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.]

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Private Violence: Survivors & Advocates Confront Victim Blaming & the Epidemic of Domestic Abuse

Just days after a Utah police officer shot dead his wife, two kids and his mother-in-law before killing himself, a new HBO documentary premiering at the Sundance Film Festival examines the shocking nationwide epidemic of intimate partner violence, focusing on the struggles of survivors of abuse and the advocates who support them. Set in North Carolina, "Private Violence" follows Kit Gruelle, herself a domestic violence survivor, as she helps other victims seek healing, justice and social change. Gruelle joins us along with the film’s director, Cynthia Hill. "We’re so desensitized to violence in the United States that oftentimes women have to be beaten badly enough before our criminal justice system responds," Gruelle says.

Author: --

Ukrainian Government's Terrifying Orwellian Tactics As Protesters Are Tracked And Texted

Like a nightmare straight out of George Orwell's 1984, the Ukrainian government is tracking protesters' mobile phones and texting them a very ominous message.

"Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance," those located near fighting between riot police and protesters were sent.

The texts were sent out soon after midnight, just after controversial new laws which ban nearly all forms of protest in the ex-Soviet country were implemented.

How The World's Most Powerful Leader Thinks

DAVOS - As the power elite gathers in Davos for their annual confab on the state of the world, China looms larger than ever. Within a decade it is likely to be the world's largest economy, shifting not only the economic center of gravity, but also the geo-political and even civilizational balance.

Yet, the dominant worldview of what Samuel Huntington once called "Davos man," still rooted in the centuries-long ascent of the West and American-led globalization, tends in many ways to remain more provincial than global.

Steven Blaney's Cyberattack Briefing Notes Won't Provide Public With 'Specific Details'

OTTAWA - If there's a major cyberattack on Canada, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney will not be giving the public "specific details" of the incident, newly released briefing notes indicate.

However, the minister won't be at a complete loss for words if he follows the carefully crafted script he's been provided for just such a terrible occasion.

Majority Of Colleges Restrict Free Speech On Campus: FIRE Report

A majority of colleges have rules in place severely restricting free speech on campus, according to a new report released Friday.

The 2014 report by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education found 59 percent of higher education institutions have policies that the group believes infringe on First Amendment rights.

The report reviewed policies regarding speech in student codes of conduct at 427 colleges and universities around the country. In addition to the 59 percent identified as restricting free speech, FIRE issued a "yellow light" rating to another 35.6 percent of schools because they have "policies that overregulate speech on campus."


Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor turned whistle-blower, strongly denies allegations made by members of Congress that he was acting as a spy, perhaps for a foreign power, when he took hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. government documents. Speaking from Moscow, where he is a fugitive from American justice, Snowden told The New Yorker, “This ‘Russian spy’ push is absurd.”

On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Mike Rogers, a Republican congressman from Michigan who is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, described Snowden as a “thief, who we believe had some help.” The show’s host, David Gregory, interjected, “You think the Russians helped Ed Snowden?” Rogers replied that he believed it was neither “coincidence” nor “a gee-whiz luck event that he ended up in Moscow under the handling of the F.S.B.”

The Harper doctrine: You're all anti-Semites

JERUSALEM — In a historic speech here, Prime Minister Stephen Harper rolled out a new definition of anti-Semitism — name-calling that will be controversial at home and on the global diplomatic circuit but which will make him into a mega-star in Israel.
Two Arab-Israeli members of the 120-seat Knesset thought Harper's speech was objectionable enough even before he got around to this controversial re-definition. They walked out on his speech, loudly hollering at the Canadian prime minister about injustices to their communities.

Time for Canada, Israel to stop living in fantasy world

As Stephen Harper’s vanity tour of Israel begins, we can be confident about two eventual outcomes.
For Canada, its reputation in significant parts of the world will sink ever lower as a result. And for the State of Israel, it will have even more reason — with friends like Canada’s prime minister — to fear for its future.
Last month, Harper described Israel as “the light of freedom and democracy in what is otherwise a region of darkness.” He said this even though, at the age of 54 and after eight years as prime minister, Harper has never found the time until now to spend even one day visiting Israel or anywhere else in the Middle East.

Canada Job Grant endangers programs for vulnerable workers, Ontario warns

Ontario is warning it will soon have to cut training programs aimed at vulnerable Canadians including youth and the disabled as negotiations drag on over Ottawa’s proposed Canada Job Grant.

The new training scheme was first proposed by Ottawa in last year’s federal budget and was supposed to begin April 1, but there is still no deal with the provinces.

Ottawa opens door to fish farm expansion, and applications flood in

OTTAWA — The Harper government has quietly opened the door to a major expansion of B.C.’s controversial fish farm sector despite warnings by the 2012 Cohen Commission about the effects of net-based farms on wild salmon.

The decision, revealed to fish farmers by Fisheries Minister Gail Shea in October, was laid out in letters to several B.C. First Nations last week.

Funding cuts spell end of oilsands peatlands research

EDMONTON - The study of how oilsands pollution is affecting the massive peatlands in the northeast will come to an abrupt halt this spring as two scientists found out last week their funding has been cut.

In an unexpected move, the new federal-provincial Joint Oilsands Monitoring (JOSM) agency did not include wetlands (peatlands, bogs and muskeg) or groundwater in its monitoring plans — even though peatlands cover 40 per cent of the landscape in the northeast oilsands area.

Crimes Against Ecology

IN 2011, THE CEOs OF OIL COMPANIES operating in the tar sands were found guilty of ecocide in a mock trial staged by the Eradicating Ecocide Global Initiative. The trial was part of British lawyer Polly Higgins’ campaign to have ecocide recognized as an international crime by the United Nations. The UN already acknowledges “widespread, long-term and severe damage to the natural environment” as a war crime in the Rome Statute, but there’s no peacetime equivalent.

Non-Conservatives need not apply

We learn now that a Conservative MP has brought forward, with the blessing of the Prime Minister’s Office, a bill that would require parliamentary watchdogs and all their employees to disclose previous political activities.

The period of disclosure would cover the decade previous to their appointments. The legislation would be retroactive — meaning all current employees would effectively have to submit to political background checks.

The Baffling Politics of Stephen Harper and Israel

When one looks at official Canadian government policy towards Israel and Palestine, there doesn't seem to be much that is outstanding. Beyond the language on UN resolutions that provide Canada with room to protect Israel, the basic pillars are all there: Two-state solution, anti-settlements, reference to UN resolution 194 for refugees, etc. Yet, everyone knows that the Canadian prime minister's heart and soul, and his rhetoric, are firmly on one side: With Israel.

"The state of Israel embodies principles that Canada values and respects," Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird said. Earlier this week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper went on his first offical trip to Israel, as well as to the West Bank and Jordan - a journalist in Toronto remarked to me how happy the often-glum Stephen Harper seemed in the Holy Land.

Harper government's extensive spying on anti-oilsands groups revealed in FOIs

The federal government has been vigorously spying on anti-oil sands activists and organizations in BC and across Canada since last December, documents obtained under the Access to Information Act show.  Not only is the federal government subsidizing the energy industry in underwriting their costs, but deploying public safety resources as a de-facto 'insurance policy' to ensure that federal strategies on proposed pipeline projects are achieved, these documents indicate.

Before the National Energy Board's Joint Review Panel hearings on the proposed Enbridge oil pipeline, the NEB coordinated the gathering of intelligence on opponents to the oil sands. The groups of interest are independent advocacy organizations that oppose the Harper government's policies and work for environmental protections and democratic rights, including Idle No More, ForestEthics, Sierra Club, EcoSociety, LeadNow, Dogwood Initiative, Council of Canadians and the People's Summit.

Canada dead last in ranking for environmental protection

Canada has fallen behind in a global ranking on international development initiatives and ranks last when it comes to environmental protection.

The Washington-based Center for Global Development assesses 27 wealthy nations annually on their commitment to seven areas that impact the world’s poor. Canada came 13th in this year’s survey, which will be released Monday. Denmark led the list, followed by Sweden and Norway, with Japan and South Korea at the bottom.

We can expect Canada-U.S. friction to grow

What Stephen Harper does in Israel this week won’t get much notice in the United States. But the differences between Washington and Ottawa on the Middle East are a contributing factor to a relationship that’s in disrepair.

The Middle East? Why clash there? As observers such as former Canadian ambassador Derek Burney are asking, does this region really matter as much any more? It used to be vital because of its vast oil reserves and the Suez Canal. Today, the United States is well on the road to becoming energy self-sufficient, Canada has its own abundant fossil-fuel supplies and the Suez is no longer the critical transportation corridor it was.

China's Pollution Wafting Across Pacific To The U.S., Study Finds

BEIJING, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Pollution from China travels in large quantities across the Pacific Ocean to the United States, a new study has found, making environmental and health problems unexpected side effects of U.S. demand for cheap China-manufactured goods.

On some days, acid rain-inducing sulphate from burning of fossil fuels in China can account for as much as a quarter of sulphate pollution in the western United States, a team of Chinese and American researchers said in the report published by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, a non-profit society of scholars.

Four Years After ‘Citizens United,’ There Is Real Movement to Remove Big Money From Politics

Four years after an activist majority on the United States Supreme Court struck down barriers to the buying of elections by multinational corporations—with the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling that signaled an intention to dismantle remaining restraints on money in politics—a broad-based movement has emerged to undo the damage done by the Court.

This is a coalition that refuses to tinker around the edges of the crisis.

Thirty-Two Arrested at a LaGuardia Rally for Higher Wages

Around thirty-two people were arrested Monday on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, including Representative Charles Rangel and nine New York City Council members, when they blocked a bridge to LaGuardia Airport during a rally for liveable wages and an MLK Day paid holiday. In total, close to a 1,000 people attended the protest that was organized by Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union.

Before the march to the bridge, Representative Rangel told the crowd: “No one should be one pay check from homelessness. We have a new mayor now, Bill de Blasio, and I am certain that he will be spearheading our fight for better wages.”

Offshore assets of China's elite revealed in leaked records

Close relatives of China's top leaders have used secretive offshore companies in tax havens that helped shroud the Communist elite's wealth, according to a massive cache of leaked financial records, posing a formidable challenge for President Xi Jinping, the country's avowed anti-corruption leader.

The confidential files include details of a real estate company co-owned by Xi's brother-in-law, as well as British Virgin Islands corporations set up by former premier Wen Jiabao's son and son-in-law, plus dozens of more cases of people tied to high-level officials.

The battle to privatize life in Canada

Amongst the lettuce, a new vibrant green pushes its way to the sun; it grows to six feet high -- it turns out to be a giant sunflower, opening a beautiful face packed with seed to the light of your backyard; you didn't plant it but you enjoy it; the goldfinches enjoy it; you fend off squirrels and birds to eat a handful and to put a few seeds aside in a cool dry place to replant next year and to share with your neighbours. Perhaps your five year old starts selling bouquets of the sunflowers at the end of the driveway. If UPOV '91 passes, she could be in trouble.
Certainly the writing is on the wall for farmers who have saved, developed and exchanged seed with neighbours for generations. If UPOV '91 passes, it will be one more nail in the coffin of the farmers' right to save and exchange the seed they have developed on their farm.

Dozens of Conservative donors join Harper on Israel tour

Dozens of those selected to accompany Prime Minister Stephen Harper on a taxpayer-subsidized trip to Israel have also donated generously to the Conservative Party of Canada in recent years, iPolitics has learned.

In fact, 43 per cent of those who fall into the category of business people donated directly to the Conservative Party’s national coffers in the period between 2007 and September 2013. Detailed results for the final quarter of 2013 are not yet available.

In that one category of donation alone, the people on the trip with Harper gave the Conservative Party more than $152,000 during that period. While some have donated to other parties, a quick check by iPolitics could only find $28,772 worth of donations to the Liberal Party of Canada during the period studied by those on the trip with Harper and only $7,168 to the New Democrats.

Photo Of Tony Accurso Rubbing Jean Lavallée's Back Is Too Perfect

Sometimes the old expression “you scratch my back, I scratch yours” can be literal.

See the picture above? The guy in the middle, smoking the cigar, is Jean Lavallée, the former head of Quebec’s most powerful construction union. The guy to his right, scrubbing his back, is Tony Accurso, a construction magnate currently awaiting trial on fraud, conspiracy and influence-peddling charges.

Stephen Harper In Israel: PM, Netanyahu Differ On Israeli Settlements

JERUSALEM — Canada and Israel have differences of opinion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict despite their cosy relationship, both Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday.

For instance, the two countries part ways on the issue of Israeli settlements in disputed territory: "I guarantee you that's the case," Netanyahu told a news conference with Harper at his office in Jerusalem.

Meet the New Kochs: The DeVos Clan's Plan to Defund the Left

IN THE PREDAWN TWILIGHT of December 4, 2012, Randy Richardville, the Republican majority leader of the Michigan Senate, called an old friend to deliver some grim news. Richardville's two-hour commute to the state capitol in Lansing gave him plenty of time to check in with friends, staff, and colleagues, who were accustomed to his early morning calls. None more so than Mike Jackson.

Jackson and Richardville had grown up in the auto town of Monroe, 40 miles south of Detroit. Jackson now headed Michigan's 14,000-member carpenters and millwrights' union, which had endorsed Richardville, a moderate Republican, for 10 of the 12 years he'd served in the state Legislature.

"Guess where I was last night," Richardville said.

Ahmad Tibi: Why I walked out on Stephen Harper's speech

An Arab-Israeli legislator who stormed out during Prime Minister Stephen Harper's speech to the Knesset on Monday says he did so as a form of protest against Harper's bias.

Speaking to Evan Solomon, host of CBC News Network's Power & Politics, Ahmad Tibi said Harper's speech was "biased" and that he described Israel in "a very unbalanced way."

"We are 20 per cent of the population, we are suffering discrimination," Tibi told Solomon.

The truth about Israel's secret nuclear arsenal

Deep beneath desert sands, an embattled Middle Eastern state has built a covert nuclear bomb, using technology and materials provided by friendly powers or stolen by a clandestine network of agents. It is the stuff of pulp thrillers and the sort of narrative often used to characterise the worst fears about the Iranian nuclear programme. In reality, though, neither US nor British intelligence believe Tehran has decided to build a bomb, and Iran's atomic projects are under constant international monitoring.

The Global Fight Against Corporate Rule

Over the past several decades, multinational corporate Goliaths have helped to write and rewrite hundreds of rules skewing tax, trade, investment and other policies in their favor. The extraordinary damage these policies have caused has become increasingly apparent to the communities and governments most directly affected by them. This, in turn, has strengthened the potential of a movement that’s emerging to try to reverse the momentum. But just like David with his slingshot, the local, environmental and government leaders seeking to revise rules to favor communities and the planet must pick their battles carefully.

Lawmakers accuse Snowden of being Russian spy

Two of the top lawmakers within the United States intelligence community say that Congress is now considering whether any officials in the Russian government have influenced the actions of US National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.

Snowden, 30, has been in the Moscow area since last June when he became stranded there during a layover from Hong Kong after US authorities revoked his American passport. Seven months later, though, the heads of the United States House and Senate Intelligence Committees now claim that the former NSA contractor could very well be linked to the Russian government.

Hospital admissions over W. Virginia chem spill double even after water declared safe

Despite recent declarations that the water in West Virginia is now safe to use, hospital admissions related to the Kanawha Valley chemical spill have doubled over the last week.

About a week and a half ago, a chemical mixture used to wash coal – called “Crude MCHM” – began leaking into the Elk River, contaminating the water supply used by nine counties and roughly 300,000 people.

Peace River Oilsands Odours Hearings To Start

PEACE RIVER, Alta. - Hearings are scheduled to begin this week on odours blamed on oilsands operations that have driven northern Alberta families off their land and at least one of the affected farmers hopes it will all wind up with tougher rules against bad smells.

"The best result possible is that they make some regulations to get companies to capture their vapours," said Alain Labrecque, who's had to leave the farm his father pioneered over pungent smells that he says are destroying the health of his wife and children.

Harper Addresses Israel Parliament, Rails Against 'New' Anti-Semitism

JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Stephen Harper warned Monday of a new age of anti-Semitism, staking new ground in his allegiance to Israel by telling the country's parliamentarians that those who oppose the Jewish state are little more than hateful anti-Semites.

The loathing for Jews that resulted in the "horrors of the death camps" of Nazi Germany was crude and ignorant, Harper said in a historic speech to the Knesset, the first such address before the Israeli parliament by a Canadian prime minister.

Why NEB's Gateway Report Is Vulnerable to Legal Assault

The federal Joint Review Panel report recommending Ottawa approve Northern Gateway has a number of flaws, errors and misrepresentations. The issues are serious enough that several environmental groups and two First Nations have asked the federal court for a judicial review. Ecojustice lawyers representing Forest Ethics Advocacy, Living Oceans Society and Raincoast Conservation Foundation seek a court order to prevent the cabinet from relying on the report.

The most disturbing aspect of the report is the false risk message it sends. Much of the bias is the panel's own doing, but some is because Enbridge can't be trusted to tell the truth. It looks as if the Canadian government isn't all that forthcoming either and not simply because Environment Canada quietly released a report in early January -- finalized last November -- contradicting Enbridge's claims that diluted bitumen will float in a marine setting.

Why 'Abuse' of Temp Foreign Workers Is Hard to Stop

The idea of moving across the country to work at a big box store is something many Canadians wouldn't dream of doing.

But for Filipino immigrant Raymond, leaving Taiwan, where he already worked, to come to Canada was an experience for which he was willing to pay $8,000 to a recruiting company -- even though he knew the firm was breaking the law by charging him the fee.

"I wanted to go to Canada, it's my dream," Raymond said. "So I paid."

Raymond, who requested his last name be withheld, said he had heard it was illegal for job recruiters to charge money to recruits for the service in Canada but there was no other choice if he wanted to come.

It's time to recognize the market-fundamentalist elephant in the airport security screening room

Canadian airports really do have a security problem with fundamentalists: market fundamentalists!
Everyone knows that if Skylar Murphy, Edmonton International Airport's  adolescent pipe bomb brainiac, had been Skylar Mohammed, not only would he still be in jail, but the nation would be convulsed with the efforts of the usual suspects from Sun News Network, the conservative "movement" and the Interwebs to bring us all to a fever pitch of hatred and hysteria.
This is so obvious it's even been said aloud a few times in the mainstream media, not to mention in chatter on Twitter, which illustrates that now and then common sense can pop up in the most unexpected places.

Harper travelling to Israel to delude himself

Israel is an immensely complicated country, and it takes a great deal of time for an outsider to begin grasping its many facets. So when you just pop in for four days for your first-ever visit, as Prime Minister Harper is about to do, your itinerary is critical. Mr. Harper and his team will return confident that they now have a good grasp of Israeli realities. They will be deluded. All they will see is one particular dimension of Israeli reality, the one their Israeli government hosts want them to see and which, as it happens, is also the one they want to see. The entire West Bank and Gaza are to receive a hasty meeting in Ramallah with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Why complicate the Prime Minister's simple one-dimensional view of Israel by exposing him to the larger picture?

Health Canada library changes leave scientists scrambling

Health Canada scientists are so concerned about losing access to their research library that they're finding workarounds, with one squirrelling away journals and books in his basement for colleagues to consult, says a report obtained by CBC News.

The draft report from a consultant hired by the department warned it not to close its library, but the report was rejected as flawed and the advice went unheeded.

Political staffers’ gag order ‘unenforceable,’ say legal experts

A life-long confidentiality agreement that all political staff working for MPs on the Hill and in riding offices across the country are being asked to sign is a “highly unusual” and an “appallingly poor contract” that would be “unenforceable” in a court of law, says University of Ottawa law professor Amir Attaran.

“It’s an appallingly poor contract. Let me be quite blunt about this—this is the sort of nightmarishly done contract that is the bread and butter of first-year law student exams, it’s that bad. It’s really poorly done,” said Prof. Attaran in an interview with The Hill Times.

Why Martin Luther King’s Dream Is Still Unfulfilled

Rather than simply celebrating the accomplishments of his life on Martin Luther King, Jr. day, this year ThinkProgress wants to take a look back at the unfinished parts of King’s legacy. While the civil rights leader changed the conversation around race and justice in the U.S., many of his goals never came to fruition.

Warming ‘Will Double Extreme El Niños’

LONDON—An El Niño is part of a natural cycle: a huge blister of heat in the equatorial Pacific, usually around Christmastime, that periodically triggers unseasonal floods in the western US, and extreme heat and forest fires in the Indonesian rainforest and the Australian bush.

It happens and seems to have happened through human history. It has nothing to do with global warming or climate change. Except this: according to the latest study by climate scientists in Australia, the US, China and Britain, global warming is likely to make the most extreme El Niño events happen twice as frequently.

Some doctors refused to treat emission-area residents: report

EDMONTON - Some Peace River area doctors are afraid to speak out about health impacts of oil and gas activity and in some cases have declined to treat area residents who wondered if their health problems were related to emissions, says one of two independent health experts hired by the Alberta Energy Regulator.

Doctors fear negative consequences to their careers if they speak out, and in one case, one lab refused to process a test, says Dr. Margaret Sears, an Ontario expert in toxicology and health who will appear this week at a special hearing into complaints about emissions from the Baytex oilsands operation 32 kilometres south of Peace River.

What Obama Really Meant Was ...

Remarks by the President on Review of Signals Intelligence
(if he had told the truth)

Department of Injustice
Washington, D.C.
11:15 a.m. EST

THE PRESIDENT: A small, secret surveillance committee of goons and thugs hiding behind the mask of patriotism was established in 1908 in Washington, D.C. The group was led from 1924 until 1972 by J. Edgar Hoover, and during his reign it became known as the Federal Bureau of Investigation. FBI agents spied upon and infiltrated labor unions, political parties, radical groups—especially those led by African-Americans—anti-war groups and the civil rights movement in order to discredit anyone, including politicians such as Henry Wallace, who questioned the power of the state and big business. Agents burglarized homes and offices, illegally opened mail and planted unlawful wiretaps. Bureau leaders created blacklists. They destroyed careers and sometimes lives. They demanded loyalty oaths. By the time they were done, our progressive and radical movements, which had given us the middle class and opened up our political system, were dead. And while the FBI was targeting internal dissidents, our foreign intelligence operatives were overthrowing regimes, bankrolling some of the most vicious dictators on the planet and carrying out assassinations in numerous countries, such as Cuba and the Philippines and later Iran, Guatemala, Vietnam, Chile, Iraq and Afghanistan.

CO2 emissions are being 'outsourced' by rich countries to rising economies

The world's richest countries are increasingly outsourcing their carbon pollution to China and other rising economies, according to a draft UN report.

Outsourcing of emissions comes in the form of electronic devices such as smartphones, cheap clothes and other goods manufactured in China and other rising economies but consumed in the US and Europe.

Oxfam: 85 richest people as wealthy as poorest half of the world

The world's wealthiest people aren't known for travelling by bus, but if they fancied a change of scene then the richest 85 people on the globe – who between them control as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population put together – could squeeze onto a single double-decker.

The extent to which so much global wealth has become corralled by a virtual handful of the so-called 'global elite' is exposed in a new report from Oxfam on Monday. It warned that those richest 85 people across the globe share a combined wealth of £1tn, as much as the poorest 3.5 billion of the world's population.

Tech Industry Finds Obama's NSA Reforms 'Insufficient'

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Technology companies and industry groups took President Barack Obama's speech on U.S. surveillance as a step in the right direction, but chided him for not embracing more dramatic reforms to protect people's privacy and the economic interests of American companies that generate most of their revenue overseas.

"The president's speech was empathetic, balanced and thoughtful, but insufficient to meet the real needs of our globally connected world and a free Internet," said Ed Black, president of the Computer & Communications Industry Association, a group that represents Google, Microsoft, Facebook and other technology companies upset about the NSA's broad surveillance of online communications.

Putin rejects claims of corruption over Sochi Winter Olympics

Vladimir Putin has mounted a robust defence of Sochi's imminent winter Olympics, insisting that corruption has been negligible despite the $50bn (£30bn) price tag and reassuring gay competitors and spectators that they will not be in danger in Russia.

Less than three weeks from the start of the most controversial winter Games in history, Putin told western interviewers including the BBC's Andrew Marr he was unaware of the systemic corruption that an International Olympic Committee member alleged earlier this month.

Farmworkers Win an Extra Penny From the Ultimate Penny Pincher, Walmart

Before fast-food workers began agitating for a liveable wage, before Walmart employees began holding public demonstrations to demand better pay from the largest US private employer, there was the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in Florida's vast tomato fields.

Living in dire conditions, disempowered by their status as undocumented migrants from points south, making sub-poverty wages, subjected to often-violent repression and sometimes outright slavery—all depicted in detail in Barry Estabrook's Tomatoland—the workers rolled out an ambitious and quixotic-seeming strategy to improve their lot in the mid-2000s. Rather than continuing to knock their heads against Florida's entrenched tomato barons directly, CIW instead brought battle to their case to the growers' customers: massive fast-food chains.

Neil Young to Harper: Fear Our Emotion!

There was never really any doubt that Neil Young's return to Winnipeg some 50 years after he left -- "I added it up," he said on Thursday night -- was going to trigger a mix of nostalgia and affection from a packed house at the Centennial Concert Hall in a city that claims Young as its own.

He arrived after travelling cross-country from Toronto, where he had kicked off his deliciously and deliberately provocative "Honour the Treaties" tour, having crossed a big chunk of "beautiful, beautiful Canada," passing through its vast forests and celebrating its clean air. He was a long way from the tar sands, clearly, but through his complaints about the "degradation of land, air, water, climate and people across North America," he has been getting very near to an essential truth about today's Canada.

Gay Russian protester detained for showing rainbow flag at Olympic torch relay

A gay Russian protester was detained on Saturday for unfurling a rainbow flag during the Olympic torch relay as it passed through his hometown of Voronezh, 560 miles (910 kilometers) north of Sochi, where the games will begin Feb. 7.

Photos uploaded by his friends show Pavel Lebedev pulling out the flag and then being detained by Olympic security personnel, who wrestle him to the snow as they wait for police to arrive. Lebedev, reached by The Associated Press on the phone, said he was still in the police station and undergoing questioning.

"Hosting the games here contradicts the basic principles of the Olympics, which is to cultivate tolerance," Lebedev said, citing growing homophobia in Russia as the main reason for his protest.
A ban on propaganda of "nontraditional sexual relations" that was signed by President Vladimir Putin into law in June has provoked widespread international outrage from critics who believe the legislation discriminates against gays.

In the wake of that backlash, Russian authorities have put limits on the right to protest during the Sochi Olympics, which will run until Feb. 23. A presidential decree initially banned all rallies in Sochi from Jan. 7 to March 21, but Putin later rescinded the ban to allow demonstrations at venues determined by the Interior Ministry.

Original Article
Author: cbc

The NRA Is Directly Behind A Bill Loosening Florida's 'Stand Your Ground' Law

Lawmakers are aiming to expand Florida's "stand your ground" law with the help of a top NRA lobbyist.

Gawker's Adam Weinstein reported that S.B. 448, which would protect someone who fires warning shots or waves a weapon when they feel threatened, was written by Marion Hammer, a former NRA president.

The bill would amend the current law, which permits residents to use deadly force under certain circumstances, to allow the "threatened use of force." Gun owners couldn't be arrested for brandishing a gun or firing warning shots. The legislation also could lead to more permissive open-carry laws or lighter requirements for gun licensing.

Mayor Claims Christie Camp Held Hurricane Sandy Money Hostage

Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer charged on MSNBC's "Up With Steve Kornacki" show Saturday morning that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie held Hurricane Sandy relief funds hostage to force her to approve a development plan that overly favored one specific property holder.

"I cannot give a windfall to one property owner because the governor and other people want me to do it," Zimmer said on Kornacki's show. (You can watch the full interview here).