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.]

Friday, December 20, 2013

Florida Man Who Shot Acquaintance For Threatening To Beat Him Won’t Face Charges, Judge Rules

A Florida judge dismissed murder charges under the state’s Stand Your Ground law for a man who shot dead a mentally ill acquaintance after he told him he was going to beat him up.

In a six-page order issued last week, Judge John K. Stargel said James Robert Wagner was immune from charges under the Stand Your Ground law that gained national notoriety after the death of Trayvon Martin. Under the law, Wagner had no duty to attempt retreat in any place he had a right to be before using deadly force anywhere he had a legal right to be.

NSA Revelations Could Undermine Transatlantic Trade Negotiations

The latest revelation from Edward Snowden that British spies targeted a European Commission official could create another headache for negotiators in ongoing talks over a United States-E.U. trade agreement.

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement would ease regulatory barriers across the Atlantic -- but tech companies worry Europe will push for "digital protectionism," such as a requirement to store European citizens' data on servers in Europe.

China Goes Dark

Beginning in January of 2012, The New York Times once again proved its worth as the world’s greatest newspaper with a comprehensive, multipart investigation of Apple that shed light on the working conditions on the company’s Chinese manufacturing lines. It found near-slave-labor conditions, including apparently forced labor by student “interns” at Foxconn, Apple’s largest supplier (and the supplier for a host of other tech companies as well). Exposure to poisonous chemicals and the occasional fatal factory explosion were hardly unknown to workers and their families.

Shining you on: Alison Redford calls for a little selective sunshine on civil service salaries

Have the calls Alberta's Progressive Conservative MLAs are getting from modestly paid unionized civil servants, furious about having their salaries frozen by unconstitutional legislation and their pensions diminished, rattled the Redford Government?

PC MLAs should be rattled -- seeing as a lot of those modestly paid low- and mid-level public employees live in ridings that Redford's PC Party hung onto by extremely narrow margins in the face of the Wildrose Party tide in the April 2012 general election.

So the announcement yesterday by Don Scott, Alberta's "associate minister of accountability, transparency and transformation," that the Redford Government has plans to shine a little highly selective sunshine on senior public service salaries suggests they may indeed be worried.

Russian activist Yevgeny Vitishko jailed for protesting Olympic construction

A prominent Russian activist who has reported on the environmental fallout from construction for the 2014 Sochi Winter Games has been sentenced to three years in prison.

Yevgeny Vitishko and another activist were declared guilty of "deliberate destruction of property" and handed a three-year suspended prison sentence in 2012.

The other activist, Suren Gazaryan, fled Russia.

The group Vitishko works for, the Environmental Watch on the North Caucasus, said a Russian court on Friday upheld prosecutors' demand to turn his suspended sentence into a prison term. He has 10 days to appeal.

The Associated Press reported this week about activists and journalists being harassed in Sochi for their critical coverage of the preparations for the Games. They have been detained, slapped with bogus charges and face heavy police scrutiny.

Original Article
Author: --

Ian Bayne, GOP Congressional Candidate: 'Duck Dynasty Star Is Rosa Parks Of Our Generation'

WASHINGTON -- Embattled "Duck Dynasty" star Phil Robertson has been suspended from his show by A&E for his remarks about gays and African-Americans, and now some high-profile conservatives are rallying to his side and defending him. On Friday, GOP congressional candidate Ian Bayne went all in, comparing Robertson to civil rights icon Rosa Parks.

"In December 1955, Rosa Parks took a stand against an unjust societal persecution of black people, and in December 2013, Robertson took a stand against persecution of Christians," Bayne said in an email to supporters.

Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel doesn’t address aboriginal concerns, says federal adviser

The federal government’s special adviser for Canada’s West Coast energy projects says that processes like the Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel fail to address the concerns of First Nations communities affected by the project.

“The issues that First Nations communities want to have addressed simply aren’t being addressed in the way business is being conducted at present,” said Mr. Eyford, the Canadian government’s special representative on West Coast Energy Infrastructure. “From the perspective of First Nations communities, their view is that the essential, upfront conversation just isn’t happening because Canada is saying ‘We’re going to discharge our obligation through the regulatory process.’”

Why Cops Pull The Trigger: Pulling Back The Curtain On Police Shootings

Last Friday, Los Angeles Police Department officers shot dead a mentally ill man who had already gotten out of his car after a police chase with his hands up. The incident, which was broadcast on national television for all to judge, was the latest in a string of more than a dozen police shootings that have surfaced in the news just in the last few months. Before that, it was the fatal shooting of 19-year-old Tyler Comstock after his father called the cops to report that his son drove away in his car. And other incidents involved death during traffic stop, calls to police for help with a mentally ill family member, and a man whose watering hose was mistaken for a gun.

BuzzFeed Declares Paul Ryan A ‘Champion Of The Poor,’ Offers No Supporting Evidence

If your only recent impressions of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) came from BuzzFeed, you’d be inclined to think that the former vice presidential candidate has made a major shift in policy to start focusing on poverty in the United States. You would be wrong.

On Friday, BuzzFeed ran a glowing profile of Ryan, entitled “Paul Ryan Finds God,” that portrayed him as a man who was inspired by religion and the ascendancy of a new pope to become a caretaker for the nation’s poor. But the piece, similar to another article that ran in the Washington Post last month, offered up no substance to show that Ryan’s policies have changed or that his religious outlook is any different than it was during the 2012 campaign. Rather, it relied on quotes from Paul Ryan’s own supporters — former campaign staffers and members of President George W. Bush’s cabinet — to demonstrate that Ryan has shifted his focus.

Indigenous Groups Win Right to Seize Chevron’s Canadian Assets over $18 Billion in Amazon Pollution

A court in Canada has ruled Ecuadorean farmers and fishermen can try to seize the assets of oil giant Chevron based on a 2011 decision in an Ecuadorean court found it liable for nearly three decades of soil and water pollution near oil wells, and said it had ruined the health and livelihoods of people living in nearby areas of the Amazon rain forest. Since then, the victims have been trying to collect some $18 billion in environmental damages. But Chevron has filed its own lawsuit that argues the verdict was won through fabrication of evidence and bribery. We speak with Paul Barrett of Bloomberg Businessweek about how oil corporations from Chevron to BP are fighting lawsuits brought against them by attacking the lawyers handling the cases.

Author: --

GCHQ and NSA targeted charities, Germans, Israeli PM and EU chief

British and American intelligence agencies had a comprehensive list of surveillance targets that included the EU's competition commissioner, German government buildings in Berlin and overseas, and the heads of institutions that provide humanitarian and financial help to Africa, top secret documents reveal.

The papers show GCHQ, in collaboration with America's National Security Agency (NSA), was targeting organisations such as the United Nations development programme, the UN's children's charity Unicef and Médecins du Monde, a French organisation that provides doctors and medical volunteers to conflict zones. The head of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) also appears in the documents, along with text messages he sent to colleagues.

Alberta Cancer Patient, Greg, Failed By Flawed System, Ultimately Died: Report

EDMONTON - Alberta Health Minister Fred Horne says he is directing doctors and other health officials to make changes following a report that a cancer patient died while being shuttled among specialists.

"The report screams out at you, 'Who was responsible for this patient? Who was responsible for seeing that his journey through the health-care system was co-ordinated (and) that the information was shared?'" Horne told reporters Thursday.

Canada's Unions Still Have Majority Support, Poll Finds

A majority of Canadians — 56 per cent — hold favourable views of unions, and an even larger majority opposes “right to work” laws backed by some Conservatives, a new survey finds.

The Harris/Decima survey, carried out for the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), found 70 per cent of Canadians say unions are “still needed,” compared to fewer than 30 per cent who say they are obsolete.

Stephen Harper and the middle class crisis of faith

Look at the past year in federal politics through the lens of our most recent poll and some interesting patterns emerge.

Few of these numbers offer much seasonal cheer to the beleaguered Conservative party. It seems mired at 26 points — a precipitous fall from the majority heights of 2011. Yet despite a bruising year of problems, with questions around ethics and accountability, our rough forecast — based on adjustments accounting for who’s most likely to actually show up and vote — shows a three-way dead heat.

NEB's Northern Gateway approval is Act II in the Theatre of the Absurd

Act II of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway melodrama got underway with a whiff of comedy on Thursday afternoon.

For starters, the National Energy Board’s website apparently couldn’t handle traffic from the interested multitudes.

Like many Canadians, I tried to download a digital copy of its long-awaited decision. I was kicked back to a generic paragraph announcing the decision so many times that I gave up trying to open the link to the report and turned instead to the news feeds.

Citizenship backlog stark contrast to fast-tracked Olympic skater

Earlier this week, American ice dancer Piper Gilles received her citizenship in time to compete for Canada at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi.

It was a good news story, a skater realizing her "dream" to represent Canada thanks to a provision in the law that allows the government to fast-track citizenship claims in “exceptional cases, in order to reward services of an exceptional value to Canada.”

First Nations Entrepreneurship: It's No Business, As Usual

WEBEQUIE, Ont. — Eric Jacob sprinted to his pickup truck following an abrupt late night call. A seldom-seen shipment of large appliances had been strewn across an icy lake after a truck toppled on the winter road to his isolated reserve in Ontario’s Far North.

Determined to salvage the valuable inventory of the reserve’s only store, grocery manager Eric rounded up some buddies to make the four-hour round trip to fetch the damaged ovens and refrigerators and deliver them to the 840-person community.

“We did that all night,” he says.

Judge Richard Leon’s Anti-NSA Ruling May Not Be All You Think It Is

I don’t want to throw a wet blanket on the celebration, but at least two cautions are warranted about federal Judge Richard Leon’s surprising opinion declaring that the NSA’s telephone metadata program likely violates the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures:

First, while Leon’s ruling is a genuinely courageous step forward, it is by no means as sweeping as reported by news outlets like MSNBC in the initial hours after the decision was released. Second, the ruling has been stayed pending appeal to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, and thereafter, the Supreme Court. Leon’s opinion is merely the first step in a process that will take years to conclude, and the ultimate outcome remains highly uncertain.

Science Provision Buried In House Farm Bill Could Gum Up Regulatory Work, Critics Say

WASHINGTON -- Some senators and environmental and public health groups are concerned that a little-noticed provision in the House's version of the farm bill, which would change the way federal agencies deal with science, might make it into the final version.

The provision, on page 560 of the 609-page bill, is titled "Ensuring High Standards for Agency Use of Scientific Information." While that may sound like a good thing on its surface, the provision is worded in such a way that has advocates in the environmental and scientific community alarmed. Among other things, the measure would require agencies to have new "procedures in place to make policy decisions only on the basis of the best reasonably obtainable scientific, technical, economic, and other evidence and information concerning the need for, consequences of, and alternatives to the decision." The bill would also stop all government agencies from doing regulatory work as of Jan. 1, 2014, until those new guidelines are in place.

Does Beauty Drive Economic Success?

During the first debate before the 1960 Presidential election, Vice-President Richard Nixon looked so haggard that his mother called to ask if he was ill. His opponent, Senator John F. Kennedy, was relaxed, confident, and authoritative, and pundits were quick to declare Kennedy the victor. But not everyone watched the debate on TV, and some pollsters claimed that radio listeners preferred Nixon’s performance to Kennedy’s. This surprising reversal implied that TV viewers had been taken in by Kennedy’s good looks, whereas radio listeners assessed the candidates’ arguments on their merits, unclouded by the fog of physical appearance. That claim persists, though some researchers argue that the absence of reliable data makes it impossible to know whether TV viewers and radio listeners truly diverged.

Government's ethics regime failing, says Canadians for Accountability

As 2013 comes to a close, it is time to take stock of the state of the federal government. It has been a year of years, with the Senate scandal dominating.

It wasn’t the only story involving dodgy ethics, either. Former Justice Canada lawyer Edgar Schmidt was pushed out of the department for challenging a policy which lets the Conservative government propose any law unless a legal analysis shows a 95 per cent chance that it will be ruled unconstitutional. Sylvie Therrien was fired for speaking out against an unethical government policy in which employment insurance auditors were given quotas. There are more, simmering below the surface, either pushed aside by bigger stories or they have become so routine that the media barely notice them anymore.

Android's permissions gap: why has it fallen so far behind Apple's iOS?

No piece of technology knows as much about you as your smartphone. It goes where you do, so knows your movements, holds your contacts, your mesages, emails, web browsing records - and all the apps you use, perhaps including credit card details (suitably obfuscated to prevent casual theft). Given untrammelled access to someone's smartphone, you could find out almost everything about their life.

Smartphones are intensely personal (which is also why people can get so worked up if they think you're insulting their choice of smartphone; it's tantamount to insulting their personality). And when it comes to data, the events of the past six months - starting with the Guardian's revelations about NSA and GCHQ surveillance - have heightened peoples' awareness of the idea that it is their own data.

MI5 and MI6 face questions over torture of terrorism suspects

Former government ministers and intelligence chiefs face a series of disturbing questions over the UK's involvement in the abduction and torture of terrorism suspects after 9/11, an official inquiry has concluded.

In a damning report that swept aside years of denials, the Gibson inquiry concluded that the British government and its intelligence agencies had been involved in so-called rendition operations, in which detainees were kidnapped and flown around the globe, and had interrogated detainees who they knew were being mistreated.

Ethan Couch, 'Affluenza' Teen, Facing 5 Lawsuits

Ethan Couch's troubles aren't over yet.

On Dec. 10, the Texas 16-year-old was sentenced to a decade of probation after killing four people while driving drunk. During his trial, a psychologist called by the defense testified that Couch suffers from "affluenza," meaning that on the night of the crash he did not understand the consequences of his actions because of his privileged upbringing. Prosecutors had sought a maximum sentence of 20 years.

By closing the Health Council of Canada, Stephen Harper is abandoning national medicare

Health Ministers from across Canada were recently told by the Harper government that it will stop funding the Health Council of Canada and wants it “wound down” in order to save $6 million.

When the Harper government says it is time to wind down the Health Council of Canada, it is saying in effect, it is time to wind down national medicare. Let me explain.

The Health Council of Canada was formed in 2003, following the Romanow Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada, to provide accountability, oversight, planning and national coordination for our health care system. Its achievements to date include lowering wait times and encouraging innovation in the public health care system to ensure access to a continuum of services, in and out of hospital.

What Does the Northern Gateway Approval Really Mean?

Following months of public hearings across B.C. and Alberta, a federally-appointed panel recommended that Enbridge's $6.5-billion Northern Gateway pipeline be approved, provided the project meets 209 conditions.

"After weighing the evidence," reads the Joint Review Panel report, which was released Thursday afternoon, "we concluded that Canada and Canadians would be better off with the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project than without it."

The federal government now has 180 days to react to the decision, and decide whether to give ultimate approval to Northern Gateway. Twitter promptly exploded upon release of the report, with both critics and proponents weighing in.

A Bad Week for the NSA

Early in the week, things were looking good for the National Security Agency. 60 Minutes gifted the government an hour-long infomercial, and the newly completed report from a review board that the White House stacked with a handful of intelligence insiders was rumored to have proposed only cosmetic reform. Even so, the administration had decided to keep the report private until January, when President Obama plans to lay out what changes, if any, he’ll make to the intelligence programs.

By Wednesday afternoon significant cracks had opened in the NSA’s defenses. The first came courtesy of Judge Richard Leon, a George W. Bush appointee who ruled Monday that the bulk collection of telephone records “almost certainly” violates the Constitution. The second appeared when the administration decided to release the forty-six recommendations made by the President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies to the public.

What The ‘Duck Dynasty’ Scandal Tells Us About Race, Homophobia, And The Media

Yesterday, Phil Robertson, the star of A&E’s massively popular reality show Duck Dynasty, about a family that made a fortune selling duck calls to hunters, followed what’s now become a familiar cycle. He was quoted saying any number of intolerant things in a profile by Drew Magary in GQ, condemned by GLAAD, and swiftly suspended by his network for an indefinite period of time. The Duck Dynasty story has gone wider than this type of cycle normally extends, with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, normally a supporter of free enterprise, complaining that Robertson’s suspension is an example of how far our society has fallen from First Amendment principles. But variations aside, the Robertson kerfuffle is the perfect scandal with which to end our year in popular culture for what it tells about the lines reality television tries — and increasingly fails — to walk, who has power to marginalize political ideas in popular culture, and how conservatives will try to defend the holdouts they’ve carved out for themselves in mass media.

'You Plan On Sending Your Kids To College. It's Now Out Of The Question.'

Larry Silveira, 60, worked a full-time, salaried job until a motorcycle injury in 2009 took him out of the workforce for two years. Until then, he lived a comfortable life with his wife and two children. Now, he makes $9.25 an hour working part-time at a major retail chain store (he asked not to provide its name for fear of "retaliation").

I was working for a retail lumber company, and I got injured and wasn't able to work for a couple years. And then the only job I could find was working for a big-bucks store who I work for now, and they pay, you know, just a hair over minimum wage and work you only anywhere from 20 to 32 hours a week.

GOP Lawmaker Not Convinced Income Inequality Is A 'Bad Thing'

WASHINGTON -- Sure, the rich may be getting richer and the poor may be getting poorer, but it might not necessarily be a bad thing, according to a Minnesota Republican lawmaker.

On Wednesday, Minnesota's Legislative Commission on Planning and Fiscal Policy heard from University of Minnesota economists about income inequality in the state.

Forty-six Recommendations for the N.S.A.

President Obama’s advisory committee on the N.S.A.’s practices has given him a report, released by the White House on Wednesday, that is three hundred pages long and includes forty recommendations. Some of the recommendations include specific steps to be taken or suggest changes to structures and procedures—that there be a public-interest advocate to “represent privacy and civil liberties interests before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court”; that phone records be held by phone companies and not the government; that tech companies not leave vulnerabilities in their products that allow the N.S.A. slip in—but most of all it argues for a change in thinking. The thirty-page executive summary might be further condensed to a few sentences: Don’t do things just because you can. Tell people what the rules are. Remember that “security” doesn’t just mean chasing terrorists—it “refers to a quite different and equally fundamental value,” spelled out in the Fourth Amendment: “The right of people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” Stop shutting down debate by muttering about a “balance” that needs to be struck between security and freedom—they are not on opposite sides of the scale. Start thinking about privacy.

Why Edward Snowden Deserves Amnesty

Why should Edward Snowden be given amnesty? The question keeps coming up, but it can be hard to hear the answers amid the outbursts it provokes. That is a shame, because there are really two separate cases for why Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor who passed a huge stash of secret documents to reporters, should be allowed to come back to America from Russia, where he has been since the summer, without facing time in jail. One case might be summed up as the good he has done for America, and the other as the benefits he can still offer the government. A problem is that those who support one may be put off, or even enraged, by the other. But, between them, they ought to be enough to get Snowden home safely.

The Northern Gateway Pipeline Decision Puts B.C. At Significant Risk

The National Energy Board's Joint Review Panel (JRP) has now released its final report on the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project. The project would see 525,000 barrels of the heavy oil diluted bitumen (dilbit) transported across British Columbia each day and loaded onto super tankers for shipment to international refineries. The project is yet another manifestation of a pattern of digging up Canada's raw resources and shipping them to other countries with no value-added manufacturing or refining done locally. Yet what makes this proposal particularly problematic is the significant economic and environmental risk that we in B.C. face, should a spill occur.

Northern Gateway project likely doomed, despite National Energy Board nod

So the breathlessly awaited verdict on the Northern Gateway pipeline project is in, at long last. Net effect? Far less than it may seem. Despite the National Energy Board joint review panel’s green-lighting the controversial project, with a whopping 209 conditions, Northern Gateway is running out of time and probably doomed. Within six months the federal cabinet will render its own verdict. By then the interminable lawsuits and protests will be in full swing. And industry attention will have further turned toward projects with more attractive cost-benefit profiles. This may not be a terrible outcome. In any case, it now appears locked in.

Enbridge Northern Gateway Recommended By NEB

TORONTO - A panel reviewing a proposed pipeline to the Pacific Coast that would allow Canada's oil to be shipped to Asia recommended Thursday the Canadian government approve the project.

The three-person review panel recommended approval with 209 conditions.

Enbridge Northern Gateway Approved With Conditions

CALGARY - A review panel is recommending that the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline that would connect the Alberta oilsands to tankers on the B.C. coast go ahead.

But the panel has attached 209 conditions to the project.

The final decision rests with the federal government, which has roughly six months to respond to the report.

The controversial $6-billion proposal has pitted Calgary-based Enbridge against environmental groups and several First Nations.

They have raised concerns about the possibility of an oilspill on land or off the coast of British Columbia.

Supporters say the line is critical if Alberta is to get its oil to emerging markets in Asia.

Original Article
Author: The Canadian Press

Review panel supports Northern Gateway pipeline -- with 209 conditions

A federal review panel says the proposed $7.9-bilion Northern Gateway pipeline project should go ahead if more than 200 conditions are met.

A joint National Energy Board review panel released its report into the proposed project Thursday afternoon, after months of public hearings in which it heard submissions from more than 1,450 participants in 21 communities.

The 429-page report included some 209 conditions that Calgary-based Enbridge must meet in order to build the pipeline.

Stephen Harper's 2012 Indian limo tab rises to $1.2M

The final, official price tag for shipping Prime Minister Stephen Harper's armoured limos to India in 2012 is in and it's even higher than previously thought.

The RCMP said it paid $1,200,260 to the Canadian Forces to transport two armoured Cadillacs and a bulletproof SUV to India in November of last year. That cost was provided to CBC News in documents released under the Access to Information Act.

Why The Racist And Homophobic ‘Duck Dynasty’ Comments Have Nothing To Do With Free Speech

On Wednesday, Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson made comments in a GQ interview condemning homosexuality as sinful and comparable to bestiality, as well as claiming that African Americans were better off under Jim Crow laws. A&E, the network that airs the program, has since suspended Robertson from filming, prompting conservatives to rush to his defense. Even some prominent lawmakers are insisting that his free speech is in danger.

Bobby Jindal (R), governor of Louisiana, which is where Duck Dynasty is filmed, argued that TV networks no longer believe in the First Amendment:

    Phil Robertson and his family are great citizens of the State of Louisiana. The politically correct crowd is tolerant of all viewpoints, except those they disagree with. I don’t agree with quite a bit of stuff I read in magazine interviews or see on TV. In fact, come to think of it, I find a good bit of it offensive. But I also acknowledge that this is a free country and everyone is entitled to express their views. In fact, I remember when TV networks believed in the First Amendment. It is a messed up situation when Miley Cyrus gets a laugh, and Phil Robertson gets suspended.

How the Government Misled the Supreme Court on Warrantless Wiretapping

Early in 2013, before Edward Snowden’s revelations, the Supreme Court turned aside a challenge by this magazine and other organizations to a 2008 law that permitted the National Security Agency to conduct dragnet surveillance of Americans’ international communications. The plaintiffs claimed that the law was unconstitutional, but the government argued that the plaintiffs lacked standing to pursue their challenge because they had failed to show that the law would be used to intercept their communications. In a 5-4 vote, the Court agreed with the government.

Roma refugee families hang 'Roma Are Not Bogus Refugees' banner

Roma refugee families in Parkdale, Ontario hung a 40 feet x 20 feet banner off a pedestrian bridge atop the Gardiner expressway at 7:00 a.m. on December 18, 2013, International Migrants Day 2013, insisting "Romas Are Not Bogus Refugees." Actions are taking place around the world.

"Romas are not bogus refugees, our families deserve immigration status in Canada rather than be deported to places like Hungary where our lives are at risk," says Robert Jano. "The Roma people have faced immense pain and persecution for hundreds of years. This tradition continues to be carried out by the Canadian government when they deport us."

9 Incredibly Important Things That Happened In 2013 That Most People Aren’t Talking About

In a media environment increasingly dominated by celebrity, scandal and the political horserace, many of the most important stories receive scant coverage. Here are nine hugely important things that happened in 2013 that are rarely discussed:

1. Human rights abuses in North Korean prisons reached a level not seen since the Nazi atrocities.

A new report from the U.N. released in January found that hundreds of thousands of North Koreans are being subjected to historic human right abuses. Michael Kirby, a retired Australian judge who took the lead in creating the report, told BBC News “They had to live on rodents, grasshoppers, lizards and on grass and they were subject to cruelty, All in all it is a very horrifying story, the like of which I don’t think I’ve seen or read of since the Khmer Rouge [in Cambodia] and the Nazi atrocities during the second world war.” A former camp inmate “told investigators that he was lucky when a warden ordered the tip of his finger chopped off for damaging a piece of sewing equipment used to carry out forced labor — he could easily have been executed for the transgression.

Look Into a North Korean Penal Camp

The harrowing story of Shin Dong-hyuk, born in a North Korean punishment camp where he endured violence and brutality until he escaped at age 23, is told in a new documentary.

“Camp 14: Total Control Zone,” by German filmmaker Marc Wiese, shows camps where inmates live for life. Aside from Dong-hyuk, who fled in 2005, no one is known to have escaped. The Guardian reports:

    Shin, who recently gave testimony before a UN commission, would rather not talk about the past, but he cannot be free of it. Physically, in the film, he is in Seoul. Mentally and emotionally, he is still back in camp 14. To date, he is the only known person to have been born in a total control zone camp and escaped, and some have questioned his story. “We made something like 15 lie detector tests with him,” says Wiese, who first read about the young Korean in the Washington Post. By now there can be little doubt of his veracity, or that his experiences weigh heavily on him.

EU leaders approve eurozone banking reform deal

EU leaders meeting in Brussels have given their backing to a common set of rules for managing the closure of failing eurozone banks.

Under a plan earlier agreed by finance ministers, a 55bn-euro ($75bn; £46bn) fund will be set up, financed by the banking industry, over 10 years.

The deal is aimed at building an EU banking union that should minimise the need for taxpayer-funded bailouts.

French President Francois Hollande said it would boost investor confidence.

Britain's Top General Warns Over 'Hollowed Out' UK Forces

Britain is in danger of being left with hollowed out armed forces, with "exquisite" equipment but without the soldiers, sailors and airmen needed to man it, the country's most senior military officer has warned.

General Sir Nicholas Houghton, the Chief of the Defence Staff, said that while the future budget for the forces equipment programme was guaranteed by ministers, military manpower was increasingly seen as an "overhead".

'Come Down Or Starve': University Of Ulster 'Denies Protesting Students Their Human Rights'

Protesting students have accused their university of "stripping" them of basic human rights, cutting off electricity, toilet facilities and barring food supplies from being delivered.

Students at the University of Ulster are in the third week of a sit-in protest over privatising a communal space at their Coleraine campus. They told The Huffington Post UK locks had been changed and protesters were told to "come down or starve". One disabled student is dependent on others to carry her down the stairs if she wishes to leave as the lifts have been shut down and the wide exit barricaded.

We’re fracking to stand still

For years, NASA has produced a composite photograph of North America at night. Taken by satellite, the photo shows huge patches of light marking New York, Los Angeles and Toronto. Smaller patches mark cities like Denver, Seattle and Calgary.

Recently, something strange has appeared in this image. Another patch of light – larger in area than Chicago’s – now glows in a sparsely populated region just south of the Canada-U.S. border near Saskatchewan.

The light comes from thousands of gas flares at oil wells tapping North Dakota’s Bakken shale. Farther south, in Texas, a broad swath shaped like a scimitar marks the Eagle Ford shale play. In both places, drillers are mainly seeking oil. But because it’s often too costly to capture the natural gas associated with the oil, they burn it off.

Canada’s new emissions rules on hold again, Harper says

Canada is once again delaying emissions regulations in the oil and gas sector, despite major pipeline projects that continue to put intense scrutiny on the energy industry’s environmental track record.

The long-promised federal regulations, most recently due this year, now need to be done “in concert with” the United States, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told Global News in an interview. “So that’s what I’m hoping we’ll be able to do over the next couple of years,” he said.