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, June 10, 2013

The Big Shrug

I’ve been in this economics business for a while. In fact, I’ve been in it so long I still remember what people considered normal in those long-ago days before the financial crisis. Normal, back then, meant an economy adding a million or more jobs each year, enough to keep up with the growth in the working-age population. Normal meant an unemployment rate not much above 5 percent, except for brief recessions. And while there was always some unemployment, normal meant very few people out of work for extended periods.

Prior NSA Whistleblower Warns Edward Snowden: Government Will Seek "Revenge and Retaliation"

Thomas Drake, a National Security Agency whistleblower who several years ago provided information to the press about fraud, waste, and privacy abuses at the super-secret spy agency and who was prosecuted for doing so, has a warning for Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old whistleblower who on Sunday outed himself as the source of the blockbuster leaks revealing two sweeping NSA surveillance programs. (The programs, as the Guardian and the Washington Post stories based on Snowden's leaks revealed, collected records of phone calls made by Americans and intercepted internet communications made by foreigners via US tech companies.) Drake says Snowden can expect to be targeted by the full force of the United States government. And Drake should know. The Justice Department pursued Drake fiercely, charging him with violating the Espionage Act—as if he had been a spy for a foreign power. Drake maintained that he had only conveyed unclassified information to a reporter. The government's case eventually fell apart, and it dropped the most serious charges. Drake accepted a deal, pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of misusing a computer. He served no prison time, but his career as a high-tech intelligence professional was over. Recently, he was working at an Apple store.

Flood Insurance Costs May Soar For Hardest-Hit Sandy Victims

TOMS RIVER, N.J. -- George Kasimos has almost finished repairing flood damage to his waterfront home, but his Superstorm Sandy nightmare is far from over.

Like thousands of others in the hardest-hit coastal stretches of New Jersey and New York, his life is in limbo as he waits to see if tough new coastal rebuilding rules make it just too expensive for him to stay.

Trudeau defends Sen. Mac Harb in Senate spending scandal

OTTAWA – Beleaguered Sen. Mac Harb will have a place back in the Liberal caucus, so long as he pays his dues once an investigation into his expense claims wraps up, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau says.

Harb resigned from the Liberal caucus last month after an independent audit found he wrongly collected $51,500 in Senate housing allowances. He consequently hired a lawyer, determined to fight the finding in court. Meanwhile, Harb could be asked to repay thousands beyond the initial assessment as the spending review stretches farther into his past.

First Nations will decide pipeline's fate

Just a few weeks ago, proponents of pipelines between the Prairies and the West Coast were preparing for the worst. Adrian Dix, the apparently victory-bound leader of the B.C. NDP, had already declared Enbridge's Northern Gateway would be dead on his watch and, mid-election, pronounced a similar sentence on Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline expansion plans.

The subsequent Liberal upset victory, which many analysts attribute to the NDP's fervent opposition to wealth-creating pipelines, has given the Northern Gateway project a partial reprieve. But despite strong federal backing, the project hangs by a thread.

Senate spending scandal an unthinkable moment for distinguished journalist and parliamentarian Pamela Wallin

OTTAWA — Anyone aware of Pamela Wallin’s impressive career trajectory from Parliament Hill reporter to parliamentarian would know why being caught up in the Red Chamber spending scandal is a particularly difficult moment — an unthinkable one even — in the life of the 60-year-old senator from Saskatchewan.

While Wallin’s had some setbacks, most notably her high-profile ouster from the co-anchor post at CBC’s main national news program in 1995, she possesses a C.V. studded with achievements from her 30 years as an award-winning journalist and subsequent decade as a diplomat, university chancellor, corporate director and all-around symbol of professional success and distinguished public service.

Canada slammed for lagging behind in fighting tax evasion as G8 summit looms

OTTAWA — Canada’s efforts to combat international tax evasion will be in the spotlight when Prime Minister Stephen Harper joins other world leaders next week at the G8 summit in Northern Ireland, with tax watchdogs worried Canada is already balking at some major reforms.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, the summit host, has made tax compliance and combating tax evasion one of the three main themes of the G8 talks on June 17-18, as critics argue Canada lags behind its counterparts in fighting a mounting global problem.

Data-collection program got green light from MacKay in 2011

Defence Minister Peter MacKay approved a secret electronic eavesdropping program that scours global telephone records and Internet data trails – including those of Canadians – for patterns of suspicious activity.

Mr. MacKay signed a ministerial directive formally renewing the government’s “metadata” surveillance program on Nov. 21, 2011, according to records obtained by The Globe and Mail. The program had been placed on a lengthy hiatus, according to the documents, after a federal watchdog agency raised concerns that it could lead to warrantless surveillance of Canadians.

McGuinty's staff purged records after Ontario power-plants probe began

The e-mail records of a close adviser to Ontario’s former premier were purged five weeks after a legislative committee ordered the government to release documents in connection with the controversial cancellation of two gas-fired power plants.

Chris Morley, chief of staff to former premier Dalton McGuinty, was directly involved in sensitive settlement talks with TransCanada Corp., the Calgary energy giant that was to build the province’s third-largest gas-fired power plant in Oakville.

Tories will survive, says Sask. senator

The federal Conservative Party and the Canadian Senate may need to change, but both will survive recent "bumps in the road," says a Saskatoon Conservative senator.

"Things were done that were improper, but everybody's trying to make these things into major scandals. They are not. These are bumps in the road," Sen. Dave Tkachuk said in an interview with The StarPhoenix Sunday from his Saskatoon home.

Marching for dignity: Thousands take action against the occupation of Palestine

Gaza -- 46 years ago this month, Israel seized East Jerusalem, the home of many significant holy sites for Muslims, Christians and Jews, as well as the proposed capital for any future Palestinian state. Since then, Israel has increasingly undertaken measures -- the placing of restrictions on Palestinian movement, the construction of a separation wall, the confiscation of Palestinian land, and the building of Jewish-only settlements -- that are threatening to push out the Palestinian presence in Jerusalem entirely.

Canada's 'Northern Amazon' on the Brink

The Mackenzie River Basin, which occupies and protects one-fifth of Canada's fresh water, could be severely destabilized by climate change as well as unbridled resource extraction, including hydraulic fracturing, hydro dams and oil sands mining.

That's the uncomfortable conclusion of a new report by the prestigious University of California-based Rosenberg International Forum on Water Policy on what it calls "Canada's northern Amazon."

Harper doesn’t like surprises, Senate expenses scandal throws him for a loop

OAKVILLE, ONT.—Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s persona has recently undergone something of a transformation.

His usual lion-like, swaggering, self-assured leadership style is now relatively kitten-like in its vulnerability.

Or if you want to be less poetic about it, the Prime Minister is uncharacteristically passive and defensive.

AG’s audit will be ugly for Conservatives and Liberals, no end in sight

Calling in the auditor general is a great political move for the Prime Minister—in the short term. Instead of focusing attention on Nigel Wright’s payment to Mike Duffy, the move drills down to specific Senate spenders.

The report should provide a welcome diversion from ongoing expense and attendance leaks.

Almost daily we are treated to another tidbit expounding on the corporate excesses of Pamela Wallin and the dubitable, double expense habits of Mike Duffy.

MPs want transparency in search for Canada’s next Parliamentary budget officer

There’s been an “excellent response” from qualified candidates looking to be the next Parliamentary Budget Officer, says the Library of Parliament, but opposition MPs say they are concerned about the lack of transparency in the hiring process.

“There was an excellent response from highly-qualified candidates to the national executive search campaign,” Library of Parliament spokesperson Cynthia Cusinato told The Hill Times.

Ill, injured Canadian Forces members still not getting needed treatment, say military advocates

Ill and injured members of the Canadian Forces are not getting the treatment they need from the government, according to advocates for Canadian military members.

The House National Defence Committee is currently investigating issues surrounding ill and injured Canadian Forces members, and a stream of witnesses, including currently-serving soldiers, military family members, and representatives from veterans’ groups have come forward to discuss their experiences in dealing with various government organizations tasked with providing care for military personnel and veterans.

Elections Canada wants Parliament to approve a new pilot project to improve voting on election day

Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand says Elections Canada would be ready to test out a “promising,” new voting model, known as the New Brunswick model, in federal riding pilot projects as early as the beginning of 2015, which he expects to reduce voting irregularities and to be more voter-friendly, but he needs Parliament’s approval.

“Imagine going to a bank. Normally, there’s a reception desk at the bank that asks you, ‘What service are you looking for, sir or madam, today?’ If it’s a standard service, you’re directed to the first teller who’s available. If you need a special service you’re directed to a special office, special advisers. In a nutshell, that’s what [Elections Canada is] looking to build. That’s what the New Brunswick model is about,” Mr. Mayrand told the House Affairs Committee on May 28.

Porter ‘fooled everybody’ on his way to the top of Canada’s spy agency’s watchdog

While Prime Minister Stephen Harper continues to face daily questions over his office’s involvement in the Mike Duffy affair, another appointee-related headache is brewing 2,500 miles away in Panama where Arthur Porter, former chair of the Security and Intelligence Review Committee, faces extradition to Canada over serious charges of fraud, conspiracy, and money laundering.

How Dr. Porter was able to gain the Prime Minister’s trust and work his way from sitting on the Canadian Institute of Health Research’s governing council, into the Privy Council, and to the top of SIRC while allegedly participating in a multi-million dollar fraud scheme in Montreal remains in question.

Senate sets up permanent audit subcommittee, headed by former Newfoundland AG

While Auditor General Michael Ferguson prepares to conduct a potentially, politically-explosive audit of all Senators’ spending, the Senate created a permanent subcommittee last week, headed by Conservative Senator Elizabeth Marshall, former AG of Newfoundland, to study all audits of the Upper Chamber.

The Senate Internal Economy Committee, which has been accused of interfering with the Senate’s administration, finalized plans last week to create the new, separate Internal Economy Subcommittee to handle audits, as the Senate expenses scandal continues to unfold on Parliament Hill. Previously, the Senate Internal Economy’s steering subcommittee acted both as the executive subcommittee and the subcommittee overseeing audits.

Big Brother is listening in and no one seems to care

In 1975, Senator Frank Church of Idaho issued a warning to Americans about the mushrooming power of the federal government's eavesdropping machinery.

Most people didn't know the super-secret National Security Agency even existed back then. But Church, the Democratic chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, had privileged access, and understood the NSA's breathtaking capability.

Revenue Canada rejected secret tax haven files

The Canada Revenue Agency had an early chance to gain access to what is believed to be the largest-ever leak of tax-haven data, containing financial information on hundreds of Canadians involved in secretive offshore accounts, but missed out because of a policy of not paying for information, sources have told CBC News.

Health Canada blocks dying patients from access to drug

Two lung disease specialists are accusing Health Canada of shortening some patients' lives, by denying them access to an inexpensive, relatively harmless drug not sold in Canada.

“I am appalled and angry that a federal agency that we fund through our taxes would deny Canadian citizens who are dying of a treatable, infectious disease potentially life-saving medication,” said Dr. David Forrest, of Nanaimo, B.C.

U.S. online snooping: What Canadians need to know

The Toronto Star’s Mitch Potter interviews Ronald Deibert, director of University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, director of the Canada Centre for Global Security Studies and author of Black Code: Inside the Battle for Cyberspace, about the recent surveillance revelations in the United States. The Guardian and The Washington Post reported last week on two National Security Agency programs: one that collects data on phone calls made on the Verizon network, and one that collects Internet data from major tech companies.

Toronto’s new Sherbourne bike lanes too little too late

The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and Sherbourne St. is no exception. When its new dedicated bicycle lanes officially open on Monday, Toronto will have taken another Baby Huey step toward a future its leaders desperately want to avoid.

Indeed, the Sherbourne bike lanes illustrate what the city felt it could get away with and still claim to support cyclists. These largely notional spaces only make sense according to the convoluted logic of car culture. Here’s what happens when Official Toronto is forced against its will to bring equality to the streets.

Toronto G20 victim seeks apology in unique way

G20, apologize now/It’s been three years since you knocked me down.

The song came to John Pruyn one morning, after yet another creepy dream.

He hasn’t slept well since that evening in June, three years ago, when police attacked him, disgraced him, and for the first time in his life, made him feel less than human. Worthless.

You slammed your knee into my head bone/Then you dragged me around like a traffic cone

Senate spending scandal: At halftime, Conservatives need to turn it around

If, as the worn cliché teaches us, a week is an eternity in politics, how long is 124 weeks?

That, give or take a week, is how long until Canadians will next mark a federal ballot and that is why it is important to remember that the embattled Stephen Harper government is only at halftime.

Yes, it is facing its most serious crisis as a majority government.

Edward Snowden, The N.S.A. Leaker, Comes Forward

“I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the President, if I had a personal e-mail,” Edward Snowden told the Guardian. Snowden is twenty-nine; he had worked in a technical capacity for the C.I.A. and then, by way of his employer, Booz Allen Hamilton, as a contractor for the N.S.A. He is the reason our country has, in the last week, been having a conversation on privacy and the limits of domestic surveillance. That was overdue, and one wishes it had been prompted by self-examination on the part of the Obama Administration or real oversight by Congress. But both failed, and it came in the form of Snowden handing highly classified documents—a lot of them—to journalists.

The Putin Divorce: What Russia’s Rulers Hide

On Thursday evening, a television reporter approached Vladimir Putin and his wife, Lyudmila, in the Grand Kremlin Palace. The First Couple was leaving after the first act of the ballet “La Esmeralda.” After a few minutes of small talk about music and dancing, she asked a most impossible question: Why did they appear so rarely in public together? Putin’s response, confirmed by his wife: they had decided it was time for them to divorce. This is not the first time ballet happened to be the setting for a Russian personal and political drama: back in August, 1991, state television was playing “Swan Lake” just as Communists attempted a coup.

Libertarianism is in vogue. Again

Looking for the hot new(ish) thing in American politics? Try libertarianism.

Yes, that long-dismissed political philosophy that eschews government intervention in favor of individual liberty is again coming into vogue, particularly among young voters.

Two issues highlight the growing libertarian strain in the country.

The first is legalizing marijuana. For the first time in more than four decades of polling on the subject, a Pew Research Center survey found in April that a majority of Americans (52 percent) favored legalizing it. Among millennials — those born after 1980 — the numbers were significantly higher, with 65 percent supporting legalization.

François Hollande: the eurozone crisis is over

François Hollande, the French president, has declared an end to the eurozone debt crisis, despite record unemployment across the continent.

"You must understand that the crisis in the eurozone is over," Hollande told an audience in Japan during a three-day state visit.

"Europe has become more stable, but it must now be oriented toward growth," he said during a speech in Tokyo. "I believe that the crisis, far from weakening the eurozone, will strengthen it.

The bedroom tax has made huge problems even worse

When I met the Holden family back in January, they were worried – scared, even – about the looming arrival of the bedroom tax. They live in Hartlepool. Stuart, 36, and his wife Lorna, 33, have four kids: Faith, Noah, Elijah, and four-year-old Sam, who's autistic. In the five-bedroom home they rent from a local housing association, one room is given over to Sam, so he can use it as a sensory space: somewhere to calm down and readjust, which is therefore an essential part of his everyday life. Unfortunately, as they half-expected, this crucial detail has so far been steamrollered by Whitehall diktat, and the Holdens have been judged to be "under-occupying" by two bedrooms. As a result, their £114-a-week housing benefit has been suddenly cut by £28.

Labour to examine housing benefit and retirement age in event of election win

Labour will target housing benefit and will examine the case for further rises in the retirement age as the main ways of curbing welfare spending through a three-year cap if it wins a general election victory in 2015.

Party sources moved to clarify the "tough" decisions on spending Labour is drawing up after Ed Balls appeared to signal a major change of tack by saying pensions would be included in the cap.

Vince Cable Calls Tax Havens 'Shady Places For Shady People'

British tax havens are "shady places for shady people", Vince Cable said today, as he conceded that Government powers to stop tax avoidance are limited.

The Lib Dem business secretary was commenting a day after it emerged that telephone giant Vodafone had not paid corporation tax in the UK for the second year running.

"The Government is introducing this general anti-avoidance principle, which shifts the burden of proof somewhat and helps the Inland Revenue deal with these cases [of tax avoidance]," he said.

Tim Yeo Denies Breaching Lobbying Rules After Tory MP Filmed In Sting

The chairman of a powerful Commons committee today denied breaching lobbying rules amid allegations that he offered to use his position to further business interests.

Tim Yeo, who heads the Energy and Climate Change Committee, said he "totally rejects" claims made after a sting by Sunday Times journalists.

PRISM fallout: Hague says UK citizens have ‘nothing to fear’ from GCHQ surveillance

Law-abiding citizens need not fear intelligence sharing between the US and UK, Britain’s Foreign Secretary promised. His comments follow reports data gathered in the US-run PRISM program was shared with the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).

British Foreign Secretary William Hague affirmed that a “lot of information was shared with the United States,” adding that the two countries shared "an exceptional intelligence sharing relationship."

As Bradley Manning Trial Begins, Press Predictably Misses the Point

Well, the Bradley Manning trial has begun, and for the most part, the government couldn't have scripted the headlines any better.

In the now-defunct Starz series Boss, there's a reporter character named "Sam Miller" played by actor Troy Garity who complains about lazy reporters who just blindly eat whatever storylines are fed to them by people in power. He called those sorts of stories Chumpbait. If the story is too easy, if you're doing a piece on a sensitive topic and factoids are not only reaching you freely, but publishing them is somehow not meeting much opposition from people up on high, then you're probably eating Chumpbait.

There's an obvious Chumpbait angle in the Bradley Manning story, and most of the mainstream press reports went with it. You can usually tell if you're running a Chumpbait piece if you find yourself writing the same article as 10,000 other hacks.

GST Review For Financial Services Won't Be A Tax Grab: Harper Government

OTTAWA - The Harper government says an internal review of how much GST Canada's banks and other financial institutions should pay will not be a tax grab.

"The expectation is that any changes made as a result of the examination should be broadly revenue neutral," said Stephanie Rubec, spokeswoman for the Finance Department.

CFIA Anthrax Investigations Stop

EDMONTON - Canada's food regulator has stopped riding herd on anthrax, a disease that can kill cattle, bison, other grazing animals and, in rare cases, people.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says it will no longer investigate and quarantine anthrax-infected farms, collect samples for testing, vaccinate livestock or oversee and help pay for the cost of disposing animals that die of the disease.

Vic Toews kills idea for civilian management of RCMP

OTTAWA —The contrast could not have been sharper. And it wasn’t just the outfits — civvies vs. full dress uniform.

Two retired army generals in civilian clothes came to Parliament this week to tell a senate committee studying harassment in the RCMP that it is damn hard work to change the culture of an organization — especially one where rank and stripes on the arm count for everything.

Once professional values and ethics break down and a bullying culture sets in, it takes years to fix and is a constant work-in-progress, said former Lieut.-Generals Andrew Leslie and Mike Jeffery.

"You’re Being Watched": Edward Snowden Emerges as Source Behind Explosive Revelations of NSA Spying

Former CIA employee Edward Snowden has come forward as the whistleblower behind the explosive revelations about the National Security Agency and the U.S. surveillance state. Three weeks ago the 29-year-old left his job inside the NSA’s office in Hawaii where he worked for the private intelligence firm Booz Allen Hamilton. Today he is in Hong Kong–not sure if he will ever see his home again. In a video interview with the Guardian of London, Snowden says he exposed top secret NSA surveillance programs to alert Americans of expansive government spying on innocents. "Even if you’re not doing anything wrong, you’re being watched and recorded," Snowden says. "And the storage capability of these systems increases every year, consistently, by orders of magnitude, to where it’s getting to the point you don’t have to have done anything wrong, you simply have to eventually fall under suspicion from somebody, even by a wrong call, and then they can use this system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision you’ve ever made, every friend you’ve ever discussed something with, and attack you on that basis, to sort of derive suspicion from an innocent life and paint anyone in the context of a wrongdoer... The public needs to decide whether these programs and policies are right or wrong."


In the Dead Zone of Capitalism: Lessons on the Violence of Inequality from Chicago

"I consider the survival of [fascism] within democracy to be potentially more menacing that the survival of fascist tendencies against democracy."  Theodor W. Adorno

Americans are confronted daily with the violence of inequality. The rich have longer life spans, better health care, access to better educational opportunities and an abundance of food. [1] Many live in palatial homes in gated communities and wield a disproportionate amount of control and power over the major social, cultural, and political apparatuses that shape everyday life.[2] Unlike most Americans, the extravagantly rich are protected from the massive degree of violence produced by poverty, poor health, joblessness, inadequate social provisions, decrepit housing, unsafe neighborhoods, and even environmental disasters.  While the superrich also live in an age of precarity due to the free-market economic models they support, they largely escape its consequences through the obscene amount of wealth at their disposal that enables them to buy private solutions to public problems.[3] As Naomi Klein points out, such wealth offers more than economic advantages. It also creates a world in which the penthouse and mansion set

    protect themselves from the less savory effects of the economic model that made them so wealthy. In the past six years, we have seen the emergence of private firefighters in the United States, hired by insurance companies to offer a ‘concierge’ service to their wealthier clients, as well as the short-lived ‘HelpJet’—a charter airline in Florida that offered five-star evacuation services from hurricane zones [whose ad shamelessly states]: ‘No standing in lines, no hassle with crowds, just a first class experience that turns a problem into a vacation. [4]

President Obama’s Dragnet

Within hours of the disclosure that federal authorities routinely collect data on phone calls Americans make, regardless of whether they have any bearing on a counterterrorism investigation, the Obama administration issued the same platitude it has offered every time President Obama has been caught overreaching in the use of his powers: Terrorists are a real menace and you should just trust us to deal with them because we have internal mechanisms (that we are not going to tell you about) to make sure we do not violate your rights.

Obama Should Have Given Americans a Choice

President Obama defended the government’s massive surveillance programs Friday, saying they “help us prevent terrorist attacks.”

“I came in with a healthy skepticism about these programs,” Obama said during an exchange with the press in San Jose, Calif. “My team evaluated them. We scrubbed them thoroughly. We actually expanded some of the oversight, increased some of the safeguards. But my assessment and my team’s assessment was that they help us prevent terrorist attacks.”

Truthdigger of the Week: NSA Whistle-Blower Edward Snowden

Four major Internet, technology and privacy stories hit the Web this week.

On Wednesday, Americans learned that the National Security Agency has been collecting the telephone records of millions of U.S. customers of the telecommunication giant Verizon.

On Thursday it was revealed that the NSA claims internally that it has been using a top-secret spying program called PRISM to gain direct access to personal data belonging to customers of top Internet companies, including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and Yahoo. Many of those companies denied having this relationship with the NSA, but acknowledged, according to The New York Times, that they cooperated “at least a bit.”

State-snooping scandal prompts warning to journalists: protect sources better

MONTREAL - A scandal over state snooping on journalists in the United States is prompting media-watchers to consider new techniques to protect sources.

Anonymity of sources is considered sacrosanct among journalists and essential to their safety, reputation, and ability to act as public whistleblowers.

But journalists are lagging behind when it comes to protecting sources in the digital era, critics say.

One Day We’ll All Be Terrorists

Syed Fahad Hashmi can tell you about the dark heart of America. He knows that our First Amendment rights have become a joke, that habeas corpus no longer exists and that we torture, not only in black sites such as those at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan or at Guantánamo Bay, but also at the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in Lower Manhattan. Hashmi is a U.S. citizen of Muslim descent imprisoned on two counts of providing and conspiring to provide material support and two counts of making and conspiring to make a contribution of goods or services to al-Qaida. As his case prepares for trial, his plight illustrates that the gravest threat we face is not from Islamic extremists, but the codification of draconian procedures that deny Americans basic civil liberties and due process. Hashmi would be a better person to tell you this, but he is not allowed to speak.

Harper is “venal”, U.S. politics is “totally rigged”

Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt by Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco is one of the infernal documents of our new century. With Sacco providing vivid illustrations and Hedges furnishing the fearsome prose, they visit four of the most devastated communities in the U.S. and uncover what unfettered corporate capitalism has done to American life, finding despair, blight, poverty, crime, addiction, violence, and environmental degradation on an inconceivable scale, in all cases enabled by the total corporate takeover and corruption of government at all levels.

The Best Among Us

There are no excuses left. Either you join the revolt taking place on Wall Street and in the financial districts of other cities across the country or you stand on the wrong side of history. Either you obstruct, in the only form left to us, which is civil disobedience, the plundering by the criminal class on Wall Street and accelerated destruction of the ecosystem that sustains the human species, or become the passive enabler of a monstrous evil. Either you taste, feel and smell the intoxication of freedom and revolt or sink into the miasma of despair and apathy. Either you are a rebel or a slave.

Putin Divorce Joke Leads Russia TV To 'Pull Show'

Russian state television has pulled a show over a joke about President Vladimir Putin's surprise divorce announcement, one of its presenters said Saturday.

In a carefully staged announcement on Thursday, Putin said that he and his wife of 30 years, Lyudmila, were to have a "civilised divorce" because they now lead separate lives.

'4 Intelligence Officials' Allegedly Joke Of 'Disappearing' NSA Leaker, Reporter

Leading foreign policy analyst Steve Clemons said he witnessed a rather disturbing conversation while waiting for a flight at the Dulles airport on Saturday.

According to Clemons, four men sitting near him were discussing an intelligence conference they had just attended, and turned to the topic of the NSA leaks. One said that both the reporter and leaker should be "disappeared," a term used to describe secret murders and abductions carried out by authoritarian governments. Clemons said on Twitter the suggestion seemed to be "bravado" and a "disturbing joke." He said that the officials were talking loudly, "almost bragging."

Boundless Informant: the NSA's secret tool to track global surveillance data

The National Security Agency has developed a powerful tool for recording and analysing where its intelligence comes from, raising questions about its repeated assurances to Congress that it cannot keep track of all the surveillance it performs on American communications.

The Guardian has acquired top-secret documents about the NSA datamining tool, called Boundless Informant, that details and even maps by country the voluminous amount of information it collects from computer and telephone networks.

Obama, China Make Climate Change Agreement

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif., June 8 (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama confronted Chinese President Xi Jinping over allegations of cyber theft on Saturday but they agreed at a shirtsleeves summit in the California desert on reining in North Korea.

The two leaders debated how to handle China's growth as a world power more than 40 years after President Richard Nixon's groundbreaking visit to Mao Zedong's Communist China in 1972 ended decades of estrangement between Washington and Beijing.

Free Gun Initiative Begins In Houston Neighborhood

HOUSTON -- Houston resident Cheryl Strain's inexperience with guns was apparent as she struggled to load shells into a 20-gauge shotgun.

Over the piercing blasts of gunfire in the shooting range, Strain's instructor, Dan Blackford, patiently directed her on how to use her thumb to shove a shell all the way inside the barrel and feel it click.

NSA Spying On Canadians, CSEC Capable Of Similar Surveillance: Experts

Canadians’ private digital information is inevitably being caught up in the U.S.’s massive surveillance dragnet, and Canada's government has both the capability and the legal loopholes needed to spy on its own citizens as well, experts say.

The Obama administration was rocked this week by revelations that the U.S. National Security Agency collects millions of phone records from Verizon daily, and another report that a secret program called PRISM monitors users’ communications on the networks of numerous tech giants, including Apple, Facebook and Google.

Toronto Hydro using workers in India

Meet Toronto Hydro’s Bangalore team.

Companies that supply goods and service to Toronto Hydro may get their payments courtesy of a contracting firm with employees in Bangalore, in southern India.

Indian technicians are also working to produce digital versions of Toronto Hydro engineering drawings.

Jim Flaherty’s addiction to cracking heads

Hon. James M. Flaherty

Minister of Finance

Dear Minister Flaherty:

Saw your recent letter warning Queen’s Park against illegal tax hikes.

Kind of you to b.c.c. (blind copy) us while blindsiding Charles Sousa, your provincial counterpart. You addressed the treasurer, but it’s clear your hit-and-write tactics were aimed at all Ontario voters.

Unsolicited advice, even unsolicited snarls, are always welcome. Thought I’d reciprocate. Perhaps we too can become pen pals.

Ontario hospitals absorb health costs to treat refugees

A year after Ottawa cut health funding for refugees, Ontario hospitals are absorbing the costs or pursuing those patients for unpaid medical bills.

Hospitals in Greater Toronto are hardest hit by the changes, made effective by the federal government last June, since the majority of refugees are destined for this province.

Why we fear broad surveillance

WHEN the brouhaha over the Department of Justice reading the e-mails of James Rosen, a Fox News reporter, broke last month, I wrote that it seemed quaint to be outraged about the department getting a warrant from a judge for a specific target (and eventually disclosing the warrant) when other agencies can obtain secret authority for much wider surveillance. What I wanted to write was that the National Security Agency (NSA) was doing the same sort of thing all the time. But I couldn't do that because I didn't know whether it was true, such surveillance being, you know, secret. I assumed that the NSA had probably been routinely accessing vast amounts of electronic communications from millions of Americans ever since we first learned this was happening under the Bush Administration. With the agency building a $2 billion facility in Utah to process multi-yottabyte quantities of data from its Global Information Grid, complete with the world's fastest decryption supercomputer, one assumes it's doing so for a reason. But we didn't officially know anything about exactly what information the NSA was harvesting.