelsomino says the so-called "NATO Three" were set up by government informants who planted the explosives. "Our clients who are facing the most serious charges of terrorism are actually in solitary confinement right now, we just learned," Gelsomino says. "A very top priority this week is to get them out of that extremely punitive and extremely dangerous condition that they’re in right now."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

Internal RCMP investigation uncovers disturbing behaviour

OTTAWA — An internal RCMP investigation into a series of sex and drinking escapades in a staff sergeant’s office revealed a pattern of sexual harassment so disturbing that senior Ottawa Mounties say it will take “considerable effort to rebuild the damaged trust of our organization.”

The investigation, which has not been made public until now, reviewed seven reports about the misconduct of Staff Sgt. Don Ray, the officer in charge of the polygraph unit at Alberta’s RCMP headquarters in Edmonton.

Internal Affairs investigators discovered Sgt. Ray was hosting after-hours parties in his office and kept a bar fridge stocked with Budweiser and Appleton Jamaica Rum. Sgt. Ray would encourage female subordinates to drink and make sexual advances when alone with them, the investigation found.

Time for Harper to bring out the broom?

Human frailties being what they are, most every government has experienced what the Conservatives are going through now – torrents of trouble in the ministerial ranks.

Lester Pearson was plagued by transgressions by his Quebec ministers, which John Diefenbaker blew out of proportion. Brian Mulroney dismissed or sidelined many ministers for various shades of misconduct. Jean Chrétien’s cabinet was stable for the first years but later became a revolving door.

Controversies sometimes swallowed the big guns. Finance minister John Turner fled the Trudeau government. Lester Pearson lost finance minister Walter Gordon following the ill-conceived 1965 budget. Mr. Chrétien fired his popular and rebellious finance minister, Paul Martin.

What has been striking about Stephen Harper’s government through the years is the Prime Minister’s reluctance to change the deck chairs. It’s been a relatively stable team, one that has featured some laudable performances.

Attorney general seeks to halt Mountie's human rights hearing

Canada's attorney general is trying to stop the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal from hearing a long-serving aboriginal B.C. Mountie's complaints of discrimination within the RCMP.

Attorney General Rob Nicholson has applied to Federal Court for a judicial review of a decision to refer Cpl. Greg Morrison Blain's complaint to the tribunal. Blain left the RCMP in January after nearly two decades on the force.

"I have suffered grave harm to my dignity and self-respect as a result of the RCMP's callous treatment of me since I became a member," he writes in the complaint.

"I am proud of my aboriginal identity and I feel that the RCMP has devalued this identity. The RCMP's demeaning conduct is particularly hurtful to me as I have grown up with the burden of hundreds of years of oppression and discrimination by Canadian police forces."

The age of extreme oil: ‘This used to be a forest?'

One grey Thursday at the end of April, a plane touched down in Fort McMurray, Alta., carrying four Achuar Indians from the Peruvian Amazon. They had flown 8,000 kilometres from the rain forest to beseech Talisman Energy Inc., the Calgary-based oil and gas conglomerate, to stop drilling in their territory. Talisman's annual general meeting was coming up, and the Achuar were invited to state their case to chief executive officer John Manzoni in front of the company's shareholders.

But first, they wanted to see a Canadian oil patch for themselves, and meet the aboriginal people who lived there.

Their host in Fort McMurray was Gitzikomin Deranger, Gitz to his friends – a 6-foot-4 Dene-Blackfoot activist who lives in a comfortably cluttered duplex with his parents and a revolving assortment of relatives. Many of them crowded in to meet the Achuar, who relaxed on Mr. Deranger's leather couch with surprising ease for people who live in palm huts. He had welcomed them to Alberta with a smudge – having set a small pile of sage to smoulder in a miniature cast-iron pan, he fanned smoke over his guests with an eagle feather.

OECD urges Canada to raise rates

An influential international body is urging Canada’s central bank to raise interest rates in the fall, and continue doing so through 2013 to cool housing prices and contain inflation.

The Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s prescription for monetary policy will stoke the already hot debate about whether the Bank of Canada’s interest rate stance is inflating a housing bubble.

Governor Mark Carney and other officials say the days of ultra-cheap money are coming to an end, although they so far have declined to be more specific. The OECD, a high-powered economic research group backed by contributions from its 34 rich country members, offers a scenario: An increase in the benchmark rate of a quarter of a percentage point in the autumn, and similar increases each quarter through to the end of next year, leaving the benchmark overnight target at 2.25 per cent.

2,000 Americans falsely convicted then exonerated since 1989: study

More than 2,000 people who were falsely convicted of serious crimes have been exonerated in the United States in the past 23 years, according to a new archive compiled at two universities.

There is no official record-keeping system for exonerations of convicted criminals in the country, so academics set one up. The new national registry, or database, painstakingly assembled by the University of Michigan Law School and the Centre on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law, is the most complete list of exonerations ever compiled.

The database compiled and analyzed by the researchers contains information on 873 exonerations for which they have the most detailed evidence. The researchers are aware of nearly 1,200 other exonerations, for which they have less data.

They found that those 873 exonerated defendants spent a combined total of more than 10,000 years in prison, an average of more than 11 years each. Nine out of 10 of them are men and half are African-American.

Should NATO Exist? Phyllis Bennis vs. Ex-CIAer Stan Sloan on Alliance’s Purpose, Afghan War’s Future

As NATO concludes its largest-ever summit in Chicago, we host a debate on whether the trans-Atlantic military alliance should exist at all and its new agreement to hand over control to Afghan forces next year. "When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail. When you’re a military alliance, every problem looks like it requires a military solution," argues Phyllis Bennis, an author and fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. "NATO is a giant, big hammer. The problem is, Afghanistan is not a nail, Libya is not a nail. These are political problems that need to be dealt with politically. And by empowering ... a military alliance, NATO is really serving to undermine the goal of the United Nations Charter, which speaks of the importance of regional organizations, in political terms, for nonviolent resolution of disputes, not to put such a primacy and privilege on military regional institutions that really reflect the most powerful parts of the world." Speaking in support of NATO, Stan Sloan, a 30-year security analyst at the CIA and former senior specialist at the Congressional Research Service, counters: "I believe that having allies in this alliance for the United States serves our interests, serves our national interests. ... [NATO] has always been a political alliance. ... I think as long as the member states regard cooperation among them as valuable and even necessary if they have to use military force, they will continue to judge that we need the alliance."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

Jamie Dimon Complains More, As JPMorgan Chase Losses Eclipse $30 Billion

Champion American complainer Jamie Dimon complained on Monday about Wall Street regulation, while also insisting he not be described as a complainer. All the while, his bank's losses, partly resulting from lax regulation, continued to grow.

An initial $2 billion trading loss has likely resulted in a total loss of more than $30 billion, when you include a 19 percent drop in the bank's stock price. By itself, the trading loss alone might balloon to more than $6 billion, according to one estimate.

To strengthen the Cognitive Dissonance Vortex he had created, the JPMorgan Chase CEO's comments came as the ink was still drying on news reports that reminded everybody of why the Wall Street regulation he complains about constantly is necessary in the first place. Namely, the Wall Street Journal reported that a top risk-management officer at JPMorgan apparently had a spotty track record of risk-management. And CNNMoney said estimates of the bank's initial $2 billion loss due to poor risk-management have tripled to at least $6 billion.

Quebec’s largest student group vows defiance of emergency law

Quebec’s largest student group has vowed to defy the Quebec government’s new emergency law, calling for a summer of protests and acts of civil disobedience.

C.L.A.S.S.E., the more radical of the province’s three main student associations, declared Monday it would continue to encourage protests even if it meant it would lead to harsh financial penalties under the province’s Bill 78.

“The special law won’t kill the student movement,” spokesman Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois said at a news conference on Monday.

“The fundamental rights under threat today need to be defended.”

Bigger than Gomery? Quebec corruption inquiry set to get underway

MONTREAL—A public inquiry endowed with wide-ranging powers will begin hearings on Tuesday into the inner workings of Quebec’s construction industry, and experts are warning the contents may not be pretty.

The long-awaited inquiry threatens to implicate dozens of businesses, local and provincial governments, political parties, and even explore links to organized crime.

Given the size of the companies at the heart of the inquiry, its findings could also reach well beyond Quebec’s borders.

One of the central figures in the controversies that have beset the province in recent years is Tony Accurso, whose network of construction companies have dominated the public-contract market in and around Montreal.

NATO Summit: Canada won’t extend Afghanistan training mission

CHICAGO—Canada is quitting Afghanistan for good once its current training mission ends in early 2014.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper rebuffed weeks of overtures from the NATO military alliance and Washington to have Canada commit more troops to an expanded counter-terror and teaching role in the battle-scarred country. The Conservative leader instead offered a modest sum of money to help pay for Afghanistan’s security forces — a move that will both be welcomed at home and blunt the attacks of opposition parties in the House of Commons.

In the weeks leading up to this NATO summit, Harper appeared to be entertaining a renewed military commitment. He ultimately decided on a tough-love approach for Afghanistan.

U.S. - Canada Border Wait Times Will Increase: Union

The union representing Canada's border service agents is warning Quebecers could be in for delays at the border this summer.

The agency had its funding slashed in the March 2012 federal budget, with more than 1,000 jobs affected.

"You can expect that the time wait will keep increasing [as] we're going into the summer," said Jean-Pierre Fortin, national president of the Customs and Immigration Union (CIU).

The union said the budget cuts will mean fewer staff members at the border, and less security means longer waits.

Original Article
Source: huffington post
Author: cbc

Charles L. Worley, North Carolina Pastor: Put Gays And Lesbians In Electrified Pen To Kill Them Off

The barrage of anti-gay sermons delivered by North Carolina-based pastors to hit the blogosphere continues with yet another disturbing rant caught on tape.

The pastor, identified on YouTube as Charles L. Worley of Providence Road Baptist Church in Maiden, N.C., condemns President Obama's much-publicized endorsement of same-sex marriage while calling for gays and lesbians to be put in an electrified pen and ultimately killed off.

"Build a great, big, large fence -- 150 or 100 mile long -- put all the lesbians in there," Worley suggests in the clip, reportedly filmed on May 13.

Quebec’s protest crackdown: It’s not just rights that make it wrong

If you’ve listened to some of the commentary about Bill 78, emergency legislation purportedly designed to deal with the out-of-control student protests in Quebec, you’d assume the government has thrown a match onto a powder keg.

Some may have hoped that in the midst of its massive, ongoing failure to deal with the protests these past few months, the Charest government might finally turn the corner by passing a law to settle things down. This was sadly – though somehow not surprisingly – optimistic. Apparently no one knows how to sour a lemon like Jean Charest.

Legal experts and critics have pounced on the bill to declare, with all the subtlety of a window-smashing tuition-phobe, that it represents “mass repression” and constitutes “the worst law since the War Measures Act.” One student leader declared the bill “an act of war.” Such rhetoric is about as helpful as smoke bombs in a metro station.