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, November 19, 2013

Pot Prospectors Seek Fortune In Legal Weed

SEATTLE (AP) — Dot-bong, Marijuana Inc., the Green Rush: Call it what you will, the burgeoning legal marijuana industry in Washington state is drawing pot prospectors of all stripes.

Microsoft veterans and farmers, real estate agents and pastry chefs, former journalists and longtime pot growers alike are seeking new challenges — and fortunes — in the production, processing and sale of a drug that's been illegal for generations.

In Colorado, the only other state to legalize marijuana, existing medical marijuana dispensaries can begin selling for recreational use in January. But in Washington, where sales are expected to begin in late spring, the industry is open to nearly anyone — provided they've lived in the state for three months, pass a background check and raise any money from within the state. Washington on Monday begins accepting applications from those eager to jump in.

Elizabeth Warren: Expand Social Security

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) threw her increasingly high-profile name behind expanding Social Security benefits instead of reducing them, rejecting calls from those in both parties to cut payments as a way to trim government spending.

Warren joins a growing push that includes Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who argue that rather than switch to a "chained" consumer price index that cuts retiree benefits, the nation should adopt CPI-E, which measures the actual cost of living for the elderly and would raise benefits to meet actual needs.

American Inequality in Six Charts

Last Friday, the Center for American Progress, the center-left think tank founded by Bill Clinton’s former chief of staff John Podesta, held a conference to launch its new Washington Center for Equitable Growth. The new center, which is being funded by the Sandler Foundation, will finance academic research into the causes and effects of inequality, broadly conceived, and function as a hub for policy makers, journalists, and others involved in the subject.

It was an interesting morning, featuring some of the top researchers in the field, and I moderated one of the panel sessions. In some brief opening remarks, I noted that Washington has long had a number of centers promoting inequitable growth, so it only seems fair to have one supporting equitable growth. And having learned a good deal from the panelists, I thought it might be worthwhile to share some of the charts they brought with them. Taken together, the pictures convey a good deal of what we know about inequality. They also raise important questions about the channels through which it impacts economic growth and human development.

Walmart Broke Labor Law And Retaliated Against Workers, NLRB Charges

WASHINGTON -- The federal agency that enforces labor law said Monday it has decided to pursue charges against Walmart for threatening and punishing workers who planned to go on strike last year.

According to officials at the National Labor Relations Board, the agency's general counsel investigated and "found merit" in workers' claims that Walmart "unlawfully threatened" employees for taking part in walkouts surrounding last year's Black Friday shopping season. The agency said that Walmart intimidated, surveilled or punished workers in 14 different states, violating U.S. labor law.

Jack Munro, BC's Working Class Hero

Jack Munro was a true working class hero.

I really didn't think so at first -- not as a young left-winger bitterly disappointed that British Columbia's Solidarity movement had backed away from a general strike in 1983 against unfair Social Credit legislation attacking unions, renters, women, teachers and students.

Munro, then IWA-Canada union president, went to premier Bill Bennett's Kelowna home on behalf of the B.C. Federation of Labour to sign a deal ending the confrontation. Like many, I held him responsible for giving in and giving up.

But back then I didn't know Jack. And he wasn't yet my friend.

Last Friday, Jack Munro passed away at 82, after battling cancer.

Surveillance technology out of control, says Lord Ashdown

The technology used by Britain's spy agencies to conduct mass surveillance is "out of control", raising fears about the erosion of civil liberties at a time of diminished trust in the intelligence services, according to the former Liberal Democrat leader Lord Ashdown.

The peer said it was time for a high-level inquiry to address fundamental questions about privacy in the 21st century, and railed against "lazy politicians" who frighten people into thinking "al-Qaida is about to jump out from behind every bush and therefore it is legitimate to forget about civil liberties". "Well it isn't," he added.

The Myth of the Child-Stealing Roma

On October 21 in Dublin, an anonymous Facebook poster tipped off a news channel about a blond-haired, blue-eyed child living with a dark-skinned Roma family. The journalists alerted the police, who raided the home and took the 7-year-old girl away on a hunch—that hunch being the blood libel that Roma steal kids. The next day, seventy-five miles away in Athlone, a 2-year-old boy was removed from his Roma parents in similar circumstances. DNA tests proved both hunches wrong. Rumor and racism had taken the place of policing and journalism, resulting in immense trauma for both families.

Time to End the Spying Game

Ever since Edward Snowden disclosed that the National Security Agency was sweeping up massive amounts of personal data about all of us, without regard to whether we are suspected of terrorist acts or any other wrongdoing, Americans have justifiably expressed concern. Why exactly does the NSA need to know every time I have texted my teenage kids, my wife or my friends? It’s a reasonable question, and the NSA has yet to offer a satisfactory response.

But the questions all too often stop at the border. We demand to know why the agency is collecting “our” data. But what about its collection of “their” data? With respect to foreigners abroad, the law allows the NSA to collect not just metadata—the information about whom they’ve called and when—but much of the content of phone and Internet communications. It need have no reason to believe that an individual is engaged in any kind of terrorist activity. Recent reports, albeit ones denied by the NSA, contend that the agency collected data on tens of millions of French and Spanish citizens in a single thirty-day period. And The New York Times reports that the CIA has been paying AT&T $10 million a year to obtain foreign call data wholly outside any judicially or statutorily authorized program.

Canada worst among industrialized on climate

OTTAWA - Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq arrived at a climate change conference in Warsaw late Monday amid exceedingly low expectations.

A European report released to coincide with the United Nations conference ranks Canada 55th of 58 countries in terms of tackling greenhouse gas emissions, ahead of only Iran, Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia.

A Washington-based group, the Center for Global Development, issued a separate report Monday that ranked Canada 27th on the environment out of the world's wealthiest 27 countries.

Design for Democracy: Mayor Ford, the media and democracy

"He's going to be the greatest mayor this city has ever, ever seen as far I'm concerned. Put that in your pipes you left-wing kooks."

- Don Cherry, Mayor Ford's inauguration, December 7, 2010

The international press shakes their heads while reporting on the antics at Toronto's City Hall, asking each other why Mayor Ford is so popular. Why did his ratings go up 5 per cent to 44 per cent the day after the crack video was released? Why was he able to ride into City Hall on the simplistic campaign slogan, the 'Gravy Train'? How has he remained in power for three years without contest? And how does he have so much chutzpah that he campaigned for re-election seconds after publicly admitting that he has smoked crack? Is it really possible that he could be elected again?

Ontario businesses ignore provincial accessibility law

Queen’s Park is ignoring thousands of Ontario businesses that are flouting the province’s disability accessibility legislation, government documents show.

Meanwhile, $24 million in government funds earmarked to oversee the law since it was passed in 2005 remains unspent, say the documents obtained under a freedom of information request.

Seventy per cent of private businesses with 20 employees or more, about 36,000 across the province, have failed to comply with the law’s reporting requirement, according to the data obtained by lawyer David Lepofsky of the Accessibility for Ontarians With Disabilities Act Alliance.

Government’s $38-billion shipbuilding plan doesn’t have enough money, auditor general to report

OTTAWA — Canada’s auditor general has found that the billions of dollars set aside for the federal government’s shipbuilding plan won’t be enough to get the navy the vessels it was promised, or needs.

Auditor General Michael Ferguson’s report on the national shipbuilding procurement strategy won’t be released until Nov. 26, but several sources who have seen versions of the report have told Postmedia News that it shows the current plan is untenable.

Records show Sona on a beach when Conservatives claim he confessed to robocalls

At the same time as some Conservative party staffers allege meeting with Michael Sona and reporting that he told them of his involvement in the robocalls controversy in the riding of Guelph, travel records show that Sona was vacationing on the island of Aruba.

Sona is charged with violating the Elections Act in a controversy stemming from the 2011 election wherein robocalls directed voters to the wrong polling stations.

Some of the most damaging testimony, according to a sworn statement by Elections Canada investigator Allan Mathews, comes from Rebecca Dockstaeder, who worked for CPC MP Chris Warkentin.

Qatar 2022 World Cup workers 'treated like cattle', Amnesty report finds

A damning Amnesty report has raised fresh fears about the exploitation of the migrant workers building the infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, amid a rising toll of death, disease and misery.

The report – published a week after Fifa's president, Sepp Blatter, met the country's emir and declared Qatar was "on the right track" in dealing with workers' rights – claims that some migrant workers are victims of forced labour, a modern form of slavery, and treated appallingly by subcontractors employed by leading construction companies in a sector rife with abuse.

Why This Congresswoman Opposes Effort To End Horrifying Horse Abuse

WASHINGTON -- The cruel practice of "soring" championship gaited horses by wrapping their hooves in corrosive chemicals and then applying chains or bands to the wounds in order to create an artificially high-stepping gait came under heightened scrutiny this week in Congress.

Kentucky Republican Rep. Ed Whitfield has introduced a bill to strengthen the decades-old ban on soring gaited horses. So far, Whitfield has garnered 233 co-sponsors from both parties, a difficult task in the highly polarized House of Representatives. But at a hearing of the Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday, Whitfield's bill was met with opposition from his fellow Republican, Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn.

Timothy Geithner Implemented Regulation That Went Easy On The Private Equity Industry; Now He's Going To Work For It

Private equity giants fought hard while debating Wall Street reform to make sure new rules that applied to investment banks left them exempt -- and the resulting Dodd-Frank legislation met their demands in a variety of ways.

Now former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who oversaw the passage and implementation of the law that gave private equity a competitive advantage, is joining the private equity industry.

Fallout from Trans-Pacific Partnership leak, 'fast-track' opposition in U.S.

A TPP cluster bomb dropped in Obama's lap this week. Here's what blew up in his face.

First, nearly half of House members have written the U.S. President "signaling their opposition to granting so-called fast-track authority that would make any agreement immune to a Senate filibuster and not subject to amendment," writes the New York Times, adding, "No major trade pact has been approved by Congress in recent decades without such authority."

That included a letter from 151 Democrats, 22 Republicans, 12 House Ways and Means committee Democrats and six moderate Republicans.

A Canada without compassion: A modest proposal from the Fraser Institute

The Fraser Institute would like to remove compassion from the policy debate about poverty in Canada. Why? Because, according to the author of its latest report on poverty, Christopher Sarlo, compassion is causing us to confuse those who have lower income with those who do not have enough income to sustain life. For Sarlo, those who use relative measures of poverty, which set a poverty line relative to, for example, the median income in Canada, are being misled by emotions. He writes: "Poverty, like disability, is an emotional issue, laden with strong feelings of sadness and disapprobation, but there is surely some value in setting emotion aside in order to measure the phenomenon as objectively as possible."

CSEC: The spies next door

A mammoth see-through glass building that no outsider is ever allowed to see through is rising in east Ottawa.

Six thousand construction workers, tradespeople and suppliers are erecting a futuristic $1.1-billion home for Canada’s premier intelligence agency, the Communications Security Establishment.

Everyone and everything on the site requires a security clearance. Even the wet cement was sifted for electronic bugs, according to a source.

The project CEO is Bud Mercer, the former RCMP assistant commissioner who led the gargantuan security effort for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service is a next-door neighbour. The whole area feels hermetically sealed.

Cyber-Activist Jeremy Hammond Sentenced to 10 Years In Prison

Cyber-activist Jeremy Hammond was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison this morning by Judge Loretta A. Preska in a federal courtroom in lower Manhattan for hacking the private intelligence firm Stratfor. When released, Hammond will be placed under supervised control, the terms of which include a prohibition on encryption or attempting to anonymize his identity online.

Hammond has shown a "total lack of respect for the law," Judge Preska said in her ruling, citing Hammond's criminal record – which includes a felony conviction for hacking from when he was 19 –  and what she called "unrepentant recidivism." There is a "desperate need to promote respect for the law," she said, as well as a "need for adequate public deterrence."

As Hammond was led into the courtroom, he looked over the roughly 100 supporters who had shown up, smiled, and said, "What's up, everybody?" Prior to the verdict, he read from a prepared statement and said it was time for him to step away from hacking as a form of activism, but recognized that tactic's continuing importance. "Those in power do not want the truth exposed," Hammond said from the podium, wearing black prison garb. He later stated that the injustices he has fought against "cannot be cured by reform, but by civil disobedience and direct action." He spoke out against capitalism and a wide range of other social ills, including mass incarceration and crackdowns on protest movements.

Canada's greenhouse gas stance slammed as COP 19 seeks solutions

The annual United Nations climate conference, known as the 19th Conference of the Parties or COP 19, is underway in Warsaw with considerably less fanfare than years past. Expectations for this one are even lower than usual, after the disappointments and plodding progress of the last few conferences.

World leaders are backing away from the 2015 target for a global climate treaty to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, and the news for people concerned about climate change has not been encouraging.

Why Are Children Working in American Tobacco Fields?

The air was heavy and humid on the morning the three Cuello sisters joined their mother in the tobacco fields. The girls were dressed in jeans and long-sleeve shirts, carried burritos wrapped in aluminum foil, and had no idea what they were getting themselves into. “It was our first real job,” says Neftali, the youngest. She was 12 at the time. The middle sister, Kimberly, was 13. Yesenia was 14.

Their mother wasn’t happy for the company. After growing up in Mexico, she hadn’t crossed the border so that her kids could become farmworkers. But the girls knew their mom was struggling. She had left her husband and was supporting the family on the minimum wage. If her girls worked in the tobacco fields, it would quadruple the family’s summer earnings. “My mom tends to everybody,” Neftali says. This was a chance to repay that debt.

ALEC Floats Legislation Chipping Away At The 17th Amendment

WASHINGTON -- The conservative American Legislative Exchange Council is wading back into election issues, as it considers supporting a bill that would increase the role of state legislatures in the election of U.S. senators, chipping away at the powers vested directly in the people under the 17th Amendment.

ALEC circulates model legislation to state legislators, and its bills have resulted in states passing laws related to voter ID, so-called Stand Your Ground issues and the elimination or reduction of state income taxes.

The State With The Most Rich People Also Has The Highest Poverty Rate

California has both the most ultra-wealthy individuals and the highest poverty rate of any U.S. state, according to recent reports.

"This chasm is growing day by day, year by year," Larry Gerston, professor of political science at San Jose State University, said to The Huffington Post. "Those at the top in California are just as happy as a clam. Their incomes are going up much faster than anyone else's."

In 2013, the Golden-for-some State was home to the most -- 12,560 -- ultra-wealthy individuals, according to a new report by Wealth-X, a think tank focusing on wealthy people. New York had the second most, with 8,945 ultra-wealthy individuals. Wealth-X defines ultra-wealthy as having a net worth of at least $30 million.

Walmart CEO's Retirement Plan 6,200 Times Bigger Than Workers' Plans: Study

Think Walmart’s CEO-to-worker pay ratio is high? You ain’t seen nothing yet.

Walmart CEO Mike Duke's retirement package of more than $113 million is nearly 6,200 times bigger than the average 401(k) balance of a non-executive Walmart worker, which was $18,303, according to a new analysis by Dana Lime at NerdWallet, a personal finance site.

Biggest Tax Break In U.S. History May Not Be Enough For Boeing

Earlier this week, the legislature in Washington state agreed to give Boeing $8.7 billion in tax breaks through 2040 in an attempt to convince the company to locate production of a new jetliner fleet in the state. It's believed to be the largest state tax break for a company ever. But the huge concession still may not satisfy Boeing.

The company is now threatening to take production of the jetliner fleet elsewhere over a contract dispute with its machinist union. On Thursday, the union shot down a proposal from Boeing that would have replaced worker pensions with a contribution retirement savings plan and guaranteed raises of just 1 percent every other year, according to the Seattle Times. The New York Times reports that the proposed biannual 1 percent raise would have been in conjunction with some cost-of-living escalations.

Clinton vs. Warren?

“HILLARY’S NIGHTMARE.” That’s the cover line for a shrewd and bouncy Noam Scheiber piece in the new issue of the New Republic. The teaser specifies what that nightmare could be: “A DEMOCRATIC PARTY THAT REALIZES ITS SOUL LIES WITH ELIZABETH WARREN INSTEAD.”

I can think of several nightmares that would cost H.R.C. more R.E.M. sleep than an E.W. run for POTUS. But Scheiber is surely right that no one could give the currently prohibitive favorite a tougher run for her money than the first-term (and already senior!) senator from Massachusetts. His case in a nutshell:

    In addition to being strongly identified with the party’s populist wing, any candidate who challenged Clinton would need several key assets. The candidate would almost certainly have to be a woman, given Democrats’ desire to make history again. She would have to amass huge piles of money with relatively little effort. Above all, she would have to awaken in Democratic voters an almost evangelical passion. As it happens, there is precisely such a person. Her name is Elizabeth Warren.

Rich will tower over poor in London's Docklands

It will be bigger than Canary Wharf tower, worth more than £1bn and create more than 700 luxury apartments to appeal to the world's super-rich. Hertsmere Tower is the latest grand residential project planned for the capital that will target the overseas buyers who are currently picking up four out of every five prime London properties.

Days after the estate agency firm Savills warned that developers in London were focusing on high-end properties when the biggest need was for affordable homes, it has emerged that an Irish developer is planning to build a 74-storey, 714-apartment skyscraper alongside the Canary Wharf tower in London's Docklands.

UK's reputation is damaged by reaction to Edward Snowden, says UN official

A senior United Nations official responsible for freedom of expression has warned that the British government's response to the mass surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden is doing serious damage to the UK's international reputation for investigative journalism and press freedom.

Frank La Rue, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression, said he was alarmed at the political reaction following the revelations about the extent and reach of secret surveillance programmes run by Britain's eavesdropping centre, GCHQ, and its US counterpart, the National Security Agency (NSA).

Theodore Wafer Charged With Murder In Shooting Death Of Renisha McBride

A man was charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter and a related gun charge in the death of 19-year-old Renisha McBride, Michigan's Wayne County Prosecutor's Office said Friday.

Prosecutor Kym Worthy announced the charges against Theodore Paul Wafer, 54, also known as Ted, who allegedly shot the young woman in the face on his porch in Dearborn Heights, Mich. in the early hours of Nov. 2.

"We obviously do not feel that the evidence in this case reveals that the defendant acted in lawful self defense," Worthy said.

Wafer's attorney, Cheryl Carpenter, did not immediately return a request for comment.

China Plans To Loosen One-Child Policy, Abolish Much-Criticized Labor Camp System: Report

BEIJING (AP) — China's leaders announced on Friday the first significant easing of the country's one-child policy in nearly 30 years and moved to abolish an often-abused labor camp system, while vowing some of the most ambitious economic reforms in recent Chinese history.

The long-debated changes to the family planning rules and labor camp system address deeply unpopular programs at a time when the Communist Party feels increasingly alienated from the public.

The extent of the changes surprised some analysts. They were contained in a policy document issued after a four-day meeting of party leaders in Beijing one year after Xi Jinping took the country's helm.

LAX Shooting: TSA Officer Bled For 33 Minutes As Help Stood By, Officials Say

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Los Angeles Police Department official says an internal investigation will be done into an allegation that an LAPD officer delayed medical aid when he told responders that an airport security officer was dead after being shot.

Cmdr. Andrew Smith said Friday the department always investigates allegations against its officers.

Marshall McClain, president of the airport police union, claims LAPD Officer John Long told responding officers that Transportation Security Administration Officer Gerardo Hernandez was dead as he lay in a terminal on Nov. 1 after a gunman targeted TSA officers.

It's unclear how that determination was made or whether Long was qualified to do so. Long declined comment.

McClain says an airport police officer later thought he detected a light pulse and wheeled Hernandez to paramedics — 33 minutes after he was shot.

Original Article

Demonizing democracy

Folks, I’m warning you, there’s a new threat looming at City Hall.

Listen up to all the solemn talk about rehab and Rob dealing with his “problem.” Is this scandalous situation really about something as ordinary as addiction and its redemption? No way. That’s just another pernicious new storyline that simply doesn’t fit the crime.

I understand why the chorus of experts witnessing the Ford affair latch on to the familiar substance abuse drama. It’s so clearly a major player in the cast of insidious characters now on the city stage. Of course Rob Ford is dangerous both to himself and others. But rehab doesn’t cut it as an endgame. Even forcing him to step down doesn’t do justice to the situation at hand.

BC Quietly Scopes out Drones

They are the ultimate eyes in the sky that have revolutionized flight. They could become important tools to fight forest fires or rescue lost boaters or hikers. But civil libertarians say they are a threat to privacy if police buy fleets without public input or oversight.

They are unmanned aerial vehicles -- better known as drones -- and they are here in British Columbia.

A briefing note for the B.C. government's director of police services says the regional RCMP operations manual does not prohibit the Mounties from using drones in the province.

Public Paid Clark's Way to Kelowna Campaign Launch

On the day Christy Clark launched her successful byelection campaign in Westside-Kelowna, British Columbia taxpayers paid to fly her from Vancouver to the Okanagan city.

Clark called the byelection on June 12, then flew the next day to Kelowna to launch her campaign a day ahead of a meeting there with Alberta Premier Alison Redford.

A June 13 BC Liberal Party press release was clear Clark would spend the extra day in Kelowna campaigning. "Premier Christy Clark will begin her byelection campaign in Westside-Kelowna today," the party's release said. "Her schedule includes afternoon meetings with community leaders and then door-to-door campaigning."

Genocide, refugees and an inconvenient truth about Harper's boycott

"Canada will not tolerate the abuse of the Immigration system by terrorist elements escaping Sri Lanka." -- former Minister of Immigration Jason Kenney

In 2009, I was amongst thousands of Toronto’s Tamil community that protested against the war in Sri Lanka. We braved the bitter cold and formed human chains across downtown to desperately turn people's attention to the carnage of chemical weapons unleashed on our families and communities.

While most Torontonians celebrated mother’s day, we occupied the Gardiner Expressway when over a thousand civilians were killed in 24 hours.

Cracked: Rob Ford and the death of shame

Picture a 330-pound Lindsay Lohan with testicles, headed for secret rehab, and you have the mayor of Toronto.

No answers to questions about your recovery plan, Mr. Mayor? You want us to respect your family’s privacy? The way you did when you told the world in a scrum that you were getting enough to eat at home?

Driven by the full brain-rot of reality TV, infomercial journalism and a democracy facing the abyss, we have entered the era of ROFO madness.

Premiers seek 'explicit alternatives' to federal job grant plan

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says the controversial Canada Job Grant was top of the agenda when premiers gathered for their semi-annual meeting in Toronto Friday morning.

Wynne who is hosting the fall meeting as chair of the Council of the Federation, which brings together Canada's provincial and territorial leaders, said the premiers support "evidence based" programs and have directed their ministers responsible for skills and training to present "explicit alternatives" to the federal government's job grant plan.

Ottawa digging in for Canada Job Grant fight with premiers

Stephen Harper's government is well down the road to redefining its relationship with the provinces, an approach that jettisons co-operative for confrontational federalism.

Premiers meeting Friday in Toronto would do well to take note.

The latest flashpoint is the proposed skills training program introduced in the federal budget that's supposed to equip Canadians for thousands of highly-skilled jobs that now go unfilled.

Tories Again Accuse Justin Trudeau Of Promoting Pot To Children

Conservatives are once again accusing Justin Trudeau of promoting pot to children after the Liberal leader explained his plan to legalize marijuana to a group of students on Wednesday.

Trudeau was in Brandon, Manitoba, to give a boost to Rolf Dinsdale, his Grit candidate in this month's byelection. The two visited a school in Sioux Valley, where students apparently asked Trudeau about his pot plan.

James O'Connor, managing editor of the Brandon Sun, posted on Twitter that Trudeau received applause when he explained why he favours legalizing and controlling the drug.

Alabama Man Won't Serve Prison Time for Raping 14-Year-Old

An Alabama man convicted of raping a teenage girl will serve no prison time. On Wednesday, a judge in Athens, Alabama, ruled that the rapist will be punished by serving two years in a program aimed at nonviolent criminals and three years of probation.

In September, a jury in Limestone County, in north central Alabama, found Austin Smith Clem, 25, guilty of raping Courtney Andrews, a teenage acquaintance and his then-neighbor, three times—twice when she was 14, and again when was she was 18.

Clem's defense attorney did not call any witnesses at trial, according to After less than two hours of deliberation, the jury returned guilty verdicts against Clem on one count of first-degree rape and two counts of second-degree rape.

Amherst, Vanderbilt Accused Of Botching Sexual Assault Complaints

Two prestigious colleges were hit with federal complaints Thursday, alleging that the schools mishandled student reports of sexual assault and harassment and allow hostile sexual environments.

Two former Amherst College students who said they had been raped at the school in Massachusetts filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Education, accusing the school of improper responses that one woman said included sending her to a psychiatric ward. Six current and former students at Vanderbilt University also filed Education Department complaints, saying the school in Nashville, Tenn., failed to properly respond to their reports of sex crimes or harassment. One said the university pressured her to allow the school to handle a stalking complaint, but failed to take action against the accused stalker.

CIA Collecting Records Of International Money Transfers: Reports

Nov 15 (Reuters) - The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency is collecting records of international money transfers under the same law that the National Security Agency uses to collect Americans' phone and Internet records, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

The data, which includes records from companies such as Western Union Co, is part of a database of financial and personal information authorized under the Patriot Act, the newspapers reported, citing unnamed current and former government officials.

The Yellen Doctrine: Robust Growth Is the Priority, but Bubbles Matter

Testifying before the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday morning, Janet Yellen, who has been nominated as the next head of the Federal Reserve, confirmed what people who have dealt with her over the years already knew: she’s a very smart and formidable woman. Displaying virtually no sign of nerves in a key confirmation hearing, she gave direct answers to questions on a variety of issues, avoided spooking the markets, and even managed to disarm some of the Fed critics on the panel.

All in all, it was an impressive performance from the sixty-seven-year-old product of Fort Hamilton High School, in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, if not a particularly surprising one. Senator Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Ohio, pointed out that Yellen, who has held a number of senior positions at the central bank over the past twenty years, including, most recently, serving as Ben Bernanke’s deputy, might be the most qualified person ever chosen to run the Fed. And yet, she hasn’t been without her critics. During the summer, when there was widespread speculation that President Obama was intent on passing over her in favor of Larry Summers, some anonymous Administration officials questioned whether she had the chops to respond to financial crises and do all the other things that heads of central banks are expected to do. While one accomplished appearance on Capitol Hill doesn’t make Yellen a successful Fed chairwoman, she has already quieted some of the doubters.

Heinz shuts down Ont. plant, cuts 740 jobs

LEAMINGTON, Ont. - After more than a century operating in the heart of Ontario's tomato country, ketchup-maker Heinz Canada is closing the doors of its plant in Leamington next year.

The food manufacturer and processor said Thursday that the shutdown will be phased in over the next six to eight months and will cut 740 full-time, permanent jobs. Up to 500 seasonal workers hired each year during tomato-harvesting season will also be affected.

Heinz has been in Leamington for more than a century, after choosing the city in 1909 for its first expansion outside the United States.

Harper adviser delayed robocall witness interview for legal advice, email shows

OTTAWA – One of Prime Minister Stephen Harper‘s top advisers instructed a potential key witness in the robocalls investigation to delay an interview with an Elections Canada investigator until she could obtain legal advice.

Jenni Byrne, who was the Conservatives’ national campaign manager during the 2011 election, emailed Guelph campaign worker Andrew Prescott on Nov. 30, 2011, to ask him not to talk to an investigator looking into the “Pierre Poutine” robocall until she had a chance to talk to the party’s lawyer.

Canada's posture on global warming shows contempt for victims of Typhoon Haiyan

Prime Minister Harper and other members of his government -- and even the PM’s wife, Laureen -- are doing a fair bit of grandstanding against the backdrop of the cruel and devastating typhoon that struck the Philippines.

Almost daily, they are announcing various forms of Canadian aid: from cash to airplanes to teams of disaster relief specialists.

Anything Canada can do is desperately needed, of course. The people of the Philippines will welcome whatever assistance actually gets to those in need.

Something Fishy About BC's Proposed Water Act

If you want to know what someone really values, don't look at what they say, look at what they do. Take, for instance, how the B.C. government plans to handle the competing needs of fish and the oil and gas industry under the new Water Sustainability Act.

If you look at what the government says in its 120-page legislative proposal, you'll notice an emphasis on the need to protect fish. But when you examine how the proposed amendments mesh with the existing law, it becomes clear that fish needs will still come second to those of the oil and gas industry. While industry will likely continue to have access to pretty much all the water it wants, fish will have no real legal protection for their water needs.

Harper's Boon to the Arbitration Industry

The ICSID Convention dates to 1965. It was pushed originally by the World Bank, Western Europeans, and U.S. as a way to protect companies in newly-independent countries emerging from colonization. Now it is coming to Canada.

For decades, ICSID was a sleepy place in which occasional arbitrations were held under contracts for specific investment projects. ICSID's caseload exploded from about 2000, after countries in the 1990s increasingly allowed foreign investors as a group to sue them under treaties like NAFTA.

Even so, nearly all ICSID lawsuits by foreign investors have been against developing countries. This is because developed countries rarely agreed to investor-state arbitration in treaties amongst themselves or, for that matter, in contracts. The main exception was Canada's acceptance of investor-state arbitration at the U.S.' bidding under NAFTA. With Canada's ratification of the ICSID Convention, the NAFTA allowance for ICSID lawsuits against Canada, and by Canadian investors against the U.S., will be operational.

Canadian tourism declines despite world travel boom

Tourism is one of the world’s fastest-growing businesses, yet the number of international travellers to Canada has declined 20 per cent since 2000, according to a report from Deloitte & Touche.

Canada’s tourism industry is struggling to compete as the global travel business undergoes unprecedented change, according to the "Passport to Growth" report.

Prison beatings caught on video at Ontario and Quebec jails

Prison guards at several Ontario and Quebec jails punch, knee or slap inmates in surveillance videos exclusively obtained by CBC News and Radio-Canada, underscoring the ongoing push to blanket all correctional facilities with surveillance cameras.

The five different videos were obtained through court applications and arbitration hearings launched in Ontario and Quebec.

In one video, an inmate who tosses his shirt at a guard while he is changing is grabbed by the neck and thrown to the ground. In another, a prisoner is led down a hall and, on reaching a doorway, is struck in the head, then has his head slammed against a wall four times and is punched repeatedly and kneed. Following the beating he is seen cowering in fear.

'See You In Court': An Expensive, Time-Consuming Wrong-Headed Strategy

Last year the Conservative government spent more fighting Indigenous people in the courts than it spent going after tax frauds. The latest Public Accounts show that the $106 million that the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development spent on litigation last year was more than any other department and almost double the $66 million spent by the runner up, Canada Revenue Agency.

Unfortunately, this approach is what we have come to expect from this government. They wilfully ignore Aboriginal rights, daring Indigenous people to take them to court on a range of issues; from First Nations' child welfare to resource development, the government's response has been "see you in court."

Unfazed by gun-crime ruling, Tories look at new mandatory sentences

The Conservative government is considering new mandatory minimum sentences for some crimes even though an Ontario court has just ruled that three-year minimums for certain gun crimes are not constitutional.

Justice Minister Peter MacKay said on Wednesday that Ottawa is mulling new sentencing rules for impaired driving offences that cause death or serious bodily harm. “We’re looking at those provisions of the Criminal Code, looking to possibly include mandatory minimum sentences for those offences and others,” he said.

Ottawa sits on more than $10 billion in 2012-13, statements show

OTTAWA — The federal government held on to more than $10 billion it was expected to spend in 2012-13, with almost half coming from two departments, according to recently-published financial documents.

These were funds Parliament approved and Canadians were told they could expect through a slew of programs in dozens of departments, including the Senate Ethics Officer, disability and death compensation at Veterans Affairs, and weather and environmental services for Canadians at Environment Canada.

Wisconsin Lawmakers Moving To Make Recalls Tougher

MILWAUKEE, Nov 14 (Reuters) - Wisconsin lawmakers are expected to take a step on Thursday to limit recalls of elected state officials to cases of serious crimes or ethics violations, following challenges that targeted the governor and several senators in recent years.

Opponents of Governor Scott Walker launched massive protests at the Capitol in Madison in 2011 and later sought to recall the first-term Republican after he pressed legislation to limit the powers of some public sector unions.