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, May 06, 2013

Business lobbyists ride inside track of Conservative trade agenda

Law professor and regular media commentator on Canada's trade deals, Michael Geist described the Harper government's "two-tier" approach to negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in his Toronto Star column Friday. Basically, Canada's politically connected business lobby groups get exclusive access to information on the TPP, government departments get limited access, and the rest of us get almost nothing. This is confirmed by documents obtained through access to information, says Geist (leaks notwithstanding).

Enbridge breaks safety rules at pump stations across Canada

The biggest oil and gas pipeline company in Canada is breaking National Energy Board safety rules at 117 of its 125 pump stations across the country, but Enbridge says it's not to blame.

Enbridge was ordered by the Canadian energy regulator to disclose whether or not it had backup power to operate emergency shut-down systems in the facilities that keep oil flowing through its pipes. The company told the NEB only eight of its pump stations complied with the board's backup power system regulation.

Appalled researchers accuse Tory MP of peddling ‘completely bogus’ polar bear stats to Yukon constituents

A Conservative MP has been peddling what researchers describe as “bogus” information on polar bears and citing U.S. climate skeptics as experts on the iconic creatures.

In a letter that shocked scientists, Yukon MP Ryan Leef said: “The global polar bear population has quadrupled over the last 40 years.”

Will the Conservative caucus be the last closet?

Watching the fascinated reaction of my 14-year-old sports-mad son to the Jason Collins story last week underlined for me the continuing potency of “coming out” in changing values about homosexuality — what one activist has called the “gay superpower”.

Now that an active NBA player has come out, there are rumours that a group of NFL players may soon follow. And inevitably the trend will reach the NHL, and eventually cease to amaze us.

Canada's WTO Appeal Over Ontario's Energy Legislation Dismissed

TORONTO - The federal and Ontario governments are reviewing a ruling by the World Trade Organization that made-in-Ontario provisions of the province's green energy laws contravene international guidelines.

But there are no immediate plans to change the legislation, Ontario Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli said Monday.

Consumer Debt Canada: Bankruptcy Risk Greatest For 'Pre-Retirement' Group, Review Finds

“Pre-retirement” Canadians aged 50 to 59 are taking on an alarming amount of debt and are most at risk of bankruptcy, according to a new study that examined some 7,000 insolvency filings.

Bankruptcy trustees Hoyes, Michalos & Associates reviewed filings from 2011 and 2012 and found the average bankrupt Canadian is a 43-year-old man with more than $61,000 in debt. That’s about three times the national average of about $18,000 of non-mortgage debt per Canadian.

Joe Oliver: Al Gore's Comments On Canada's Climate Change Record 'Wildly Inaccurate'

Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver has accused former U.S. vice-president Al Gore of making “wildly inaccurate and exaggerated” claims about the Harper Tories’ record on climate change.

In an interview with The Globe and Mail published Saturday, Al Gore said that while he has always respected Canada, he is disappointed with decisions made by the current government.

The Reverse Revolving Door: How Corporate Insiders Are Rewarded Upon Leaving Firms for Congress

In February of this year, news broke that Treasury Secretary Jack Lew received an exit package worth over $1 million from Citigroup shortly before joining the Obama administration in 2009. In fact Lew’s contract with Citigroup made explicitly clear that the banker’s eligibility for a special bonus was contingent on his securing a “full time high level position with the U.S. government or regulatory body.”

Critics like Bloomberg News columnist Jonathan Weil were astounded by what appeared to be “some sort of a bounty” paid by Citigroup to burrow their executives deep within government. But far from an aberration, such bonuses appear to be fairly common on Capitol Hill.

Israel's Bombs Invite Obama to Join a War Against Syria

If Israel’s bombing of Syria, which apparently killed more than 100 Syrian troops, is meant as a warning to Iran—as various analysts in Israel and The Jerusalem Post suggest—then the message is: We can strike a nearby, war-embattled nation just minutes from our bases. It really says little about Israel’s ability to strike Iran, a far more complex target much, much farther away. But it does put Israel into a firm alliance with Saudi Arabia (and the Sunnis) in a very dangerous Sunni vs. Shiite sectarian conflict.

Penny Pritzker's Commerce (Part One)

For those who’ve been waiting for Barack Obama, unfettered from the constraints of re-election, to emerge from his chrysalis and take wing as the true liberal they have always known he was, well, here we are: a proposal to cut Social Security benefits via a cost-of-living adjustments (candidate Obama in 2008 said John McCain suggests “the best answer for the growing pressures on Social Security might be cost-of-living adjustments or raise the retirement age. Let me be clear: I will not do either.”) And now this.

U.N. Has Gathered Testimony Indicating That Syrian Rebels Have Used Sarin Gas, Says Investigator

GENEVA, May 5 (Reuters) - U.N. human rights investigators have gathered testimony from casualties of Syria's civil war and medical staff indicating that rebel forces have used the nerve agent sarin, one of the lead investigators said on Sunday.

The United Nations independent commission of inquiry on Syria has not yet seen evidence of government forces having used chemical weapons, which are banned under international law, said commission member Carla Del Ponte.

Rob Portman Faces Heat For His Vote Against Background Checks

Sen. Rob Portman's (R-Ohio) vote against bipartisan background checks legislation followed him home during the congressional recess, with protests at his events and a request for a meeting from the mother of a gun violence victim.

Portman declined to meet with Jerri Jackson of Springfield, Ohio, who lost her son in the mass shooting in Aurora, Colo. and wanted to explain why she supports background checks. His office cited scheduling conflicts.

Wrongfully Convicted Often Find Their Record, Unexpunged, Haunts Them

In Wisconsin, Audrey Edmunds served 11 years in prison in the shaking death of an infant girl for whom she had been baby-sitting. In 2008, a mountain of new medical evidence cast so much doubt on the case that a higher court overturned her conviction and set her free. Leaving prison, Ms. Edmunds hoped that would be the end of it.

But a few months later, as she applied for a secretarial job with an office-supply company, her conviction for first-degree reckless homicide popped up in a background check. Sorry, she was told. She tried to get work with an airline, but heard a similar rejection.

New York AG: Wells Fargo, BofA Violated National Foreclosure Settlement

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Monday he may sue Wells Fargo and Bank of America for allegedly violating the terms of last year’s multi-state mortgage settlement, despite questions over his authority to do so.

The agreement, reached by the Department of Justice, Department of Housing and Urban Development and 49 state attorneys general, called for the five largest mortgage companies to significantly revamp their procedures for dealing with distressed borrowers. It called on them to provide billions of dollars in aid to those borrowers and change the way they pursue home repossessions, in exchange for prosecutors dropping legal claims that the companies systematically violated borrowers’ rights when using faulty, so-called “robosigned” documents in foreclosure proceedings.

Paul Krugman's call to arms against austerity

Paul Krugman has just passed the landmark 1 million followers on Twitter. Not bad for an academic economist, albeit one with a Nobel prize under his arm, a prominent position at Princeton University, and a New York Times blog.

His following is a reward for battling the conventional wisdom that austerity can foster a recovery. From the moment Lehman Brothers was allowed to crash, it seemed that only Krugman, his compatriot Joseph Stiglitz, another Nobel prizewinner for the liberal cause, and New York professor Nouriel Roubini, who had loudly predicted the crash, consistently confronted the "austerians" in Washington, Brussels and the UK Treasury.

Israel: Air strikes were 'against Hezbollah and not the Syrian regime'

Israel sought to avoid a direct confrontation with the Syrian regime on Monday by stressing that air strikes across its northern border at the weekend were intended to prevent weapons reaching Hezbollah in Lebanon rather than further destabilise the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Amid a cautious consensus that the bombing raids were unlikely to provoke an immediate response from Syria, or its allies Hezbollah and Iran, an Israeli politician close to the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, said the action was "against Hezbollah and not against the Syrian regime".

State schools paying private tutors thousands for extra help

Growing numbers of state primary and secondary schools in England are paying private tuition firms thousands of pounds for extra help with their pupils, using funding given to schools to support disadvantaged students.

One national tutoring agency, Exam Confidence, told the Guardian it charged schools up to £1,400 a day. Its tutors give several lessons in a day, and are very experienced. Another agency, the Kip McGrath Education Centre in Portsmouth, one of the country's leading tuition firms, said schools were paying at least £1,000 a year for its services. Both said the number of state schools registering for its services was growing.

The Thin Red Line

Just after midnight on April 25th, a Syrian medical technician who calls himself Majid Daraya was sitting at home, in the city of Daraya, five miles from the outskirts of Damascus, when he heard an explosion. He ran outside, and, on the southern horizon, he saw a blue haze. “I’ve never seen a blue explosion before,” he remembers thinking. Seconds later came another blast, and another blue haze. Majid, who used a pseudonym to protect his identity, told me that his city had become a violent and unpredictable place; for five months, it had been the scene of heavy combat between forces loyal to the regime of Bashar al-Assad and the rebels who have been fighting for more than two years to drive him from power.

Paint Bombs -- David Graeber’s “The Democracy Project” and the anarchist revival

In the summer of 2011, when David Graeber heard rumors of a mobilization against Wall Street, he was hopeful but wary. Graeber is an anthropologist by trade, and a radical by inclination, which means that he spends a lot of time at political demonstrations, scrutinizing other demonstrators. When he wandered down to Bowling Green, in the financial district, on August 2nd, he noticed a few people who appeared to be the leaders, equipped with signs and megaphones. It seemed that they were affiliated with the Workers World Party, a socialist group known for stringent pronouncements that hark back to the Cold War—a recent article in the W.W.P. newspaper hailed the “steadfast determination” of North Korea and its leaders. As far as Graeber was concerned, W.W.P. organizers and others like them could doom the new movement, turning away potential allies with their discredited ideology and their unimaginative tactics. Perhaps they would deliver a handful of speeches and lead a bedraggled march, culminating in the presentation of a list of demands. Names and e-mail addresses would be collected, and then, a few weeks or months later, everyone would regroup and do it again.

Cost Of Birth Control Higher In Some Low-Income Neighborhoods Than In Wealthy Ones

Prescription contraceptives cost more in some low-income neighborhoods than in wealthier ones, according to a small study that analyzed prescription price data from Florida.

Though the findings are preliminary, the University of Tennessee physicians who led the study said it may have implications for low-income women hoping to prevent pregnancy.

"We saw several contraceptive options that are more expensive in lower income areas, and that expense may limit access," researcher Dr. Nikki Zite, an OBGYN at The University of Tennessee Medical Center, told The Huffington Post. The findings were released Monday at the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists' annual clinical meeting in New Orleans.

Overtime Pay Alternative Sought By Republican Lawmakers

WASHINGTON -- It seems like a simple proposition: give employees who work more than 40 hours a week the option of taking paid time off instead of overtime pay.

The choice already exists in the public sector. Federal and state workers can save earned time off and use it weeks or even months later to attend a parent-teacher conference, care for an elderly parent or deal with home repairs.

West Fertilizer Co.'s Insurance Policy Was Just $1 Million Before Deadly Plant Explosion

McALLEN, Texas -- The Texas fertilizer plant that exploded last month, killing 14 people, injuring more than 200 others and causing tens of millions of dollars in damage to the surrounding area had only $1 million in liability coverage, lawyers said Saturday.

Tyler lawyer Randy C. Roberts said he and other attorneys who have filed lawsuits against West Fertilizer's owners were told Thursday that the plant carried only $1 million in liability insurance. Brook Laskey, an attorney hired by the plant's insurer to represent West Fertilizer Co., confirmed the amount Saturday in an email to The Associated Press, after the Dallas Morning News first reported it.

Bell-Astral Deal: CRTC To Take Second Look At Merger

MONTREAL - Bell is heading to the CRTC for a second time in hopes that its plan to sell off the majority of Astral Media's TV channels will be enough to appease the regulator's worries its takeover of the media company would not be good for Canadians.

A new round of public hearings on Bell's revised plan to buy Astral starts Monday after the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission killed the plan last fall, citing concerns it would restrict choice and raise prices for consumers.

Temporary Foreign Workers In Alberta: Report Shows Flood Of TFW As Jobs Disappear, Wages Fall

What was intended to be a tool aimed at preventing economic retreat and loss of revenue due to labour shortages, has become a go-to solution for companies to artificially keep labour costs down, according to a new report.

The Temporary Foreign Workers Program has evolved into an effective tool used by corporations to increase their profit margins. Alberta opponents of the TFWP claim it does so on the backs of foreign and Canadian workers, and say the province is ground zero for the worst offences, abuses and misuses of the controversial program.

Israeli Warplanes Strike Syria In Escalation: Official

BEIRUT — Israel rushed to beef up its rocket defenses on its northern border Sunday to shield against possible retaliation after carrying out two airstrikes in Syria over 48 hours – an unprecedented escalation of Israeli involvement in the Syrian civil war.

Syria and its patron Iran hinted at possible retribution, though the rhetoric in official statements appeared relatively muted.

National Household Survey That Replaced Long-Form Census Is Unreliable: Experts

An innovative health clinic for new immigrants sees few patients trickle through its doors. Community health advisers scratch their heads. A state-of-the-art new Roman Catholic school is built in the wrong neighbourhood and shutters its doors. The local school board faces ratepayer anger over the misspent money.

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression and whistleblowers

A group called Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) has just issued a report for the year 2012-13 that should challenge our complacency. The CJFE report details how the Conservative  government and its bureaucracy are muzzling scientists, putting roadblocks in the way of people trying to use the Access to Information legislation, and harassing whistleblowers and other individuals who dare to challenge their political masters.

Groups call for former oil exec to step down as Alberta's new energy regulator

The Council of Canadians has joined with more than 30 landowner, labour, environmental and First Nation groups to call on Alberta Premier Alison Redford to remove Gerry Protti, founding President of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and former Encana executive, as the chair of the province's new energy regulator. The groups are hoping Protti will be asked to step down and that public consultation take place to address concerns about Alberta's move to a single regulator model.

Some of the groups making this demand include Greenpeace Canada, the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation, Treaty 8 First Nations of Alberta, the Alberta Federation of Labour, the Indigenous Tar Sands Campaign, the Kainai Lethbridge Earth Watch, L'Association québécoise de lutte contre la pollution atmosphérique (AQLPA), and Public Interest Alberta.

Atlantic Canada ready to lay democracy on Harper government

The Atlantic premiers did two big things at their meeting last weekend. They basically called the Harper government incompetent, having constructed labour market policies on the basis of "anecdotes" and no evidence.

And for the first time in more than a generation -- apart from Newfoundland's mercurial former premier, Danny Williams -- someone from these parts has said "boo" to the federal government.

With luck, this will be the much-needed spark for these provinces to get their act together, not only on Employment Insurance but on the full reality -- bureaucracy, energy, fisheries, economics, environment and more -- before we become non-entities in the face of a Stephen Harper-driven mindset intent on marginalizing the region, not to mention as the result of our own inertia in the face of it.

Terror of terrorism and the Second Amendment: Whatever became of the indomitable American spirit?

We have learned, courtesy the news media, that membership in the National Rifle Association has surged past five million souls since the Sandy Hook Massacre of little children in Connecticut last December.

It would seem that a significant minority of our American cousins will let nothing stand in the way of their right to massive firepower, which they insist is protected by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Bonding Through Bars: The health and human rights of incarcerated women

When a woman is convicted of a crime it is not only her who is sentenced, but also her children who are themselves innocent and yet who suffer the ultimate punishment, maternal separation. The result is a cycle of trauma and struggle which has generational consequences that has left the health and wellbeing of marginalized women and their children in a state of crisis.

BC's Poor Poverty Record, Explained

The expression of outrage at British Columbia's dismal record on poverty has become an annual affair in the province.

Each year Statistics Canada releases figures showing B.C. is either the worst in the country or close to it on poverty in general, and on child poverty in particular. The opposition MLAs rightly point out the performance is shameful and the government responds by saying things are getting better and the statistics are out of date.

Tories headed for ‘disaster’ in Labrador byelection, says Forum pollster

The Conservatives have been hurt by their own policies in the traditional Liberal riding of Labrador and are headed for defeat in the May 13 byelection, predicts Forum pollster Lorne Bozinoff.

Two Forum polls conducted in Labrador in April suggest that the Liberals are headed for a landslide victory in the byelection.

An April 3 poll found support for Liberal candidate and former provincial Liberal leader Yvonne Jones at 57 per cent, Mr. Penashue at 20 per cent, and NDP candidate Harry Borlase at 21 per cent. By April 24, Ms. Jones’ support had increased to 60 per cent, with 29 per cent support for Mr. Penashue, and 10 per cent support for Mr. Borlase.

Flaherty’s slimmed-down budget bill ‘less omnibusive,’ say opposition MPs

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s most recent budget implementation bill for 2013 is less offensive than previous massive omnibus bills that were more than 400 pages long and contained items not found in the government’s original budget plan, but federal legislators should keep their eyes and ears open for  “some nasty surprises” in a potential second implementation bill later this fall, say critics.

“From my reading of it, there’s nothing in this omnibus budget bill that wasn’t in budget itself,” Green Party Leader Elizabeth May (Saanich-Gulf Islands, B.C.) said last week.

AG says trying to track $3.1-billion in unaccounted anti-terror funding would be like ‘tracing serial numbers on dollars’

Auditor General Michael Ferguson, who last week revealed that the federal government can’t account for $3.1-billion in anti-terrorism spending between 2001 and 2009, told The Hill Times that tracking down that money would be like “tracing the serial numbers on the dollars,” but opposition MPs on the House Public Accounts Committee want to see the federal government try.

“We would have had to go back through every single dollar that those departments spent, and try to determine whether it was [Public Security and Anti-Terrorism—that would be a huge task,” Mr. Ferguson told The Hill Times following the April 29 release of his office’s 10-chapter spring 2013 audit.

Civility, vigorous debate missing in Ottawa

OTTAWA—It would be easy to dismiss a little dustup last week involving a space exhibit and a former astronaut as yet another example of the sandbox strutting that fascinates denizens of parliament’s immediate neighbourhood but is understandably ignored in the rest of the country.

Yet, it is just the latest example of the demises of civility in our federal politics, a development that goes well beyond predictable partisanship and speaks to something deeper involving those we send to Ottawa to represent us.

Runway incursions a threat to aviation safety

OTTAWA—The radar screen Toronto’s Pearson airport told the heart-stopping tale of a looming disaster.

A radar scope in the control tower showed two targets — one of them an Air Canada Embraer jet about to land — on a collision course.

The controller, perched high above the runways and taxiways, could see the landing lights of the approaching jet. But the identity of the other target was hidden in the late-evening darkness.

Toronto new condo sales slump 55 per cent in first quarter

Toronto’s condo boom took a big breather in the first quarter of this year.

Sales plummeted by 55 per cent in the first three months of 2013 over the same period last year as developers held back on new project launches and took a wait-and-see approach in the face of a softening market and a climbing inventory of condos for sale.

TDSB diverting $100 million annually from programs for underprivileged students, report says

More than $100 million annually has been diverted from funding programs for underprivileged students in order for the Toronto District School Board to balance its books , a new report from Social Planning Toronto says.

“The total amount (of funds diverted) is approaching $1 billion,” said John Campey, executive director of Social Planning Toronto, a non-profit community organization committed to improving the lives of Torontonians.

Most Canadian sex assault victims have little faith in justice system, survey says

HALIFAX—A majority of sexual assault victims have little to no confidence in the police, the courts or the criminal justice system, according to a new government survey that echoes what advocates have been saying for years.

The responses in the Justice Canada survey indicate that two-thirds of the men and women who took part had no faith in the justice system, the process of filing a complaint against their abuser and the prospect of seeing a conviction.

Harper government’s new controls on Crown corporations a cause for concern

Near the end of the latest federal budget, tucked away like so many controversial measures before it, in a distant corner of an omnibus bill, is a deceptively innocuous, deeply worrying piece of legislation that will give the government unprecedented controls over Crown corporations.

The budget implementation bill tabled last week contains provisions that will allow the government to intervene in the collective bargaining and executive salary negotiations of more than 40 Crown corporations, including VIA Rail, Canada Post and, most problematically, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

9/11 Museum To Charge Admission Fee

NEW YORK -- Faced with hefty operating costs, the foundation building the 9/11 museum at the World Trade Center has decided to charge an admission fee of $20 to $25 when the site opens next year.

The exact cost of the mandatory fee has not yet been decided.

Obama Drone War 'Kill Chain' Imposes Heavy Burden At Home

LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. -- In the secretive U.S. war of armed drones, the kill chain runs through a highly classified, windowless brick building here.

In the darkened spaces inside, hundreds of young Air Force intelligence analysts work 12-hour shifts, carrying out a controversial strategy of long-distance remote attacks which are reported to have killed thousands of militants -- but are also believed to have killed or injured thousands of innocents.

On the Raft of the Medusa: Italy’s Left

Rome—There was one sunny week this spring when it looked like change might finally come to Italy. A week when an ossified and gerontocratic political class looked like it might give way to new faces and new ideas. When the combined forces of youth and progress looked strong enough to defy European austerity. When—after almost twenty years!—it seemed Parliament might finally pass reforms restricting Silvio Berlusconi’s perverse claims to power once and for all.

Caterpillar Plant Closing, 330 Employees To Lose Jobs

TORONTO - Heavy equipment giant Caterpillar Inc. says it is closing a tunnel-boring machine factory in Toronto by mid-2014, throwing 330 workers out of a job.

Caterpillar acquired the facility in 2008 when it bought Lovat Inc. and got into the tunnelling business, but now says the plant is no longer a "strategic growth opportunity" and will be shut down.

Temporary Foreign Workers: Abuse, Exploitation Could Be Solved With Immigration Fix, Experts Say

OTTAWA — The problems caused by the federal Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) Program could be fixed easily if low-skilled workers were given easier access to citizenship, several stakeholders told The Huffington Post Canada.

While some argued the foreign workers program is necessary to respond to employers’ needs, others said the TFW Program is so flawed the only solution is to scrap it.

Benetton On Bangladesh Tragedy: No One In The Industry Should Feel Above It

Italian apparel retailer Benetton initially denied any connection to the factory that collapsed in Bangladesh killing more than 500 people, but since then photos of the brand's clothing in the building's rubble have emerged.

"This is such a tragedy that no one in the industry should feel above it," Benetton CEO Biagio Chiarolanza said in a statement to The Huffington Post on Friday. "As such, Benetton will make funds available to the victims of the families as every member of our industry has a moral obligation to intervene in their support."

Adrian Dix: Christy Clark Must Clarify Position On Oil Projects

VANCOUVER - Controversy surrounding increased oil tanker traffic British Columbia's coastal waters is an issue that isn't going away with just over a week to go in the provincial election campaign.

NDP leader Adrian Dix called on Premier Christy Clark to clarify her position on proposed projects that would see more tankers transporting heavy oil to Asia.

India refuses to accept deportation of Ottawa-born man

OTTAWA — The federal government’s fight to deport an Ottawa-born man to his parents’ homeland has been stalled because the Indian government refuses to authorize his travel documents.

Deepan Budlakoti, a 23-year-old convicted drug dealer, was released from jail two weeks ago and is now living with his parents in Ottawa’s west end.

He had been in jail since December on a deportation hold order.

Budlakoti is being deported to India under a rarely-used section of the Citizenship Act that says that if your parents are foreign diplomats or under their employ at the time of birth, you are not considered a Canadian citizen.

Peter Lougheed opposes Keystone pipeline

Former Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed is adding his voice to the opposition to the controversial Keystone X-L pipeline project.

However his opposition is based on economic reasons, rather than environmental.

"We should be refining the bitumen in Alberta and we should make it public policy in the province," he said.

Boston bombing: Tamerlan Tsarnaev died of gunshot wounds, blunt trauma

BOSTON—Tamerlan Tsarnaev, a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings, died from gunshot wounds and blunt trauma to his head and torso, a funeral director said Friday.

Funeral home owner Peter Stefan has 26-year-old Tsarnaev’s body and read details from his death certificate. The certificate cites Tsarnaev’s “gunshot wounds of torso and extremities” and lists the time of his death as 1:35 a.m. on April 19, four days after the deadly bombing.

Corporations Find a Friend in the Supreme Court

NOT long after 10 a.m. on March 27, a restless audience waited for the Supreme Court to hear arguments in the second of two historic cases involving same-sex marriage. First, however, Justice Antonin Scalia attended to another matter. He announced that the court was throwing out an antitrust class action that subscribers brought against Comcast, the nation’s largest cable company.

Almost no one in the courtroom paid attention, despite Justice Scalia’s characteristically animated delivery, and the next day’s news coverage was dominated by accounts of the arguments on same-sex marriage. That was no surprise: the Supreme Court’s business decisions are almost always overshadowed by cases on controversial social issues.

Damascus Shaken By Explosions; Syrian State TV Says Israel Hit Military Center

BEIRUT — Israeli missiles struck a research center near the Syrian capital Damascus, setting off explosions and causing casualties, Syria's state news agency reported early Sunday, citing initial reports.

If confirmed, it would be the second Israeli strike on targets in Syria in three days, signaling a sharp escalation of Israel's involvement in Syria's bloody civil war.

Al Gore isn’t overly pleased with Canada

Al Gore is back. A dozen years after he was denied the U.S. presidency and turned his attention to the warming atmosphere (and won the Nobel Peace Prize, an Academy Award and a Grammy), he is opening his lens wider.The result is The Future, a 500-page examination of the six major forces that he believes are producing dramatic change in the world: an increase in economic globalization; an expansion of digital communications; a balance of power moving away from the United States; an economic system that produces inequality and overconsumption; a set of revolutions in biotechnology and the life sciences and, of course, the world’s warming atmosphere and damaged ecosystems.