Democracy Gone Astray

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

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

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

Monday, December 30, 2013

Scientists Find 7,300-Mile Mercury Contamination ‘Bullseye’ Around Canadian Tar Sands

Just one week after Al Jazeera discovered that regulatory responsibility for Alberta, Canada’s controversial tar sands would be handed over to a fossil-fuel funded corporation, federal scientists have found that the area’s viscous petroleum deposits are surrounded by a nearly 7,500-square-mile ring of mercury.

Canadian government scientists have found that levels of mercury — a potent neurotoxin which has been found to cause severe birth defects and brain damage — around the region’s vast tar sand operations are up to 16 times higher than regular levels for the region. The findings, presented by Environment Canada researcher Jane Kirk at an international toxicology conference, showed that the 7,500 miles contaminated are “currently impacted by airborne Hg (mercury) emissions originating from oilsands developments.”

REGINA - The Western provinces are whipping up a trade battle with Quebec over dessert toppings and other products made by oilseed producers.

Saskatchewan says it is challenging Quebec's restrictions that prevent certain margarine, coffee whiteners and dessert toppings from being sold in the Quebec market.

The challenge is to be heard Jan. 8 in Quebec City by a dispute resolution panel under the pan-Canadian Agreement on Internal Trade.

Here Are The Six Sites Where The U.S. Plans To Test Domestic Drones

Six sites around the country have been chosen as the location for testing the use of unmanned aircraft — better known as drones — and how they’ll interact with air traffic systems, the federal government announced on Monday.

According to the release from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the test sites selected will not immediately grant drones “access to the national airspace system (NAS) for commercial and civil purposes,” the test sites will provide “data and other information related to the operation of [unmanned aerial systems (UAS)] that … will help the FAA answer key research questions.” This includes coming up with solutions to allow for drones to ‘sense and avoid’ collisions, how to implement ground control station standards and human factors, and how to link drones into the interface with the air traffic control system. “This data will help the FAA to develop regulations and operational procedures for future commercial and civil use of the NAS,” it continued.

Genocide on Trial

People began lining up even before the sun rose over the mountain ridge, quietly waiting their turn at a makeshift desk outside a home of wood and earth. One by one, relatives of the dead come forward.

Brother. Uncle. Father. Nephew. Grandfather. Cousin. Son. Do you know where their bodies are? Estrella Polar. North Star. All the men were rounded up in the church, executed and dumped in a mass grave in the plantation.

10 years ago, representatives from the National Coordination of Widows of Guatemala (CONAVIGUA) visited the Communities of Population in Resistance (CPR) of the Sierra, gathering information from family members of indigenous civilians killed by military and paramilitary forces in the 1980s. It's seven hours of bus and pick-up rides from Guatemala City to the end of the road in the municipality of San Gaspar Chajul, department of El Quiché, and an even longer hike to CPR communities further up into the Cuchumatanes, leaving the shrill hum of insects behind.

Suppose They Threw an Election and Nobody Came

His name is Andrei Mihailescu, he's 22, and he stands on the lip of one of the biggest chasms Canadian society has ever known, symbolizing a profound fracture in the country's social cohesion. He fits into a population cohort that David Herle, one of Canada's best known political strategists and a corporate consultant on branding and reputation, has labelled the Spectators, so-called because its members aren't engaged -- at least in traditional ways -- with the society around them, and see little point in trying to influence the course of events unfolding in their country and the world.

Mass media, built on the assumption of shared values and aspirations in society, doesn't reach them.

Secret Memo Casts Doubt on Feds' Claims for Science Library Closures

A federal document marked "secret" obtained by Postmedia News indicates the closure or destruction of more than half a dozen world famous science libraries has little if anything to do with digitizing books as claimed by the Harper government.

In fact, the document, a compendium of cuts to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans that can be read in its entirety at the bottom of this story, mentions only the "culling of materials" as the "main activities" involved as the science libraries are reduced from nine to two. Specifically, it details "culling materials in the closed libraries or shipping them to the two locations and culling materials in the two locations to make room for collections from closed libraries."

NSA intercepts computer deliveries, says report

A German magazine lifted the lid on the operations of the National Security Agency's hacking unit Sunday, reporting that American spies intercept computer deliveries, exploit hardware vulnerabilities, and even hijack Microsoft's internal reporting system to spy on their targets.

Der Spiegel's revelations relate to a division of the NSA known as Tailored Access Operations, or TAO, which is painted as an elite team of hackers specializing in stealing data from the toughest of targets.

Pope Francis 'Shocked' By Gay Adoption Bill: Report

Pope Francis reportedly was "shocked" by a bill that would allow gay couples to adopt children in Malta.

Maltese Bishop Charles Scicluna told the Times Of Malta that he spoke with Pope Francis about the bill and the pope encouraged him to speak out against it.

The Holy See's reaction may come as a surprise to those who have viewed him as progressive on gay rights. LGBT magazine "The Advocate" even named him their person of the year, citing his comments about homosexuals. "Who am I to judge a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord?" he told reporters in Italian in July.

Despite his July comments, the pope has a long history of being against gay rights. He has come out strongly opposed to same-sex marriage and called it "a destructive attack" on God's plan.

Lawmakers in Malta introduced a bill this fall to allow civil unions and same-sex adoptions. The legislature is expected to continue debating the proposed law in the new year.

Original Article
Author: Alana Horowitz

Overthrow the Speculators

Money, as Karl Marx lamented, plays the largest part in determining the course of history. Once speculators are able to concentrate wealth into their hands they have, throughout history, emasculated government, turned the press into lap dogs and courtiers, corrupted the courts and hollowed out public institutions, including universities, to justify their looting and greed. Today’s speculators have created grotesque financial mechanisms, from usurious interest rates on loans to legalized accounting fraud, to plunge the masses into crippling forms of debt peonage. They steal staggering sums of public funds, such as the $85 billion of mortgage-backed securities and bonds, many of them toxic, that they unload each month on the Federal Reserve in return for cash. And when the public attempts to finance public-works projects they extract billions of dollars through wildly inflated interest rates.

A Mission Gone Wrong -- Why are we still fighting the drug war?

One night in May of 2012, a Honduran police inspector received a phone call from an agent of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, a man he knew as Tony. Tony told him to get his men ready. They were about to intercept a large cocaine shipment, one of many such missions that U.S. and Honduran forces collaborate on each year. At 8 P.M., four helicopters flew east from a base near the city of La Ceiba to a smaller refuelling base deep in the wet lowlands of La Moskitia, on the Honduran side of the Mosquito Coast. Along with the inspector, the helicopters carried ten D.E.A. agents, eighteen other members of the Honduran security forces, and eight Guatemalan pilots. Around 11 P.M., they lifted off again. Their target was a small plane heading for a Honduran village called Ahuas.

The U.S. military monitors what it can of the hundreds of tons of cocaine that enter the U.S. by plane, boat, automobile, submarine, tunnel, backpack, and catapult. Its maps show red lines veining South America and North America with such tangled complexity that they are known as “spaghetti slides.” Most of the air routes, however, follow a predictable path. They begin in Venezuela and head north, avoiding Colombian airspace, where authorities can shoot down suspicious aircraft. Then they turn west, toward La Moskitia.

Inside TAO: Documents Reveal Top NSA Hacking Unit

In January 2010, numerous homeowners in San Antonio, Texas, stood baffled in front of their closed garage doors. They wanted to drive to work or head off to do their grocery shopping, but their garage door openers had gone dead, leaving them stranded. No matter how many times they pressed the buttons, the doors didn't budge. The problem primarily affected residents in the western part of the city, around Military Drive and the interstate highway known as Loop 410.

In the United States, a country of cars and commuters, the mysterious garage door problem quickly became an issue for local politicians. Ultimately, the municipal government solved the riddle. Fault for the error lay with the United States' foreign intelligence service, the National Security Agency, which has offices in San Antonio. Officials at the agency were forced to admit that one of the NSA's radio antennas was broadcasting at the same frequency as the garage door openers. Embarrassed officials at the intelligence agency promised to resolve the issue as quickly as possible, and soon the doors began opening again.

NSA 'hacking unit' infiltrates computers around the world – report

A top-secret National Security Agency hacking unit infiltrates computers around the world and breaks into the toughest data targets, according to internal documents quoted in a magazine report on Sunday.

Details of how the division, known as Tailored Access Operations (TAO), steals data and inserts invisible "back door" spying devices into computer systems were published by the German magazine Der Spiegel.

Volgograd: many dead in second explosion in Russian city

At least 14 people have been killed in a suicide bombing on a trolleybus crowded with morning commuters in Volgograd, less than 24 hours after another deadly suicide attack at the city's main train station.

The authorities initially said 15 people were dead, but a statement from local authorities subsequently put the toll at 14. Dozens were reported injured, including a one-year-old child who was in a critical condition.

Pay workers more, CBI chief tells thriving firms

Companies benefiting from the economic recovery must pay their long-suffering workers more next year, the head of the CBI in an unprecedented attack on firms he accuses of keeping "far too many people stuck in minimum-wage jobs".

John Cridland, director-general of the CBI, Britain's biggest business lobby group, will criticise many of the 240,000 companies he is paid to represent for failing to pass on their new-found prosperity to employees. He will tell employers – who in the FTSE 100 are paid 136 times the national average – that they must ensure that all citizens benefit from the recovery.

Ice-free Arctic in two years heralds methane catastrophe – scientist

A new paper in the journal Nature argues that the release of a 50 Gigatonne (Gt) methane pulse from thawing Arctic permafrost could destabilise the climate system and trigger costs as high as the value of the entire world's GDP. The East Siberian Arctic Shelf's (ESAS) reservoir of methane gas hydrates could be released slowly over 50 years or "catastrophically fast" in a matter of decades – if not even one decade – the researchers said.

Not everyone agrees that the paper's scenario of a catastrophic and imminent methane release is plausible. Nasa's Gavin Schmidt has previously argued that the danger of such a methane release is low, whereas scientists like Prof Tim Lenton from Exeter University who specialises in climate tipping points, says the process would take thousands if not tens of thousands of years, let alone a decade.

Moguls Rent South Dakota Addresses to Shelter Wealth Forever

Among the nation’s billionaires, one of the most sought-after pieces of real estate right now is a quiet storefront in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

A branch of Chicago’s Pritzker family rents space here, down the hall from the Minnesota clan that controls the Radisson hotel chain, and other rooms held by Miami and Hong Kong money.

Don’t look for any heiresses in this former five-and-dime. Most days, the small offices that represent these families are shut. Even empty, they provide their owners with an important asset: a South Dakota address for their trust funds.

Lawrence O'Donnell: Edward Snowden's Christmas Message Was 'Wildly Overblown,' 'Provably Untrue'

Lawrence O'Donnell's patience for Edward Snowden appears to be growing short.

On Wednesday, the NSA whistleblower delivered the UK Channel 4's "Alternative Christmas Message," addressing the issue of U.S. national surveillance, claiming that "a child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all."

Glenn Greenwald: U.S., British Media Are 'Devoted Servants' To Government

Journalist Glenn Greenwald did not hold back Friday in criticizing the media during a speech about his work with Edward Snowden.

Greenwald, who reported on the National Security Agency's secret domestic surveillance programs with the help of documents leaked by the former NSA contractor, spoke to the Chaos Communication Congress in Hamburg, Germany, via satellite from Brazil. According to Russia Today, he denounced journalists in the United States and Britain, accusing them of failing to challenge those in political power and of discrediting anyone who dared to do so.

Hurricane Katrina Lawsuits Dismissed By Judge

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Dozens of lawsuits seeking damages from the federal government for Hurricane Katrina-related levee failures and flooding in the New Orleans area are over.

U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval Jr. has dismissed the cases. The move comes more than a year after a federal appeals court overturned his ruling that held the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers liable for flooding caused by lax maintenance of a shipping channel.

Russia Suicide Bombing: Attack On Train Station Kills At Least 15 In Volgograd

MOSCOW (AP) — A suicide bomber struck a busy railway station in southern Russia on Sunday, killing at least 15 others and wounding scores more, officials said, in a stark reminder of the threat Russia is facing as it prepares to host February's Olympics in Sochi.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing in Volgograd, but it came several months after Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov called for new attacks against civilian targets in Russia, including the Sochi Games.

‘What I Learned About Freedom From Hitchhiking Around America’

“To be ‘free’ in America is at risk of becoming meaningless,” Amien Essif, who hitchhiked from Denver to Portland, Ore., writes in The Guardian on Friday. “Our choices are increasingly limited to just two: to exploit or be exploited.”

When he’s not traveling, Essif works food service jobs in Chicago. Along with food stamps, those jobs allow him to support his “decadent hobby of freelance journalism.” He could probably get an office job, he writes, “working for the handful of people who own everything. But he’d rather not.

The US Has Bombed at Least Eight Wedding Parties Since 2001

The headline—“Bride and Boom!”—was spectacular, if you think killing people in distant lands is a blast and a half. Of course, you have to imagine that smirk line in giant black letters with a monstrous exclamation point covering most of the bottom third of the front page of the Murdoch-owned New York Post. The reference was to a caravan of vehicles on its way to or from a wedding in Yemen that was eviscerated, evidently by a US drone via one of those “surgical” strikes of which Washington is so proud. As one report put it, “Scorched vehicles and body parts were left scattered on the road.”

How the Government Misled the Supreme Court on Warrantless Wiretapping

Early in 2013, before Edward Snowden’s revelations, the Supreme Court turned aside a challenge by this magazine and other organizations to a 2008 law that permitted the National Security Agency to conduct dragnet surveillance of Americans’ international communications. The plaintiffs claimed that the law was unconstitutional, but the government argued that the plaintiffs lacked standing to pursue their challenge because they had failed to show that the law would be used to intercept their communications. In a 5-4 vote, the Court agreed with the government.

Manning Centre founder and namesake lectures Ottawa Press Gallery on ethics

Let me get this straight: the founder and namesake of the Manning Centre presumes to lecture Ottawa’s Parliamentary Press Gallery on a supposed dearth of ethics because one disreputable Conservative Senator was once a member of the exclusive journalistic club and another worked as part of the Fourth Estate?

Preston Manning, the godfather of the Canadian Organized Right who acts as its chief financial matchmaker, teaming politically ambitious young market fundamentalists with well-heeled donors, launched his broadside at the Press Gallery yesterday, purportedly for the sin of having once been the professional home to Senator Mike Duffy.

As for Senator Pamela Wallin, Manning wrote, well, she was a journalist too. Ergo, there is a likelihood "that the ethics of both are at least partially rooted in their training and experience as prominent members of the media."

Britons ready to welcome migrants from Bulgaria and Romania, poll finds

Romanians and Bulgarians coming to the UK on New Year's Day will be welcomed by more than two-thirds of Britons if they integrate and work hard, a new poll suggests ahead of restrictions on them being lifted.

In spite of a surge of anti-immigrant rhetoric from leading politicians, British people are happy to accept migrants from the east of Europe who learn English, get a job, pay taxes and become part of their local community.

NSA mass collection of phone data is legal, federal judge rules

A legal battle over the scope of US government surveillance took a turn in favour of the National Security Agency on Friday with a court opinion declaring that bulk collection of telephone data does not violate the constitution.

The judgement, in a case brought before a district court in New York by the American Civil Liberties Union, directly contradicts the result of a similar challenge in a Washington court last week which ruled the NSA's bulk collection program was likely to prove unconstitutional and was "almost Orwellian" in scale.

Will Turkey’s Erdoğan Cause His Own Downfall?

The revolution always eats its children: in France, in the Soviet Union, in China, and, now, in Turkey.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, one of the most remarkable figures in the modern Middle East, is fast discovering that the authoritarian measures he has increasingly relied on to govern Turkey, and the cult of personality he has built around himself, are conspiring to bring about his political demise. Early this week, three members of Erdoğan’s cabinet, their sons implicated in a far-reaching corruption investigation, resigned, and one of them called on Erdoğan himself to quit. Yesterday, Erdoğan, in a blatant attempt to thwart the investigation, dismissed the lead prosecutor after he announced that he was investigating Erdoğan’s son. The drama is just beginning.

Here Are All The Times Congress Screwed Americans This Year In The Name Of Austerity

WASHINGTON -- As the year winds to a close, Congress is cautiously celebrating passing a year-end budget that relieves just about a third of the sequestration cuts. But those cuts, along with a slew of other fiscal measures enacted by Congress, amounted to a year of fiscal austerity that took money out of the economy, slowed GDP growth and cut the number of jobs that could have been created.

The tightening began on the first of the year, when the "fiscal cliff" deal passed both houses of Congress and was signed by President Barack Obama. While the deal did stop some sharp tax increases that would have put a real drag on economic growth, it allowed the payroll tax holiday to expire, meaning all workers got less money in their paychecks. Predictions made around the time the deal was crafted estimated it would shave between 0.4 and 0.6 percent off of GDP growth in 2013.

It's Not Just Poor People Getting Hosed When Congress Lets Unemployment Insurance Expire

NEW YORK -- David Torian is an Ivy League-educated lawyer and a onetime chief of staff to then-Rep. Michael McNulty (D-N.Y.). He has 23 years of experience in congressional and government relations, witnessed and practiced politics at the highest level, and has been well compensated along the way.

On Dec. 28, he will also be among the 1.3 million Americans who will lose their long-term federal unemployment insurance benefits.

The NSA Strikes Back

“There’s battle lines being drawn. Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.”—Buffalo Springfield, “For What It’s Worth”

Just when you thought that momentum in the struggle to rein in the NSA was shifting in the direction of civil liberties, along comes another reminder that momentum is fleeting and the war is a long way from being won—or lost.

The momentum shift this time comes in the form of an opinion crafted by U.S. District Judge William Pauley dismissing a challenge to the NSA’s telephone metadata collection program brought in New York by the ACLU. Released midday Friday, as a perverse kind of New Year’s gift to the Justice Department, Pauley rejected virtually every argument, statutory and constitutional, raised by the ACLU to block the metadata program.

Egyptian Student Dies During Protests

CAIRO (AP) — Egyptian officials say police moved in to disperse students who were protesting inside an Islamic university in Cairo, disrupting end of term of exams. One student was killed and a campus building was set on fire in the violence.

Aya Fathy, a student spokeswoman, disputed the officials claim. She says police first opened fire at the students who were on strike and protesting outside the Faculty of Commerce Saturday, killing Khaled el-Haddad, a student.

The officials confirmed el-Haddad was killed but blamed the students for the violence. They spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

The al-Azhar students have been protesting for weeks against the ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood — a group that authorities on Wednesday designated a terrorist organization.

Original Article

National Defence's Superheroes Poll Cost Nearly $14,000

OTTAWA - Defence researchers spent almost $14,000 on a survey that asked whether superheroes can leap over skyscrapers.

The study for the research arm of National Defence also asked 150 people online whether superheroes can fly through the air; see through walls; hear whispers from miles away; become invisible; and walk through walls.

The oddball questions were part of a short study completed in October to help the Canadian Forces "win the hearts and minds" of the local populations it faces when deployed overseas, such as recently in Afghanistan.

Judge Dismisses ACLU Lawsuit Against NSA, Citing Threat Of Terrorists' 'Bold Jujitsu'

A federal judge in Manhattan dismissed an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit against the National Security Agency's call tracking program on Friday, pointing to terrorists' "bold jujitsu" in using technology against America.

In a 54-page opinion, U.S. District Judge William Pauley III found that the program was lawful and constitutional, and relied on a disputed NSA talking point to suggest that it could have been used to stop the 9/11 attacks. His opinion stands in stark contrast to that of another district judge in Washington last week. The ACLU said it intends to appeal, which could eventually set up a conflict between appeals courts that goes all the way to the Supreme Court.

Democracy in a mess in 2013 in Egypt, Ukraine and Thailand

CAIRO, Egypt — Democracy broke out in unexpected places in 2011 and 2012. It did not fare so well in 2013.

Democratically elected governments in Egypt, Ukraine and Thailand were challenged in the streets this year by losers with no respect for the ballot box and no patience for the democratic process.

A common thread in all three disputes was that well-heeled urban elites assumed as a matter, perhaps, of birthright that their ambitions had far more merit than those of their less educated, poorer and usually rural countrymen.

Conservatives trim shadow government

It turns out it wasn’t just civil servants who were squeezed by the Conservatives’ efforts to downsize the federal government. Spending on outside professional services has also dropped significantly, according to recently released public accounts data.

While the government spent a sizable $10 billion in fiscal 2013 (12 months ended Mar. 31) on a wide variety of professionals, that was nearly $700 million less than in the previous year. It was also the lowest annual total in four years for the sector, which includes engineers, lawyers, management consultants, guards, translators, lobbyists and computer specialists, among others. The sector is often referred to as a shadow government because it contains so many people who work side-by-side with full-time civil servants.

Role models and society

Hero (noun):

1. a person of distinguished courage or ability, admired for brave deeds and noble qualities.

2. a model or ideal.

3. in classical mythology: a being of godlike prowessand beneficence who often came to be honoured as a divinity.

Synonyms: lead, star

Antonym: villain

Stephen Harper's historic tax-cutting legacy

According to a significant chorus of opinion on the right, Stephen Harper’s government has abandoned conservative economic principles. Bastions of conservatism like the The National Citizens Coalition (which Harper once headed), the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and columnist Andrew Coyne, among others, have criticized the Harper government for being unfaithful to the ideology of economic conservatism. The Harperites, who were supposed to be purists, have proven to be just another big-spending, deficit-running, pork-barrelling government like so many other Liberal and Progressive Conservative administrations of yesteryear, according to this critique.

Harper government cutting more than $100 million related to protection of water

OTTAWA — More than $100 million in cuts are underway at the federal department in charge of protecting Canada’s water and oceans, despite recommendations from top bureaucrats that it needs to increase spending for both environmental and economic reasons.

According to internal federal briefing notes obtained by Postmedia News, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government is eliminating about 500 jobs at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans related to Coast Guard services, patrols to stop illegal fishing activities as well as scientific research to promote conservation, protect endangered species, and prevent industrial water pollution.

Oil Sands fever

A clear diagnosis of the Oil Sands fever variant of Dutch Disease may be just what the doctor ordered to rally Canadian workers in the fight against global warming.

A rapid increase in natural resource investment and revenue usually drives up a nation’s currency. This generally makes other industries less competitive and can greatly weaken a country’s manufacturing base.

Widely known as "Dutch Disease" (named after a period of rapid expansion of the natural gas industry in the Netherlands), this well established economic paradox has become a taboo subject in this country. Canada’s highly class-conscious elite is worried that manufacturing workers might make common cause with environmental groups and even some business sectors to challenge the carbon/profit bomb known as the tar sands.

Why I voted for an academic boycott of Israel

Michael S. Roth slams the American Studies Assn. for "unfairly singling out Israel" in its vote to boycott that nation's academic institutions; he calls the action an "irresponsible attack on academic freedom."

As a 39-year member of the American Studies Assn. (ASA) and a Jewish American, I want to explain why Roth -- whose Op-Ed was published by The Times Dec. 20 -- is wrong and why I wholeheartedly support the organization's resolution.

Thousands of Ottawa parking tickets given to wrong people

OTTAWA — When Mark Craig received an Ottawa parking ticket in the mail, he said his first thought was that it had to be fake.

Craig, who lives in Burlington, Ont., near Hamilton, said he hadn’t been to the capital in five years when he got the ticket in October. And he said his 1967 Pontiac Grande Parisienne, the vehicle supposedly ticketed, hadn’t been in Ottawa for several years either, since the previous owner sold it.

“I Googled the address and the letterhead and everything looked legit,” said Craig, a 52-year-old steelworker. “It just seemed really weird.”

China cancels plans for Mao's 120th but in one village, his spirit lives on

The day begins at 6.15am, as The East Is Red blasts through the speakers and echoes down the wide, empty streets, past the blazingly white statue of Chairman Mao, his right hand aloft in perpetual salute.

It ends at dusk with the closing refrain of another revolutionary classic: "The socialist society will surely succeed! A communist society will surely be achieved!"

Pussy Riot Member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova Slams Putin, Calls For Olympics Boycott

MOSCOW, Dec 27 (Reuters) - One of two freed members of punk protest band Pussy Riot, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, said on Friday their release was aimed solely at improving Russia's image before it hosts the Winter Olympic Games and was not a humanitarian gesture.

Tolokonnikova, 24, and Maria Alyokhina, 25, walked free under a Kremlin amnesty on Monday after serving more than 21 months of a two-year prison term for performing a profanity-laced "punk prayer" protest against President Vladimir Putin in Moscow's main Russian Orthodox cathedral.

Rap Genius Banished From Google Search Results Over SEO Practices

Google appears to have cracked down hard on a rap lyrics website that was allegedly trying to game its search algorithm. disappeared from top Google search results on Wednesday, TechCrunch first reported. As of Thursday afternoon, a Google search for "rap genius" didn't bring up a link to until the sixth page of results.4

Founded in 2009 by three Yale graduates, Rap Genius bills itself as a "hip hop Wikipedia," a compendium of song lyrics annotated with notes on their meanings. The site made headlines last year when it landed $15 million in funding.

The De Blasio-Bloomberg Paradox

NEW YORK—The standard line on New York City’s Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, who takes office next Wednesday, is that he’s the antithesis of outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg. That’s not quite true, and New York’s voters probably hope it isn’t. In electing de Blasio, they were looking for a course correction from the Bloomberg years, not a repudiation.

Change they’ll certainly get. Bloomberg is a billionaire who lives in Manhattan’s upscale precincts. De Blasio is a progressive populist who hails from middle-class Brooklyn. He campaigned on his “tale of two cities” divided between the very rich and everyone else.

The Outrage Continues: An Alabama Man Who Raped a Teen Still Won't Do Prison Time Under His New Sentence

The Alabama man who was allowed to walk free after being convicted of rape has had his probation extended by two years, but he still won't have to serve prison time under a new, supposedly stiffer sentence handed down this week.

In September, a jury in Limestone County, Alabama found 25-year-old Austin Smith Clem guilty of raping his teenager neighbor, Courtney Andrews, three times—twice when she was 14, and once when was she was 18. County Judge James Woodroof theoretically sentenced Clem to 40 years in prison. But Woodroof structured the sentence so that Clem would only serve three years probation, plus two years in the Limestone County corrections program for nonviolent criminals, which would allow Clem to work and live in the community. Only if Clem violated his probation would he be required to serve the prison time.

Glenn Greenwald: The NSA Can "Literally Watch Every Keystroke You Make"

The German publication Der Spiegel has revealed new details about a secretive hacking unit inside the National Security Agency called the Office of Tailored Access Operations, or TAO. The unit was created in 1997 to hack into global communications traffic. Hackers inside the TAO have developed a way to break into computers running Microsoft Windows by gaining passive access to machines when users report program crashes to Microsoft. In addition, with help from the CIA and FBI, the NSA has the ability to intercept computers and other electronic accessories purchased online in order to secretly insert spyware and components that can provide backdoor access for the intelligence agencies. American Civil Liberties Union Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer and journalist Glenn Greenwald join us to discuss the latest revelations, along with the future of Edward Snowden, who has recently offered to assist U.S. targets Germany and Brazil with their respective probes into NSA spying.

Author: --

First Nations Education: The Real Key To Ending The Cycle Of Despair

Fed up with aboriginal people dependent on taxpayer funding, tired of suicide and poverty and drug addiction on reserves — these are the attitudes I expected from Canadians jaded by depressing headlines.

Instead, they are the sentiments I heard repeatedly from the First Nations people stuck living that grim reality. This year, I spent time with band members at high-level meetings, on the land and in homes in remote reserves while working on the HuffPost Canada series Staking Claim.

Edward Snowden's Christmas Message: 'Asking Is Always Cheaper Than Spying'

One day after word broke that Edward Snowden was planning a Christmas message, the NSA whistleblower delivered his reminder for the government.

In a video for Great Britain's Channel 4, Snowden said that today's conversation "will determine the amount of trust" between emerging technology around us, and government policies regulating that technology.

Egypt's Government Declares Muslim Brotherhood A Terrorist Group

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's military-backed interim government declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization Wednesday, intensifying its campaign of arrests and prosecutions targeting its members and tightening the noose on the group's network of charities and businesses.

The unprecedented executive decision likely ends any chance of reconciliation between the government and the 85-year-old Brotherhood, still Egypt's most organized political group. It marks a stunning reversal of fortunes for the long-outlawed organization that saw member Mohammed Morsi reach Egypt's highest office in the country's first democratic election, only to be ousted in a popularly backed military coup in July. And it takes a step that not even autocrat Hosni Mubarak took in his nearly 30-year rule.

Ads for non-existent Canada Job Grant program generate warm reception in focus groups

As the federal government struggles to get provinces on board with the new Canada Job Grant, focus groups felt that a federal government ad campaign was effective in promoting the still-nonexistent program.

A recently released report from Environics Research found that, by and large, the television ad campaign for the Canada Jobs Grant was well received by focus group participants across the country.

“Based on the ad, participants felt this was aimed at helping Canadians either ‘get a job,’ ‘get a better job’ or ‘find a job they really like,’ ” the report reads.

Duck Dynasty and the Fake Outrage Machine

Call me a slackjaw, but I was just shocked to discover that Phil Robertson—the 67-year-old, shotgun-toting, Bible-quoting, self-described redneck star of A&E’s reality-TV show Duck Dynasty—does not particularly like us gay people. “It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus,” he told GQ magazine, while also evoking the slippery slope of adultery, prostitution and bestiality. Well, chew on that. Until now, I thought Robertson was kinda like a Santa Daddy, and that when he wasn’t busy shooting birds out of the sky, adorable gender-neutral chipmunks nestled in his nicotine-stained beard, enjoying a lifelong contact high.

Cameron warns UK press: sign up to royal charter or else

David Cameron has warned the press that it runs the risk of facing "hideous statutory regulation" in the future if the Independent Press Standards Organisation declines to seek recognition under the terms of the new royal charter.

In an interview with the Spectator's editor, Fraser Nelson,, a strong campaigner against the royal charter, Cameron said a "less liberal, less enlightened government" of the future could impose statutory controls unless the press acted now.