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.]

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Gold-embossed business cards created for Clement, Hawn, against rules: documents

OTTAWA - At least two more key Conservatives got gold-embossed business cards, contrary to long-standing government rules against fancy stationery.

Tony Clement was given his gold cards shortly after being promoted to Treasury Board president in the May 2011 cabinet shuffle, following the election of a Conservative majority.

And colleague Laurie Hawn, an Edmonton MP appointed temporarily to a cabinet committee looking at cost-cutting, got his own set of gold-embossed cards at the same time.

Shell's Jackpine Mine Gets Nod From Ottawa, Despite Environmental Effects

Shell Canada's Jackpine oilsands mine expansion plan has received the go-ahead from Ottawa, despite the environment minister's view that it's "likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects."

In a statement late Friday, environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq concluded that the effects from the 100,000-barrel-per-day expansion are "justified in the circumstances."

Calif. Obamacare Shares Data Without Consent

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The California health exchange says it's been giving the names of tens of thousands of consumers to insurance agents without their permission or knowledge in an effort to hit deadlines for coverage.

The consumers in question had gone online to research insurance options but didn't ask to be contacted, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday ( ).

Officials with Covered California, the exchange set up in response to the federal health law, said they began providing names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses if available this week in a pilot program. They said they thought it would help people meet a Dec. 23 deadline to have health insurance in place by Jan. 1.

How American Conservatives Turned A Blind Eye To South African Apartheid

As news of Nelson Mandela's death spread on Thursday, Americans on the right and left lauded his accomplishments and expressed their sadness at his passing. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) called the former South African president "an unrelenting voice for democracy." Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) applauded Mandela as "an inspiration for defenders of liberty around the globe."

But though conservatives celebrate Mandela today, they weren't always behind him.

Ukraine Opposition: No Talks Unless President Fires Government

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine's opposition, preparing for what it hopes will be a gigantic protest rally on Sunday, says it will negotiate with President Viktor Yanukovych only if he fires the government and appoints a new one committed to deepening European integration.

Around 20,000 demonstrators crowded into Kiev's Independence Square on a windy and snowy night Saturday, but organizers of the protests, which are now in their third week, are calling for a massive turnout Sunday. A throng estimated at 300,000 or more showed up for a similar rally a week ago.

WTO agreement condemned as deal for corporations, not world's poor

The World Trade Organisation has sealed its first global trade deal after almost 160 ministers who had gathered on the Indonesian island of Bali agreed to reforms to boost world commerce.

The agreement, which was criticised by anti-poverty charities, came after intense lobbying by India over measures to protect its poorest farmers. A last-minute compromise between the US and Cuba was also needed over references in the final draft to the continuing trade embargo of the Caribbean island.

"For the first time in our history, the WTO has truly delivered," WTO chief Roberto Azevedo told exhausted ministers after the talks which had dragged into an extra day on the tropical resort island.

South Korea extends its air defence zone to overlap with China's

South Korea says it has extended its air defence zone to partially overlap with a similar zone declared by China two weeks ago that has sharply raised regional tensions.

Beijing's declaration of an air defence identification zone in an area that includes islands at the heart of a territorial dispute with Japan has triggered protests from the United States, Japan, South Korea and Australia.

MPs' 11% pay rise set to embarrass party leaders

David Cameron and Ed Miliband will face embarrassment this week when it is announced that MPs will be paid an annual salary of £74,000 from 2015 despite their calls for "cheaper politics".

The independent parliamentary standards authority, Ipsa, is to reveal its decision to increase salaries by 11% despite a lack of support from the prime minister and the leader of the Labour party. MPs' salaries will then go up annually in line with national wages.

The old hatreds behind the China-Japan provocation war

If China were a contestant in an online game — such as, say, World of Warcraft — it would probably be accused of trolling, the internet term for committing gratuitous mischief for the sheer delight of getting a rise out of others.

But as this is the real world, with the possibility of real war, we should probably rule out a playful adolescent urge as China's motive for its surprise declaration of an Air Defence Identification Zone for much of the East China Sea.

Apart from being one of the world's busiest transportation corridors, this zone also includes that grouping of hotly contested rocky islets known in China as the Diaoyu and in Japan as the Senkaku islands.

Once famous for providing albatross feathers to the world's milliners, the uninhabited islands are claimed by both countries.

Dear revisionists: Nelson Mandela was about politics, race, force and freedom

Dear revisionists,

Mandela will never, ever be your minstrel. Over the next few days you will try so, so hard to make him something he was not, and you will fail.

You will try to smooth him, to sandblast him, to take away his Malcolm X. You will try to hide his anger from view. Right now, you are anxiously pacing the corridors of your condos and country estates, looking for the right words, the right tributes, the right-wing tributes.

Oilsands Strategy Presentation Indicates 'Worst-Case Scenario' Has Come To Pass

A strategic analysis carried out in 2010 for the oilsands identifies a “worst-case scenario” for the industry that appears to have come to pass.

In a PowerPoint presentation evidently put together for oilsands giant Suncor, Texas-based intelligence consultancy Stratfor warns of a scenario in which the anti-oilsands movement “becomes the most significant environmental campaign of the decade as activists on both sides of the border come to view the industry as arrogant.”

Nelson Mandela Was Released From Prison After 27 Years. These 10 Political Prisoners Are Still Waiting

In 1964, Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life in prison over his calls for a colorblind South Africa. He ended up serving 27 years behind bars.

Hours after his release on Feb. 11, 1990, Mandela vowed to end apartheid once and for all, telling a roaring crowd: "Today, the majority of South Africans, black and white, recognize that apartheid has no future. It has to be ended by our decisive mass action. We have waited too long for our freedom."

Potentially damaging Jackpine oilsands mine expansion OK'd by Ottawa

Shell Canada's Jackpine oilsands mine expansion plan has received the go-ahead from Ottawa, despite the environment minister's view that it's "likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects."

In a statement late Friday, Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq concluded that the effects from the 100,000-barrel-per-day expansion are "justified in the circumstances."

$4M spent on policing shale gas protests was necessary: N.B. finance minister

FREDERICTON – New Brunswick’s finance minister says is unfortunate the province has had to spend an additional $4 million on policing to deal with protests against shale gas exploration.

However, Blaine Higgs says the provincial government has to step in when there is unlawful activity.

An anti-shale gas protest near Rexton turned violent in October when police enforced an injunction to halt the blockade of a equipment compound.

Forty people were arrested and six police vehicles burned.

The protesters say their blockade was peaceful until police showed up.

Public Safety Minister Bruce Northrup is defending the police action, saying officers discovered weapons among the protesters.

The exploration company, SWN Resources, has since been granted another injunction that provides a buffer zone around its equipment.

Original Article
Author:  Staff  The Canadian Press 

Flaherty denies EI tied to budget surplus

MARKHAM, Ont. - Federal finance Minister Jim Flaherty is denying a federal watchdog analysis that says he's using high EI premiums to beef up his expected budget surplus in 2015.

"We do not take EI funds and use them to balance the budget. That's what the Liberals did," Flaherty said Friday during a media conference in Markham, outside of Toronto, where he was holding pre-budget consultations with local academics, business and community leaders.

"We have stabilized and frozen the EI rates."

Ottawa’s bill for extra legal services has soared over seven years

OTTAWA—Spending on extra legal services has increased fourfold under the Conservatives in Ottawa, ballooning from $106.7 million in 2006 to more than $462 million last year, a Star analysis shows.

The drastic spike in outside legal support outstrips increases in every other category of contracted work for the federal government. A Star report revealed Tuesday that spending on contracted professional services has increased 27.8 per cent between 2006, when the Conservatives took power, and the past fiscal year.

Today's USDA Meat Safety Chief Is Tomorrow's Agribiz Consultant

Deloitte Touche is one of the globe's "big four" auditing and consulting firms. It's a player in the Big Food/Ag space—Deloitte's clients include "75% of the Fortune 500 food production companies." The firm's US subsidiary, Deloitte & Touche LLP, has a shiny new asset to dangle before its agribusiness clients: It has hired the US Department of Agriculture's Undersecretary for Food Safety, Elisabeth Hagan. She will "join Deloitte's consumer products practice as a food safety senior advisor," the firm stated in a press release. The firm also trumpeted her USDA affiliation:

    "Elisabeth will bring to Deloitte an impressive blend of regulatory level oversight and hands-on experience, stemming from her role as the highest ranking food safety official in the U.S.," said Pat Conroy, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP, and Deloitte's U.S. consumer products practice leader.

Legal Experts Slam Controversial Farm Bill Amendment In Letter To Congress

A group of law professors have written to the House and Senate blasting a controversial amendment to the farm bill currently undergoing negotiations.

Originally published in a study, the letter penned by 14 law professors was obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle and not released publicly. In it, they reportedly criticize the Protect Interstate Commerce Act introduced by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), an amendment that seeks to limit states’ power to supervise their own farming standards. If passed, the amendment would ban states from requiring agricultural and livestock conditions that are stricter than those in other states, so long as the products are intended for out-of-state sale.

The Toxic Smog Cloud Hanging Over Shanghai Looks Just As Bad As It Sounds

Shanghai is notorious for its terrible air quality, but the smog in this Chinese metropolis just hit absurd levels. The government's air pollution monitoring site records the level of PM2.5, particulate matter hazardous to health, at 477 as of this writing, one of the highest pollution levels ever recorded. The World Health Organization recommends an average PM2.5 level of 20 or below.

A fetid product of industrial pollution, car exhaust and particulate matter from coal burning, this blanket has been left to fester in the city's streets due to a bout of cold and still weather. It makes the city a dangerous place to be a living, breathing human right now. "Severely polluted" air, the government site states, puts residents at increased risk of cardiopulmonary diseases, and it's suggested that everyone in the city avoid outdoor activity.

AP reports:

    Shanghai authorities ordered schoolchildren indoors and halted all construction Friday as China's financial hub suffered one of its worst bouts of air pollution, bringing visibility down to a few dozen meters, delaying flights and obscuring the city's spectacular skyline.

    The financial district was shrouded in a yellow haze, and noticeably fewer people walked the city's streets. Vehicle traffic also was thinner, as authorities pulled 30 percent of government vehicles from the roads. They also banned fireworks and public sporting events.

Original Article
Author:  The Huffington Post  |  By Sara Boboltz

US Energy Independence: Another Pipe Dream, Says Analyst

One of Canada's top energy analysts has warned investors and geologists that "the shale revolution" will not meet conventional expectations as a so-called game-changer in energy production.

Speaking at the Denver meeting of the Geological Society of America and later at Queen's University and an energy conference in Toronto, David Hughes challenged the assumptions of industry cheerleaders by spelling out startling depletion rates for high-cost unconventional shale and tight oil wells.

Mohamed Mahjoub's Terrorism Links Upheld By Federal Judge

TORONTO, Cananda - A judge upheld the federal government's branding of an Egyptian man as a threat to Canada after finding the evidence —including being "trusted" by Osama bin Laden — supported Ottawa's assertion he was involved with terrorist groups.

Federal Court Judge Edmond Blanchard determined the evidence constituted "reasonable grounds to believe" Mohamed Mahjoub was a member of two groups engaged in terrorism.

Williams, Harper had testy exchanges

Danny Williams has given rare insight into his tense relationship with Stephen Harper.

The feud between Williams, when he was premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, and the prime minister was no secret. According to Williams, things started off on a bad foot even before Harper became PM.

Two months ago, Williams was entertaining 150 people at a $100-per-plate fundraiser for the Atlantic Salmon Federation at the Capital Hotel in St. John’s.

Dimitri Soudas gets senior job with Conservatives

Dimitri Soudas, the former communications director for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, is the new executive director of the Conservative Party of Canada.

The party's national council confirmed his new position Friday night in a move that would suggest Harper is surrounding himself with hardened, partisan loyalists in the lead-up to the next federal election.

The prime minister has recently brought into his inner circle two fiercely loyal Conservatives, Ray Novak, who is now working as his chief of staff, and Jenni Byrne, who is serving as deputy chief of staff.

Caucus members contacted by CBC News had mixed feelings about having Soudas return to the party's ranks.

Soudas left the Prime Minister's Office in 2011 to work for the Canadian Olympic Committee.
He announced his resignation from the COC on Thursday.

Original Article
Source: CBC
Author: cbc

Urban Development Institute - Calgary Article Offends With References To Gays, Minorities

It was an article intended to make the case for diversified development in Calgary but the piece published by Urban Development Institute - Calgary Wednesday only managed to alienate the organization in the public arena.

UDI - Calgary, which often speaks out against the city's current desire to curb urban sprawl, tried to make the case for suburban development by saying gays, tattooed people and visible minorities don't feel comfortable living in the city's fringes.

Patriot Act Author Jim Sensenbrenner: DNI James Clapper Should Be Prosecuted For Lying To Congress

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper should be fired and prosecuted for lying to Congress about the National Security Agency's widespread surveillance activities, Wisconsin Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R) told the Hill.

Sensenbrenner was the original author of the Patriot Act, which the NSA claims allows it to collect records of every phone call made in America. But Sensenbrenner has said he is shocked by the agency's interpretation of the law.

Doug Ford explains Pravda to journalists

As his brother’s frontline of defense against the media, the police, reality and anything else that may potentially rupture the mayor’s cozy delusion that he’s anything other than an embarrassment Katamari tumbling lopsided through civic governance, attaining layers of fresh humiliations as he spools through what’s left of his mayoralty, councilor Doug Ford deigned to speak to the press today, briefly.

Oilsands Environmental Impacts Growing, Says New Report

EDMONTON - A report by an environmental monitoring agency has found the variety of plants and animals in the oilsands area is largely healthy.

But the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute, an agency funded by industry and government, has found that animals that prefer old-growth forests, such as marten, are deserting the region in favour of those such as coyotes, which are found everywhere.

Atheist Ads Banned In Vancouver

Vancouver's billboards will not play host to an ad promoted by the Centre For Inquiry that endorses an atheist worldview, because the company that owns almost all of the advertising hoardings in the city has refused to run it.

The Centre says that Pattison Outdoor—owned by local businessman Jimmy Pattison—has refused to run ads that feature "parables that replace religious morality with humanist ethical wisdom."

Does Rob Anders Still Think Nelson Mandela Was A Terrorist? It Seems So

It appears Rob Anders still believes Nelson Mandela was a terrorist.

The outspoken Conservative MP was the sole parliamentarian to vote against making Mandela an honorary citizen in 2001, preventing the motion from passing unanimously.

Anders, a Canadian Alliance MP at the time, infamously labeled the anti-apartheid leader and former South African president "a terrorist and a Communist."

Rick Santorum: Nelson Mandela Fought 'Great Injustice,' Just Like Republicans Are Battling Obamacare

During an appearance on Fox News Thursday night, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) discussed the death of Nelson Mandela, saying the former South African president fought "great injustice" just like Republicans who are battling Obamacare.

"Nelson Mandela stood up against a great injustice and was willing to pay a huge price for that. That's the reason he's mourned today, because of that struggle that he performed," Santorum said. "But you're right, I mean, what he was advocating for was not necessarily the right answer, but he was fighting against some great injustice, and I would make the argument that we have a great injustice going on right now in this country with an ever-increasing size of government that is taking over and controlling people's lives, and Obamacare is front and center in that."

The statement, pointed out by Slate's Dave Weigel in a tweet Friday morning, came after Fox News host Bill O'Reilly claimed Mandela "was a great man, but he was a communist."

"I would never attack Nelson Mandela," O'Reilly said next.

Original Article
Author: The Huffington Post  |  By Paige Lavender

Mandela’s Electoral Legacy

A moral and political giant like Nelson Mandela seldom appears more than once or twice in a hundred years. In the twentieth century, the only fully comparable figure who comes immediately to mind is Mohandas K. Gandhi, whose work in South Africa foreshadowed Mandela’s. Looking at the nineteenth century, one thinks of Abraham Lincoln.

And in the eighteenth century? Mandela has often been called the George Washington of his country, and justly so. But he was also South Africa’s James Madison.

Why One Female Board Member Isn’t Enough

“It’s the same male chauvinistic thinking,” Vivek Wadhwa, a fellow at Stanford’s Rock Center for Corporate Governance, told the Times in October, in reference to Twitter’s all-male board. “The fact that they went to the I.P.O. without a single woman on the board, how dare they?”

Dick Costolo, the C.E.O. of Twitter, dismissed Wadhwa—via tweets, of course—as “the Carrot Top of academic sources,” with a “propensity for silly hyperbole.” When others chimed in that Costolo seemed not to be taking the issue seriously, he suddenly became solemn: “I *think* I have an acute understanding of the topic & host of related issues,” he wrote. “Of course, proof is in deeds.”

China pulls out of UN process over territorial dispute with Philippines

China is taking the highly unusual step of refusing to participate in a United Nations arbitration process over a territorial conflict with the Philippines, one of five countries challenging Beijing’s claims of ownership over the oil-rich South China Sea.

The legal dispute underscores the tough geopolitical approach China is adopting in the Pacific region. It has adopted an aggressive approach toward neighbours over a 2,000-mile stretch that also includes the East China Sea, over which it recently declared the air defence identification zone that has inflamed tensions with Japan and South Korea.

Who gets muzzled next by unconstitutional Redford Government laws? Environmentalists?

Now that the Redford Government's unconstitutional attack on free collective bargaining and free speech is in full swing, we have to ask ourselves who’s next?


Quite possibly.

I mean, who else would they like to shut up right now as much as they want to muzzle those pesky public sector unions -- which are always noisily defending public services Alberta Premier Alison Redford's government would really prefer to privatize?

Leave, Steve. And take the sludge with you

Will Steve leave?

I don’t know the answer. But when they start naming bird sanctuaries after this PM, the end must be near.

Naming a bird sanctuary after Stephen Harper is like naming a kids’ summer camp after Rob Ford. But that’s the plan of the Jewish National Fund, which held an impressive fundraiser last week to raise money for the project.

Atlas V Rocket Launches From California Coast

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AP) — A rocket carrying a secret payload for the U.S. government has successfully launched from the central California coast.

The Atlas V rocket lit up the night sky at about 11:15 p.m. Thursday, lifting off from Vandenberg Air Force Base toward low-Earth orbit.

The 19-story-tall rocket carried a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office, which operates the nation's system of intelligence-gathering satellites. The agency has not released any details about the payload.

A California cold snap had threatened a possible delay, but the rocket took off within moments of the opening of its launch window.

Thursday's launch was the second time an Atlas 5 rocket has lifted off from the West Coast this year. Overall, there have been 77 Atlas V launches from Vandenberg and Cape Canaveral, Fla.

Original Article
Author: AP

ALEC Boots Mother Jones From Its Annual Conference

Starting Wednesday, hundreds of state lawmakers descended on downtown Washington, DC, for a big three-day confab hosted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, the conservative advocacy group that that brings together lawmakers and representatives of major corporations to draft model legislation on issues such as taxes, energy, workers' rights, education, and agriculture. These bills are then introduced in state legislatures around the country—in some cases, lawmakers pass ALEC-inspired bills without changing a word.

The Gates Foundation's Hypocritical Investments

With an endowment larger than all but four of the world's largest hedge funds, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is easily one of the most powerful charities in the world. According to its website, the organization "works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives." So how do the investments of the foundation's $36 billion investing arm, the Gates Foundation Trust, match up to its mission? We dug into the group's recently released 2012 tax returns to find out.

The Rise of the Islamic Feminists

Throughout the Muslim world, a groundswell of feminist sentiment is growing among women who are seeking to reclaim Islam and the Koran for themselves. For decades, many women believed they had to choose between their Muslim identity and their belief in gender equality. It was an impossible choice—one that involved betraying either their faith or their feminist consciousness. Four years ago, a global movement called Musawah—“equality” in Arabic—began to make the case that women can fight for justice and equality from within Islamic tradition. For many Muslim women, this came as a revelation.

New Police Commissioner Same as the Old Police Commissioner

If there were any lingering fears that the election of Bill de Blasio as mayor of New York City would usher in an era of communist revolution beholden to black nationalist interests, the news from this morning should quell such concerns. From The New York Times:

    Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio was expected on Thursday morning to name William J. Bratton to lead the New York Police Department, according to two people with knowledge of Mr. de Blasio’s decision.The move will return Mr. Bratton to the helm of the nation’s largest force at a time of historically low crime rates and a deepening rift between officers and the public.

Why Is a Senate Democrat Agreeing to Another $8 Billion in Food Stamp Cuts?

On the same day that President Obama eloquently described his vision of an economy defined by economic mobility and opportunity for all, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow was busy cutting a deal with House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas to slice another $8 to $9 billion from food stamps (SNAP), according to a source close to the negotiations.

“One study shows that more than half of Americans will experience poverty at some point during their adult lives,” said President Obama. “Think about that. This is not an isolated situation.… That’s why we have nutrition assistance or the program known as SNAP, because it makes a difference for a mother who’s working, but is just having a hard time putting food on the table for her kids.”

Bratton’s Endorsement of Stop-and-Frisk

Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio has named William J. Bratton his Police Commissioner. In returning to the job he held under Rudolph Giuliani in the nineteen-nineties, Bratton will be in charge of fulfilling one of de Blasio’s most prominent campaign promises: to end the stop-and-frisk tactics that were such a prominent part of Michael Bloomberg’s record as Mayor.

But Bratton’s views on stop-and-frisk may be considerably different from those of his new boss. In May of this year, I profiled Shira Scheindlin, the federal judge who presided over the class-action lawsuit that challenged the N.Y.P.D.’s stop-and-frisk policies. In the course of reporting that piece, I interviewed Bratton, and we discussed stop-and-frisk in some detail.

Killing Of Hezbollah Commander Leaves Group Without Military Mastermind

The assassination of Hezbollah leader Hassan al-Laqis by a small Sunni group this week has eliminated an effective and high-ranking operative who helped supply some of the most advanced military needs for the Shiite militia.

Matt Levitt, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said in an email that al-Laqis was part of an "elite club" in Hezbollah, deeply tied to top officials including Hassan Nasrallah, the group's chief. Those personal connections and al-Laqis' links to Iran helped Hezbollah maintain covert supply lines and obtain gear like night-vision goggles and even drones. That role, Levitt said, suggests that al-Laqis "could be difficult to replace."

Elizabeth Warren: Education Department Shouldn't Be A 'Lapdog'

The U.S. Department of Education risks becoming a “lapdog” as a result of recent actions toward financial companies such as Sallie Mae, Sen. Elizabeth Warren charged Thursday.

The Massachusetts Democrat said she was “deeply concerned” by a Huffington Post report that the Education Department had recently told Sallie Mae, the nation’s largest handler of student loans, that it intended to renew its federal contract to collect payments on federal student loans, despite pending investigations by at least three other federal agencies over allegations the company violated borrowers’ rights.

Taxpayers foot $1-million bill for 'partying' politicians

Taxpayers spent over $1 million to support “partying” politicians at Vancouver’s Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference last spring, according to documents.

Financial receipts obtained through Freedom of Information reveal jaw-dropping expenditures, including a $143,000 tab for Mayor Gregor Robertson’s reception, with $13,000 spent on booze.

The chicken samosas, with tamarind, that tempted the palates of Robertson’s guests cost $1,029. Vegetable spring rolls, with plum sauce, came in at $1,008. Total bill for fine food at the reception was $96,037. Only $56 was spent on non-alcoholic beverages.

Another Batch of Wall Street Villains Freed on Technicality

I love covering trials, which is one reason I've been a little sad since switching over to the Wall Street beat: Few of the bad guys in this world ever even get interviewed by the authorities, much less indicted, so trials are comically rare.

But we did have one last year, a big one, and though it was boring and jargon-laden enough on the surface that at least one juror fought sleep in its opening days, I thought it was fascinating. In a story about the Justice Department's Spring 2012 prosecution of a wide-raging municipal bond bid-rigging case, I called it the "first trial of the modern American mafia":

Boreal forests threaten to produce climate-warming gases

OTTAWA — The immense forests of Canada’s north, relied on as a natural way to soak up greenhouse gases, are threatening to become major emitters of these gases instead.

Canada has told the world for years that our forests help soak up carbon dioxide and store carbon. The argument is that this cancels out some emissions from our cars, homes and industries.

But this is already shifting in the boreal forests, covering three million square kilometres from Newfoundland to the Yukon.

Ukraine’s Iron Curtain call

In 2005, in a live television broadcast, Russian President Vladimir Putin described the collapse of the Soviet Union as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.” Russia, Putin continued, is still “connected” with its former Soviet republics: through language, “a great culture,” “a single historical destiny.” For eight years, Putin has been working to strengthen those connections—often, by supplementing “culture” and “destiny” with bribe and brawn. Now, it’s all come to a head in Ukraine, where more than 100,000 demonstrators have taken to the street to condemn their president for buckling under Moscow’s pressure.

Shipping Crude Oil by Rail: New Front in Tar Sands Wars

On New Year's Eve 2009, a train with 104 tank cars of light crude oil traveled 1,123 miles from North Dakota's Bakken oil fields to a terminal in Stroud, Oklahoma, and opened a new front in the war over development of Canada's tar sands.

It didn't seem that way at the time. EOG Resources, the company that owned the oil, simply needed a way to get its crude out of North Dakota, where production since the advent of oil fracking there nearly a decade earlier had far exceeded the capacity of available pipelines and trucks. The 2009 shipment is now considered a bellwether event, marking the first significant movement of U.S. crude oil by rail in many decades. Less than four years later, railroads have shipped as much as 600,000 barrels a day from the Bakken and are transporting crude not just from North Dakota but from oil-fracking sites in Montana, Texas, Utah, Ohio, Wyoming, Colorado, and southern Canada. Across North America, trains are now moving nearly a million barrels of crude a day, and that number will continue to grow rapidly.

Jared Polis On Fracking Lawsuits: 'Stop Suing Our Communities'

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) delivered a lecture to Colorado's Oil and Gas Association on YouTube, asking them to withdraw the lawsuits they recently filed against two cities that passed fracking moratoriums last month.

"I'm calling on the Colorado Oil and Gas Association to stop suing our communities just because they don't want fracking," Polis said in the video. "Look, there's been a public debate, there's been a vote -- you don't win friends by disregarding a public vote and suing to get your way."

In the state's election last month, voters in four communities succeeded in passing five-year fracking moratoriums or outright bans even though the oil and gas association outspent anti-fracking groups by over $850,000. Three communities -- Fort Collins, Lafayette and Longmont -- are now being sued by the COGA, and Broomfield is being sued for the way they conducted their election, which passed a five-year fracking moratorium but was so close that it triggered a mandatory recount.

Polis also wrote a letter to Tisha Schuller, the president of the COGA on Wednesday, asking her to "Please stop suing the communities I represent."

"The voters made their decision. Within the borders of their city, they decided they don't want fracking," Polis continues in the video. "It's a judgment call, but it's a judgement call for voters in cities, in counties to make. It shows complete disrespect for the system."

Original Article
Author: --