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, April 09, 2013

Foreclosure Review Finds Potentially Widespread Errors

BOSTON -- Nearly a third of all foreclosed borrowers who faced proceedings brought by the biggest U.S. mortgage companies during the height of the housing crisis came to the brink of losing their homes due to potential bank errors or under now-banned practices, regulators have revealed.

Close to 1.2 million borrowers, or about 30 percent of the more than 3.9 million households whose properties were foreclosed on by 11 leading financial institutions in 2009 and 2010, had to battle potentially wrongful efforts to seize their homes despite not having defaulted on their loans, being protected under a host of federal laws, or having been in good standing under bank-approved plans to either restructure their mortgages or temporarily delay required payments.

Arkansas Unemployment Drug Testing Bill Passes State Senate

LITTLE ROCK, Ark, April 8 (Reuters) - The Republican-led Arkansas state Senate approved a measure on Monday that would require random drug testing of Arkansas residents who receive state unemployment benefits - a plan that the state's Democratic governor said could violate federal law.

The bill, which passed on a 25-5 vote and now goes to a House committee, could affect about 85,000 Arkansas residents currently receiving unemployment benefits.

Why We Need To Stop Exaggerating The Threat To Cops

The recent killings of two prosecutors in Texas, a Colorado Department of Corrections official and a sheriff in West Virginia have law enforcement groups and the media once again buzzing about an alleged "war on cops" or, in some instances, a broader trend toward violent anti-government sentiment. Over at The Atlantic, Philip Bump does a good job debunking that idea. (He also quotes me.)

School 'Discipline Gap' Explodes As 1 In 4 Black Students Suspended, Report Finds

For years, education advocates have highlighted the dire importance of closing the achievement gap of academic performance between students of different ethnic and socioeconomic groups. Now, another group of advocates is drawing attention to the discipline gap of unequal punishments to different groups of students.

The Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the University of California, Los Angeles Civil Rights Project, released two reports on Monday that show the increasing gap between suspension rates of black and white students. One million -- or one in nine -- middle school and high school students were suspended in 2009-2010, including 24 percent of black students and 7.1 percent of white students.

Kansas Sustainable Development Ban Proposed By State Legislator

A Kansas legislator who last year led an effort to condemn the United Nations' sustainability agenda now wants to ban sustainability.

State Rep. Dennis Hedke (R-Wichita) has introduced legislation that would ban Kansas state and local governments from spending public funds on sustainable development, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday. The move comes as conservative state lawmakers around the country -- led by the John Birch Society -- have introduced similar legislation to ban the implementation of the U.N. sustainability plan, known as Agenda 21. Hedke, who has ties to the oil and gas industry, did not directly mention Agenda 21 in his bill, but last year the lawmaker spearheaded a charge for legislators to speak out against the sustainable development initiative.

The Overlooked Solution to the Student Debt Crisis

Just 23, Katie will start paying off her $40,000 student loan in September - with no job prospects on the horizon. "If I could turn back time I would consider not going to college," she says. "I could have focused elsewhere, started a job right away, and not be $40,000 in debt with interest growing every month."

Each year, almost 2 million students graduate from college. Many leave with few job opportunities and an average of $26,600 in debt. Given this, it's not surprising that there is now more student debt in America than credit card debt.

Sequestration Forces Cancer Clinic Patients To Travel Thousands Of Miles For Treatment

WASHINGTON -- Some cancer patients enrolled in clinical trials in rural areas will have to travel thousands of miles to continue their treatments as a byproduct of spending cuts brought on by the sequester.

Last week, The Washington Post reported that cancer clinics were starting to turn away Medicare patients because the cost of administering chemotherapy drugs had risen significantly under sequestration. Those patients were left seeking treatments at local hospitals that still had the capacity to provide care.

AIDS Pill: South Africa Anounces $10 Anti-Retroviral Drug

A new ultra-cheap pill introduced in South Africa could be a game-changer for HIV patients.

The treatment, a three-in-one anti-retroviral called an ARV, may be the cheapest treatment yet, costing about $10 per patient in a single dose, Salon reports.

“Before 2010, we were buying the most expensive ARVs in the world. Now we are a country where the ARVs are the cheapest in the world,” jubilant South African health minister Aaron Motsoaledi told Agence France-Presse on Monday.

Bill 85, Saskatchewan Employment Act, Erodes Union Power, Sets New Tone For Labour Relations In Canada

Canada's nascent public debate over union privileges and "right-to-work" laws has found an unlikely testing ground in Saskatchewan, which is about to pass sweeping legislation that could influence the dynamic of labour relations across the country.

The Saskatchewan Employment Act, also known as Bill 85, appears to contain only the least contentious changes to labour relations examined in a controversial government consultation paper that contemplated abolishing one of the labour movement’s most powerful tools – mandatory payment of union dues.

Alberta’s carbon tax would more than triple under government’s proposal

EDMONTON - The Alberta government is awaiting industry feedback on a controversial proposal to increase the provincial carbon tax to $40 from $15, Energy Minister Ken Hughes said Monday.

The idea has reignited debate about Alberta’s carbon levy, with critics calling the proposed increase a “shocking, disruptive and unilateral” move while supporters say it could mark a “substantial strengthening” of environmental protection efforts.

EI requirements now vary by region

People in low-unemployment areas must work longer

OTTAWA — Employment insurance rules that match payments to regional unemployment levels came into effect Monday.

The system was introduced in some parts of the country as the “Best 14 Weeks” pilot project in 2005, and it was renewed in 2008. It will now be the standard everywhere.

Legere’s appointment as member of EI tribunal draws fire

OTTAWA — The Tory cabinet minister who oversaw the Westray mining disaster has been named as one of 33 people who will judge employment insurance appeals.

Leroy Legere was provincial minister of labour for the Progressive Conservatives in the early 1990s. He held the position in the aftermath of the 1992 methane explosion in the Westray mine in Pictou County that killed 26 workers.

Maggie! Maggie! Maggie! Eulogy for a welfare state arsonist

Margaret Thatcher, arch-Conservative British Prime Minister during the 1980s, died Monday. I'd like to pause and remember the "Iron Lady," who crushed British coal miners, attacked the unions, mortally wounded the social wage, bolstered apartheid, invaded the Falkland Islands, inaugurated a Brave New World of corporate globalization, created the poll tax and declared a class war that has spanned most of my life.

In a sense, Maggie helped to make me who I am. I am one of generations of activists who were forged in the fires of the burning welfare state. What we fight to defend now is but a shadow of what once was.

Scoop: How the Fraserites slip their propaganda reaction-free into the media

Have you wondered how the master manipulators at the Fraser Institute, those tireless missionaries of the market fundamentalist religion, always manage to get their stories into the media without any reaction from the vast number of critics of their shoddy, biased and ideologically motivated work?

One would think, after all, that journalists at Canada's few remaining serious news organizations at least would want to phone up the most obvious opponents of the Vancouver-based lobby group's questionable conclusions on any given topic and ask them what they think of them.

The Harper government's tough posture and weak rules on tax havens

There is something almost quaint about the little ritual we go through every year at tax time.

Ordinary citizens diligently spend hours calculating their income and deductions and meticulously filling out forms, fearful of the probing eye and relentless reach of the tax man. At the same time, some of our richest citizens quietly park billions of dollars on faraway islands where the sun delightfully reaches but the tax man delightfully doesn't.

The NDP and its radical roots

In preparation for its upcoming Montreal convention (April 12-14), the New Democratic Party released a proposed new preamble to the party constitution. The draft from a committee of distinguished party members predictably got the attention of the Toronto Globe and Mail editorial board. It is about time the NDP rid itself of its "poisoned historical roots," exclaimed the Globe.

The NDP was formed in Calgary as the CCF (Co-operative Commonwealth Federation) in 1932, year three of the Great Depression, which would only end in 1939, with the onset of World War II. In 1933 the party adopted its program, known as the Regina Manifesto.

Comment on changes to Enbridge’s Toronto pipeline now requires NEB permission

Toronto area residents — or any others — who want to comment on plans by Enbridge to revamp its oil pipeline through Greater Toronto must ask permission to write a letter to Canada’s pipeline regulator.

Permission won’t necessarily be granted.

And the 10-page application for would-be letter writers has some cryptic hurdles to jump, such as this one on Page 4:

Al Qaeda merger in Iraq, Syria shows militant group’s rising confidence

BEIRUT—Al Qaeda’s branch in Iraq said it has merged with Syria’s extremist Jabhat al-Nusra, a move that shows the rising confidence of radicals within the Syrian rebel movement and is likely to trigger renewed fears among its international backers.

A website linked to Jabhat al-Nusra confirmed on Tuesday the merger with the Islamic State of Iraq, whose leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, first made the announcement in a 21-minute audio message posted on militant websites late Monday.

Aboriginal police on 26 reserves disbanded

Aboriginal police forces on 26 Quebec reserves were disbanded at midnight Sunday as federal and provincial negotiators failed to renew a funding agreement that expired Monday.

Agents from the Sûreté du Québec were dispatched to the First Nations communities late Sunday to replace the aboriginal cops until a new deal is reached, according to SQ spokesperson Sgt. Ronald McInnis. About 250 police officers were covered by the agreement, which costs about $60 million a year.

Margaret Thatcher Dead: Parties To Celebrate Former PM's Passing

Hundreds of people gathered in city centres to hold street parties "celebrating" the death of Baroness Thatcher on Monday night.

In Glasgow revellers popped champagne while chanting "so long the witch is dead" while in Brixton one critic reorganised the letters on Ritzy Cinema's hoarding to say "Margaret Thatcher's dead lol."

Chris Grayling: criminals should be made to pay their legal costs

Convicted criminals should be made to pay for their own legal defence costs, the justice secretary, Chris Grayling, will announce on Tuesday.

Under plans to make further savings to the Ministry of Justice's massive legal aid bill, those found guilty may have the court's expenses deducted from their future earnings.

Sequester Effects: Top Public Defender Forced To Fire Himself

WASHINGTON -- As he looked over his office's budget sheets alongside his administrative assistant, Steve Nolder, the director of the public defender's office in southern Ohio, was confronted with no good options.

It was early March. Sequestration had already been triggered, forcing his office to find an 11 percent reduction in expenditures. They had cut travel, gotten rid of cell phones, and stopped paying for expert witnesses, workforce education and training. They would keep using old computers despite promises of new ones. A receptionist had quit and wouldn't be replaced. A lawyer was set to retire that June without replacement. The entire staff was going to be furloughed for 17 days. Even after all that, they were in the hole.

Japan Deploys Missile Interceptors Amid North Korea Launch Fears

TOKYO -- Japan has deployed missile interceptors in key locations around Tokyo as a precaution against possible North Korean ballistic missile tests.

The Patriot missiles, called PAC-3s, were deployed Tuesday at Japan's defense ministry headquarters and were also to be deployed at bases farther away from central Tokyo.

Japan has taken similar measures before previous North Korean launches. It has never actually tried to shoot down a North Korean missile and was not expected to try to do so unless there was a clear threat to Japanese territory.

North Korea is believed to have moved ballistic missiles to its east coast, possibly in preparation for a test launch. That has further raised tensions on the Korean Peninsula amid threats by North Korea and large-scale war games involving U.S. and South Korean troops.

Original Article
Author: AP

North Korea: Foreigners In South Korea Urged To Evacuate

SEOUL, South Korea - North Korea is urging all foreign companies and tourists in South Korea to evacuate because it says the rival Koreas are on the eve of a nuclear war.

Analysts see a direct attack on Seoul as extremely unlikely. The warning Tuesday from the North's Korean Asia-Pacific Peace Committee is similar to past threats that analysts call an attempt to raise anxiety in foreign capitals.

Observers say a torrent of North Korean prophesies of doom is partly meant to win Pyongyang-friendly policy changes in Seoul and Washington and to boost the image of leader Kim Jong Un.

Last week, North Korea told foreign diplomats based in Pyongyang that it will not be able to guarantee their safety as of Wednesday.

Original Article
Author: AP

Why Canada's Digital Divide Persists

The state of Internet access in Canada has been the subject of considerable debate in recent years as consumers and businesses alike assess whether Canadians have universal access to fast, affordable broadband that compares favourably with other countries. A new House of Commons study currently being conducted by the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology offers the chance to gain a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of Canadian high-speed networks and what role the government might play in addressing any shortcomings.

The study is ongoing, yet two issues are emerging as key concerns: access and adoption. The access issue is no surprise as there are still hundreds of thousands of Canadians without access to broadband services from local providers. While this is often painted as an urban vs. rural issue (with universal access in urban areas vs. sparse access or reliance on pricey satellite services in rural communities), the reality is that there are still pockets within major cities in Canada without access to either cable or DSL broadband service.

Foster Kids' Long Wait for Mental Health Care

I first saw "5hadow" (spelled with a 5 instead of an S) from across Granville Street on a bright day in January. His long, strong body bopped around and his unbrushed sandy hair waved, as he rapped into a microphone connected to a speaker in a shopping cart.

Standing near a chain pub, with the air smelling of coffee, he reminds me of my own teenage years two decades ago, when street kids owned Granville. They're a permanent feature, it seems, despite city's the $21 million "revitalization" of the street, completed in 2010.

Canadians not eligible for EI after parental leave

Many Canadians may be surprised to learn that after going on parental leave they might fail to qualify for employment insurance — a policy some are calling discriminatory.

Currently, people who apply for EI in Canada are evaluated based on a certain number of hours worked during the past 52 weeks of employment.

Ontario should force colleges, universities to specialize, says expert panel

Despite the Ontario government’s call for more specialization by colleges and universities — less overlap, more differences between them — schools have failed to come up with enough ways to differentiate themselves and government must start to do it for them, a blue-chip panel has concluded.

The report by a 10-member expert panel calls on Queen’s Park to take an “urgent … active” top-down approach to colleges and universities by deciding which special areas it believes are important — maybe certain ways of teaching, fields of research, types of credentials offered — and making institutions compete for those limited dollars.

Federal government ordered to pay nearly $30 million to losing bidder in relocation deal

OTTAWA — The federal government has been ordered to pay nearly $30 million in lost profits to the losing bidder of a controversial mega-million-dollar relocation deal that an Ontario Superior Court judge found was “intentionally” steered by bureaucrats to a preferred supplier.

In his ruling, Justice Peter Annis concluded Envoy Relocation Services should have won the five-year deal in 2004 that was awarded to Royal LePage Relocation Services (RLRS) to help move the 18,000 military, RCMP and bureaucrats who are uprooted each year to take new postings in Canada and abroad.

More federal front-line positions to be cut than once anticipated, report says

OTTAWA — Nearly 29,000 jobs will be wiped off the federal payroll by 2016 and the impact on services for Canadians will be much more dramatic than originally estimated, according to a report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

The analysis of job cuts reflect the cumulative impact of the Conservative’s clampdown on spending since 2010, which are still making their way through the system, and a larger proportion than expected are front-line jobs.

RBC defends plan to replace 45 Canadians, outsource their jobs

The Royal Bank of Canada is defending its plan to replace 45 Canadian employees and outsource their jobs to foreign workers after drawing outrage from people who see the move as taking jobs from qualified Canadians.

Reports over the weekend said the bank was replacing Canadian workers in Toronto with temporary foreign workers on visas.

On Sunday, RBC confirmed it is laying off 45 employees who do IT-related work and outsourcing their jobs to a smaller number of employees who work for a firm called iGATE.

Harper government making the trains run blue

The colour of Ontario’s commuter trains was electronically transformed from green to Conservative Party blue in a photograph used to promote the federal budget.

An image that appears both on the Department of Finance website and on the front of a printed pamphlet promoting last mont’s budget shows a sleek locomotive next to a double-decker of the kind seen around Southern Ontario.

Bursting the Thatcher Bubble

The canonization of Margaret Thatcher began with nanoseconds of news reports that the former British prime minister and conservative icon had died at the age of 87. On MSNBC, my pal Chuck Todd remarked, "We lionize her over here." There was insta-commentary about how she saved Britain from economic despair and the rest of the world from the Soviets (with some help from a guy named Ronald Reagan). Excess ruled. Two small examples: Elizabeth Colbert Busch, the Democrat running for Congress in South Carolina (and sister of Stephen Colbert) issued this statement: "When I talk to younger women about their careers, I point to Margaret Thatcher as a role model; she's a tough consensus builder who cared about everybody and put her country's fiscal house in order." Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas) proclaimed,

We Are All Thatcherites Now

Margaret Thatcher’s dead at last, and the pictures that crowd in speak of war and confrontation: riot police on horseback bringing their batons down on the heads of striking miners; cars in flames in Trafalgar Square during the poll tax riots; riots in Brixton and Toxteth against racist policing; US cruise missiles nestled behind the fence at Greenham Common; the infamous Sun headline—GOTCHA—from the Falklands war, when the Argentine cruiser Belgrano was torpedoed in retreat; the ten IRA hunger strikers for political status dead in the Maze prison; the IRA bomb that almost killed Thatcher herself in Brighton. Hard on their heels come images of polished domestic smoothness: the handkerchief disapprovingly dropped on the tail of a model plane that bore no Union flag; the helmet of bright hair; the handbag, sign of female thrift and household management, of the grocer’s shop at Grantham gone terrifyingly global.

Why Conservatives Think the Ends Justify the Means

Let's continue my series on the continuities on the American right: the stockpiling of guns for the coming apocalypse; the panic over textbooks and the passion for reckless spending cuts; the horror at the government sponsoring pre-school education—and, for today, the comfort the right harbors for minoritarianism: the conviction that conservatives are fit to rule even if they don't actually win elections. We've been reading about that and again these days in the way the Republican Party does business: the "Hastert rule" which doesn't let a measure get to the House floor if it can't win a majority of Republicans even if the majority of all House members want it; the Republican embrace of gerrymandering that guarantees Republican congressional majorities in states Obama won decidedly like Pennylvania; the Republican comfort with the disenfranchisement of Democratic constituencies that the Nation's Ari Berman has been covering so effectively these days. This comes from somewhere—from the nature of conservatism itself. It is an old, old story.

The End of Stanford?

Is Stanford still a university? The Wall Street Journal recently reported that more than a dozen students—both undergraduate and graduate—have left school to work on a new technology start-up called Clinkle. Faculty members have invested, the former dean of Stanford’s business school is on the board, and one computer-science professor who taught several of the employees now owns shares. The founder of Clinkle was an undergraduate advisee of the president of the university, John Hennessey, who has also been advising the company. Clinkle deals with mobile payments, and, if all goes well, there will be many payments to many people on campus. Maybe, as it did with Google, Stanford will get stock grants. There are conflicts of interest here; and questions of power dynamics. The leadership of a university has encouraged an endeavor in which students drop out in order to do something that will enrich the faculty.

Rick Santorum: It Would Be 'Suicidal' For GOP To Embrace Gay Marriage

Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) continued to bolster his social conservative platform on Monday, telling the Des Moines Register that the GOP must maintain its opposition to marriage equality to avert political suicide. He also predicted that the Supreme Court would reject gay-marriage rights in upcoming rulings.

“I’m sure you could go back and read stories, oh, you know, ‘The Republican party’s going to change. This is the future.’ Obviously that didn’t happen,” Santorum said. “I think you’re going to see the same stories written now and it’s not going to happen. The Republican Party’s not going to change on this issue. In my opinion it would be suicidal if it did.”

Don't believe the hype! RBC layoffs not about foreigners vs. Canadians

Once again the temporary foreign worker program has erupted in controversy where it is being used to pit workers against each other.

News reports point out that the Royal Bank of Canada has decided to move its information technology department abroad. To do so, it has brought in temporary workers from India that will learn the ropes from their Canadian counterparts. Following this training, the Canadian workers will be laid off, and the Indian workers will transition the IT department to India and return there.

Major conservative fundraising company lays off workers as it faces “extremely challenging” cash crunch

OTTAWA — The company behind the Conservative Party’s powerful fundraising and voter-identification machine has been laying off staff and borrowing millions of dollars at high interest rates as it faces an “extremely challenging” cash crunch.

The Toronto-based iMarketing Solutions Group Inc. (iMSGI) last week issued layoff notices to an unspecified number of telephone workers in its call centres across the country.
The company posted a net loss of $3.9 million in the quarter ended last September, citing a downturn in its U.S. business and a “significant decrease” in its Canadian political fundraising and direct voter-contact work.

Under the name Responsive Marketing Group (RMG), the company performed the Conservatives’ voter-contact operations during the last election and was also hired to make calls for the campaigns of 90 Conservative candidates. RMG continues to work as the party’s telemarketing fundraiser.

The Tories have excelled at fundraising through the dexterous use of databases of known and likely supporters willing to make small donations when contacted by phone by RMG.

RMG has provided similar services to the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, the Wildrose Party in Alberta, the Saskatchewan Party and the B.C. Liberal Party.

But iMSGI is now cutting back on cold-calling to raise money for its roster of mostly conservative political clients, instead focussing on higher-yield calls to likely donors, according to a letter obtained by the Ottawa Citizen.

The letter from iMSGI’s human resources director Stephanie Hornby to laid off staff members said that “circumstances relating to economic pressures has resulted in iMarketing Solutions Group Inc. (iMSGI) to (sic) make the decision to temporarily cease new donor acquisition calling and focus resources on retention calling and high value house-calling.”

Calls soliciting new donors are less profitable for call centres than “retention” calls to people who have given money in the past.

“The nature of our business often necessitates ramping work up and down based on business requirements,” Chief Executive Officer Andrew Langhorne said in an email on Friday.

“While some of our employees have received a short term layoff notice, we are also currently hiring employees in some centres for new projects.”

Langhorne said the company would continue to “streamline” its operations to better serve its customers.

He did not respond to a follow-up email about how many were laid off, or where.

What the company’s struggles mean for the Conservative Party is unclear. Party spokesman Fred DeLorey said only that the party continues to be an RMG customer.

iMSGI is a product of the 2010 merger of RMG and Calgary’s Xentel Inc., a telemarketing firm with offices across the United States that specialized in charity fundraising.

Until last year, iMSGI was traded publicly on the TSX Venture Exchange, but announced in November it would be voluntarily delisted. Shares in the company now trade between 1 and 2 cents on the alternative Canadian National Stock Exchange, but there has not been a transaction since January.

In a monthly progress report filed with the CNSX in March, iMSGI said it expected to become profitable by the end of the year, but it admitted its “ability to deal with its short term cash requirements continues to be extremely challenging.”

Before it delisted from the TSX-V, iMSGI announced a $3.5 million loan from Shotgun Fund Limited Partnership III, which specializes in “helping private ventures that are experiencing shareholder conflict.”

The Shotgun partnership was already a 27 per cent shareholder in iMSGI at the time of the transaction. iMSGI will pay 20 per cent annual interest on the loan.

The loan is convertible to company shares and would give the Shotgun partnership an 82 per cent stake if fully converted.

Argosy Partners’s Jim Ambrose, who runs the Shotgun Fund, declined to comment on anything do with iMSGI.

RMG was dragged into the controversy over allegedly misleading phone calls in the 2011 federal election when a former call-centre worker from Thunder Bay, Annette Desgagne, said she was concerned she was passing on incorrect information about polling location to voters she called.

Her testimony was entered into evidence when the Council of Canadians launched a Federal Court challenge of election results in six ridings, based on misleading phone calls.

The company denied Desgagne’s allegations, saying it made get-out-the-vote calls only to identified Conservative supporters and would have made no sense to pass on incorrect information. Langhorne swore an affidavit rebutting Desgagne’s claims in detail and underwent lengthy cross-examination by the Council of Canadians lawyer.

Original Article

Business Outlook Survey: Canada To See Soft Hiring, Weak Investment, BoC Says

OTTAWA - Canadian firms have become more pessimistic about the economy and plan to ratchet down investment spending while keeping hiring modest, the newest business outlook survey by the Bank of Canada suggests.

The spring sampling of 100 firms, considered representative of the Canadian economy, continues a recent trend with muted to sour prospects for sales, hiring and investments.

BlackBerry: Telefonica Gets $265 Million Loan From Canada To Buy BB10 Smartphones

The government agency responsible for helping Canadian exporters find new markets has loaned $265 million to a giant Spanish telecom to buy BlackBerrys.

Export Development Canada (EDC), which provides taxpayer-backed loans to companies around the world to make it easier for those companies to buy Canadian products, announced the 200-million-euro “working capital facility,” or short-term loan, to Spain’s Telefonica in a statement issued last week.

CIDA Email Directs English Communications Only From Julian Fantino

OTTAWA - Another document dictating the language of communication from the office of International Co-operation Minister Julian Fantino has surfaced a day after he denied the existence of any such directives ordering messages be in English only.

On Monday, The Canadian Press obtained an email dated July 11, 2012, that was a written by a manager to some employees at the Canadian International Development Agency.

RBC Foreign Workers Controversy: Bank, Tories Take Heat Over Outsourcing Plans

News that RBC is planning to replace some of its employees in Toronto with outsourced foreign workers has prompted numerous “boycott RBC” campaigns even as some critics lay the blame for the situation with the Harper government’s labour and immigration policies.

CBC reported over the weekend that RBC is planning to replace 45 employees at RBC Investor Services with employees of Indian outsourcing firm iGate. The current RBC employees are to train the new workers before they are given the pink slip.

Federal government plans to slash millions, hundreds of staff from Canada Revenue Agency compliance programs

OTTAWA — As the federal government promises to strengthen its efforts to combat tax evasion, it’s planning to cut tens of millions of dollars and hundreds of staff from its compliance programs.

The Canada Revenue Agency’s projected spending and staffing levels, as outlined in newly released documents, seem to challenge the Conservative government’s pledge that ongoing CRA cuts are only to internal operations and will not erode its ability to crack down on tax cheats.

Nearly 25% of Canadian nurses wouldn't recommend their hospital

Nearly a quarter of nurses wouldn't recommend the hospital where they work to their family or friends, a survey by CBC News has found.

The startling figure comes from an online survey that CBC's flagship investigative show, the fifth estate, distributed to registered nurses across the country as part of Rate My Hospital, a sweeping series about health care that continues all week.

RBC chief denies use of foreign worker replacements

The head of the Royal Bank of Canada has denied that it is replacing Canadian workers with temporary foreign workers, saying that the bank is providing jobs for anyone impacted by the move, which only involves one temporary foreign worker.

"Absolutely not," said Gord Nixon, the bank's CEO, in an interview with CBC's Amanda Lang on The Lang & O'Leary Exchange. "Firstly, RBC has not and does not hire any temporary foreign workers."

Ottawa admits it approved request for foreign workers to replace RBC employees

How an overseas outsourcing firm managed to get Ottawa’s nod to bring in foreign workers to replace 45 Canadian employees at the Royal Bank has become the centre of an official probe.

On Monday, the federal government confirmed iGate, based in Fremont, Calif., was granted a positive labour market opinion (LMO), which is supposed to be issued only when an assessment determines the hiring will not take jobs away from available and qualified Canadians.

The Cyprus crisis is a symptom of what is rotten in the EU

Recall the classic cartoon scene of a character who simply continues over the edge of the precipice, ignoring the fact that there is no longer ground under their feet – they fall down only when they look and notice they're hanging over an abyss.

Is this not how ordinary people in Cyprus must feel these days? They are aware that their country will never be the same again, that there is a catastrophic fall in the standard of living ahead, but the full impact of this is not yet properly felt, so for a short period they can afford to go on with their normal lives like the cartoon character suspended in mid-air. And we should not condemn them: such a delayed response is also a survival strategy – the real impact will come silently, when the panic is over. This is why it is now, when the Cyprus crisis has begun to disappear from the media that one should think and write about it.

RIP, The Cameron Project

I can remember when I first heard Tony Blair speak on the floor of the House of Commons as shadow home secretary. Even then, I detected something phony about Tony, something that didn't quite ring true. It must have been just me because he won and won big. In addition, he had broken the mould.

The Blair Project demonstrated that a leadership could just lead and ignore the base: those people who trudge around with leaflets from doorstep to doorstep in all weathers, who still BELIEVE. The leadership didn't need them, it could create a new base, a new group of voters at election time by cobbling together myriad people from hither and yon, lure them in with a bit of spin, a bit of jargon.

WikiLeaks: Vatican Dismissed Pinochet Massacre Reports As 'Communist Propaganda'

Gen. Augusto Pinochet's military dictatorship was responsible for the deaths of as many as 3,200 people in Chile in the 1970s, but the Vatican dismissed reports of bloodshed at the time as "communist propaganda," according to diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks on Monday.

Pinochet came to power in 1973 as the head of a military coup against democratically elected socialist President Salvador Allende. The right-wing junta that subsequently ruled the country from 1973 to 1990 was responsible for the murders of as many as 3,200 people, as well as the arrest of tens of thousands more, many of whom were tortured.

2012 Voting Lines Study Shows Minorities Faced Longer Average Wait Times To Cast Ballots

A new report by Charles Stewart III, a professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, shows that non-white voters faced longer average wait times at the polls than white voters did in November.

From the report:

    Viewed nationally, African Americans waited an average of 23 minutes to vote, compared to 12 minutes for whites; Hispanics waited 19 minutes. While there are other individual-level demographic difference present in the responses, none stands out as much as race. For instance, the average wait time among those with household incomes less than $30,000 was 12 minutes, compared to 14 minutes for those in households with incomes greater than $100,000. Strong Democrats waited an average of 16 minutes, compared to an average of 11 minutes for strong Republicans. Respondents who reported they had an interest in news and public affairs “most of the time” waited an average of 13.2 minutes, compared to 12.8 minutes among those who had “hardly any” interest.

'Break Up The Banks' Bill Gains Steam In Senate As Wall Street Lobbyists Cry Foul

WASHINGTON -- Momentum to break up the nation's largest banks is building quickly on Capitol Hill, just weeks after a unanimous, symbolic vote in the Senate to end taxpayer subsidies to Wall Street. The latest sign of this swift and unexpected shift in the political wind came Monday when Rob Nichols, a lobbyist with the Financial Services Forum, attacked new capital standards proposed by Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and David Vitter (R-La.) as "comically high."

The Brown-Vitter bill is, in fact, designed to put banks in a difficult position. As Brown told HuffPost in February, he hopes to move legislation this year to break up big banks; Vitter echoed Brown's comments on the Senate floor. By crafting a bill that requires banks with more than $400 billion in assets to hold at least 15 percent of those assets in hard capital, the senators hope to encourage the handful of multitrillion-dollar behemoths to split up into smaller firms.

Caribbean Go-Between Provided Shelter For Far-Away Frauds, Documents Show

British Virgin Islands firm kept doing business with shady characters even as regulators prodded it to obey anti-money-laundering laws

The tangled trail of the Magnitsky Affair, a case that’s strained U.S.-Russian relations and blocked American adoptions of Russian orphans, snakes through an offshore haven in the Caribbean.

CIA Does Not Submit Congressionally Mandated Data Mining Report

NEW YORK -- Despite the CIA chief technology officer's stunning claim last month that "we fundamentally try to collect everything and hang on to it forever," the agency does not submit a congressionally mandated report on data mining, The Huffington Post has learned.

That's because under the CIA's reading of the law, it doesn't do any data mining at all. A legal loophole allows it to skip submitting the report even though other agencies, like the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security, do.

Margaret Thatcher Receives Critical Eulogy From South Africa

WASHINGTON -- Margaret Thatcher's death on Monday at 87 has brought tributes from all over the world.

All over the world, that is, except for South Africa. Going against overwhelming mainstream sentiment, Thatcher refused to impose sanctions on South Africa's apartheid regime and went so far as to describe the African National Congress in 1987 as terrorists. "Anyone who thinks it is going to run the government in South Africa is living in cloud-cuckoo land," she said of the ANC at the time.