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, January 31, 2014

How Russia Is Censoring Reporting On Sochi Olympics Controversies

NEW YORK – Corruption. Environmental damage. Forced evictions. Exploitation of migrant workers.

Journalists would be expected to dive headfirst into such headline-grabbing allegations, especially when tied to an estimated $50 billion construction project that will command the world’s attention on February 7. But in the run-up to the Sochi Olympics, Russian media organizations -– with the exception of some independent outlets –- have largely avoided controversial issues that might cast a negative light on President Vladimir Putin’s grand project on the Black Sea.

Will Foreign Students Deem Canadian Schools a Scam?

The federal government wants to double the number of international students in Canadian schools by 2022, raising the total to 455,000 yearly. That's an ambitious goal, but not one the government is likely to achieve -- least of all given the slipshod way it's proposing it.

The consequences of failure are likely to be felt by every Canadian student, in the form of overcrowded classes and overworked faculty. Failure would also give Canada an international reputation as a country that promises more than it can deliver.

In mid-January, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada published "Canada's International Education Strategy: Harnessing our knowledge advantage to drive innovation and prosperity." You can download a copy and read it in a few minutes -- it's little more than a repackaging of ideas first published in August and discussed in The Tyee in September.

Muslim group demands apology from Harper, chief spokesman

A major Canadian Muslim group is demanding an apology from Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his chief spokesman for a comment it says linked the organization to the militant group Hamas.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims has filed a notice of libel in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice that accuses Jason MacDonald of acting maliciously when he made the comment earlier this month.

Obama Expected To Move Forward With Climate Plan in State of the Union

Campaigners are looking to Barack Obama to expand his use of executive powers to deliver action on climate change in Tuesday night's State of the Union address.

Obama unveiled a sweeping climate plan last June, after warning in last year's State of the Union address that if Congress did not act on climate change, he would.

The president is expected to reaffirm his commitment to that plan in Tuesday night's address, defending his decision to direct the Environmental Protection Agency to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.


When President Obama delivers his State of the Union address on Tuesday, rising inequality is set to play a prominent role—and that’s to be welcomed. As the President pointed out last month, in a speech to the Center for American Progress, the facts are glaring: profits and productivity are rising but wages are stagnant; more and more of the nation’s income is going to the top ten per cent and the top one per cent; and the United States has low (but, apparently, not declining) rates of social mobility.
What can be done? The President will outline some useful proposals, many of which he’s called for before: a higher minimum wage, an extension of unemployment benefits, universal pre-K programs, changes in the labor laws, more spending on infrastructure and job training, the elimination of corporate tax loopholes, and—this is a new one—an agreement with big corporations not to discriminate against the the long-term unemployed when hiring. Sadly, Republicans in Congress are likely to resist almost all of this agenda—just as they have done for the past three years.

If The U.S. And Japan Don't Deter China, Dominos Will Fall

Yoichi Funabashi, former editor-in-chief of Japan’s leading paper, Asahi Shimbun, is chairman of the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation and a member of The WorldPost Editorial Board. He spoke with The WorldPost last week.

THE WORLDPOST: How should the U.S. and Japan deal with the rising tensions with China over territorial claims in the East China Sea?

FUNABASHI: It is imperative for the U.S. and Japan to strengthen deterrence against the background of China’s more assertive posturing, particularly with respect to their territorial claims over the Senkaku Islands.

NSA Data Mining: U.S. Researches How To Securely Store Phone Records Outside Government

WASHINGTON (AP) — As the Obama administration considers ending the storage of millions of phone records by the National Security Agency, the government is quietly funding research to prevent eavesdroppers from seeing whom the U.S. is spying on, The Associated Press has learned.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has paid at least five research teams across the country to develop a system for high-volume, encrypted searches of electronic records kept outside the government's possession. The project is among several ideas that could allow the government to store Americans' phone records with phone companies or a third-party organization, but still search them as needed.

Insurance Companies Shift Consumers to New Plans Without Their Permission

When California pharmacist Kevin Kingma received a letter last fall notifying him that his high-deductible health plan was being canceled because of the Affordable Care Act, he logged into his state’s health insurance exchange and chose another plan beginning Jan. 1.

Thanks to a subsidy, Kingma’s monthly premium went down, from about $300 to $175, and his benefits improved.

But this month, Kingma logged into his bank’s website and saw that his old insurer, Anthem Blue Cross, had deducted $587.40 from his account and had enrolled him in another of its insurance products for this year—he says without permission.

4 Ways Tunisia Is Now More Progressive Than The United States

After what had at times been a slow and frustrating process, the Tunisian National Assembly on Sunday evening voted to approve what is one of the most progressive constitutions in the region, with only 12 members of the 216-member legislative body voting against. Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki and outgoing Assembly chief Mustapha Ben Jaafar signed the document on Monday morning, bringing it into effect.

Is Canada's Job Creation Record Really The Best In The G7?

OTTAWA - Government House Leader Peter Van Loan is using the return of Parliament to boast about the Conservatives' economic track record — but OECD figures cast a small doubt over his claim that Canada tops the G7 in job creation.

"We have the strongest job-creation record in the G7, with the creation of over one million net new jobs since the recession," he said Monday.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty also mentioned the million-job figure during the first question period since MPs returned from their winter break.

Stephen Harper’s income-splitting plan would favour rich, tax study finds

The Harper government’s plan to introduce income splitting for families with children would be a gift to the country’s richest households and make income inequality worse, says a new study being released Tuesday.

About 86 per cent of all Canadian families would gain no benefit from the proposed tax loophole, while it would cost taxpayers as a whole almost $5 billion, according to the report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives being released Tuesday.

“Income splitting creates a tax loophole big enough to drive a Rolls Royce through,” says the report’s author David Macdonald, senior economist for the non-profit, left-leaning policy think-tank.

Ottawa denies nearly half of budget officer’s requests

The federal government has refused to fully comply with almost half of all information requests from Canada’s budget watchdog.

The Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer has requested data 360 times since the Conservatives created it in 2006.

The Parliament of Canada Act decrees the office must have “free and timely access to any financial or economic data” it needs to fulfil its mandate.

Selling a simple plan -- unconditional support for Israel

If you ask people who run political campaigns at the highest levels, they will tell you that one of their essential tools is a plan. The leader must be able to declare to voters: "Elect me and this is what I will do. Guaranteed." 

The plan doesn't have to be elaborate or detailed -- simpler is better -- but campaign strategists say electors are more inclined to support a party with a plan, even if they don't agree with much of it, over a party that grapples with subtleties and complexities and lacks a clear vision. In other words, black and white works; grey doesn't.

Elizabeth May Questions Legality of Science Library Cullings

The controversial culling of seven federal science libraries operated by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans sparked a brief debate in Parliament on Monday.

Elizabeth May, Green Party leader and MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands, accused the Harper government of culling and closing the libraries illegally.

"Under the Library and Archives of Canada Act, these materials are protected as the documentary heritage of Canadians," argued May.

Telecoms, Tell Us Where Our Data Goes

Last week I joined leading civil liberties groups and academics in a public letter sent to Canada's leading telecom companies asking them to shed new light into their data retention and sharing policies. The letter writing initiative, led by Christopher Parsons of the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs, is the latest attempt to address the lack of transparency regarding how and when Canadians' personal information may be disclosed without their knowledge to law enforcement or intelligence agencies.

Concerns with telecom secrecy has become particularly pronounced in recent months with a steady stream of revelations that have painted a picture of ubiquitous surveillance that captures "all the signals all the time," sweeping up billions of phone calls, texts, emails, and Internet activity with dragnet-style efficiency.

In BC, How Unequal Are We?

The same day that it was reported that Jim Pattison's net worth had reached an estimated $7.39 billion, up $1.25 billion from last year, a man on the street in Victoria asked me to buy him a breakfast sandwich from a fast food joint.

Perhaps in his 60s, the man had a scraggly beard, hair to his shoulders and nicotine-stained fingers. His hand shook as he raised a paper coffee cup to his lips. The one time merchant seaman said he had a place to live at the nearby hospital.

Rich Man Doubles Down On Warning That Poor People Are Basically Nazis

Maybe you thought rich maniac Thomas Perkins was kidding or drunk when he wrote that the Poors were basically Nazis preparing to Holocaust him to death. But no: He has doubled down on this claim in a new email to Bloomberg.

“In the Nazi area it was racial demonization, now it is class demonization,” typed Perkins, according to a Bloomberg article on Monday.

What Rand Paul Said About Women Yesterday Was Even Worse Than You Think

Yesterday on Meet the Press host David Gregory asked Rand Paul about fellow Republican Mike Huckabee’s recent comments about the “war on women.” Here’s the first part of their exchange:

DAVID GREGORY: Let me ask you more about some of the debates within the Republican Party. Former candidate Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, got in some hot water this week with comments he made, I’ll play a portion of it, as he talked about a war for women. Here’s what he said.

MIKE HUCKABEE: The Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it. Let us take that discussion all across America because women are far more than the Democrats have played them to be.

No, Ross Douthat, Restricting Abortion Won’t Shore Up Marriage

Ross Douthat thinks that liberals are showing bad faith by refusing to concede that restricting abortion would shore up the two-parent family. In his latest column, he writes:

When liberals claim social conservatives don’t have any policy ideas for marriage promotion, then, they’re somewhat self-deceived. A sustained conservative shift on abortion policy and marriage law probably would, over the long term, increase the rate at which couples take vows and stay together, and improve the life prospects of their children. So one hypothetical middle ground on marriage promotion might involve wage subsidies and modest limits on unilateral divorce, or a jobs program anda second-trimester abortion ban.

School Allegedly Told Buddhist Student His Faith Is ‘Stupid’ & He Should Convert Or Switch Schools

A Louisiana teacher who taught her sixth grade class that evolution is “impossible” and that the bible is “100 percent true” ridiculed a Buddhist student during class and announced that those who don’t believe in god are “stupid,” according to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana.
When the child’s parents reported the incidents, the Sabine Parish superintendent allegedly told them “this is the Bible Belt,” and asked whether the child, referred to as “C.C.” could either change his faith or transfer to a school where “there are more Asians.”

Bombardier To Launch Russian Factory As Layoffs Hit Canada

MONTREAL - Bombardier Inc. says it's close to finalizing an agreement to start producing its Q400 propeller-driven airliners in Russia.

A deal to establish a joint venture with state corporation Rostec could lead to some 100 turboprops, valued at US$3.4 billion at list prices, being built for the Russian market.

Destiny Hoffman Gets 2-Day Jail Sentence, Serves 5 MONTHS In 'Big Screw-Up'

She was sentenced to 48 hours in jail -- but served 154 days instead when a judge forgot to issue her release order.

Destiny Hoffman's blundered jail time was called "a big screw up" by Indiana Special Judge Steven Fleece, according to the News and Tribune. It's another bad mark for the embattled Clark County Drug Court Treatment Program, which was supposed to give Hoffman a slap on the wrist for diluting her drug screen results.

Hoffman, 34, was ordered to serve two days on Aug. 22 by Clark County Circuit Court Judge Jerry Jacobi. He ordered the Jeffersonville woman held without bond "until further order of the court" -- but he forgot to issue that order until five months later.

A Salute to the Fighters of Komagata Maru

"The people of Canada want to have a white country, and certain of our fellow subjects who are not of the white race want to come to Canada and be admitted to all the rights of Canadian citizenship. These men have been taught by a certain school of politics that they are equals of British subjects; unfortunately they are brought face to face with the hard facts when it's too late." -- Wilfrid Laurier, speaking before the House of Commons, October 1914

On May 23, 1914, the Japanese steamship Komagata Maru made its way into Burrard Inlet. Its 376 South Asian passengers -- all of them British subjects -- were immediately denied entry to Canada because of their race, touching off an intense two-month standoff between passengers and immigration officials.

Accidents Surge as Oil Industry Takes the Train

CASSELTON, N.D. — Kerry’s Kitchen is where Casselton residents gather for gossip and comfort food, especially the caramel rolls baked fresh every morning. But a fiery rail accident last month only a half mile down the tracks, which prompted residents to evacuate the town, has shattered this calm, along with people’s confidence in the crude-oil convoys that rumble past Kerry’s seven times a day.

What was first seen as a stopgap measure in the absence of pipelines has become a fixture in the nation’s energy landscape — about 200 “virtual pipelines” that snake in endless processions across the horizon daily. It can take more than five minutes for a single oil train, made up of about 100 tank cars, to pass by Kerry’s, giving this bedroom community 20 miles west of Fargo a front-row seat to the growing practice of using trains to carry oil.

Meet 330 Lawmakers Who Made 2013 "A Terrible Year for Women's Health"

Elephant and Planned Parenthood building

Electric Shadyland: How Power Companies Rip You Off

Mabel Buford hadn't been home from the hospital very long when a sales rep knocked on her door in Washington, DC, and announced that she could save her some money. Buford, a 72-year-old widow who is battling cancer, told the woman she didn't feel well. But the sales rep wouldn't leave. For the next hour, she urged, cajoled, and pressured Buford to show her one of her electric bills. Finally, exhausted and groggy from medication, Buford relented. "I just got tired of her," she says.

The sales rep put Buford on the phone with her company, Starion Energy, to sign up. Buford, a retired federal contracts officer, warned that she had a contract with another electric provider and wanted no trouble with her bills. "She promised it would be okay," Buford recalls. "She honest to God stood over the stoop and hugged me. I told her, 'Don't play with me.' But, see, she tried it anyway."

Why There’s No Outcry for a Revolution in America

People ask me all the time why we don’t have a revolution in America, or at least a major wave of reform similar to that of the Progressive Era or the New Deal or the Great Society.

Middle incomes are sinking, the ranks of the poor are swelling, almost all the economic gains are going to the top, and big money is corrupting our democracy. So why isn’t there more of a ruckus?

The answer is complex, but three reasons stand out.

Meet the IOC, Ideal Candidates for a Perp Walk

Remember that publicity shot from the Usual Suspects with Kevin Spacey in the lineup? The photo above is an update, snapped late last year in the boardroom of the International Olympic Committee, in a marble palace on the banks of Lake Geneva. This lineup has thirteen men, most past middle age, in business suits and ties, and two women—the big cheeses expecting the best seats in Sochi. Dead center is the new IOC president, Germany’s Thomas Bach. We’ll come back to him, but for now, know that Bach, 60, was a protégé of Horst Dassler, the German businessman who bribed more sports officials than most of us ever heard of. Dassler’s family owned Adidas and a marketing company that laid out $100 million in kickbacks to acquire TV and marketing rights to the soccer World Cup, the world track and field championships—and the Olympics.

Paris Protest: 250 Arrested, 19 Police Injured During Demonstration Against President Francois Hollande

PARIS (AP) — Paris police say 19 officers were injured and some 250 people detained after a protest against President Francois Hollande's leadership degenerated into violence.

Police said Monday that none of the injuries is critical. The numbers of injured and detentions is high compared with other protests in recent weeks expressing discontent with Hollande, who is particularly unpopular for his handling of the economy.
Police say some 17,000 people took part in Sunday's largely peaceful protest, while organizers put the number several times higher.
Some 50 associations were involved, including conservative and far right groups. Also present were supporters of provocateur-comic Dieudonne, who has been repeatedly convicted of anti-Semitism and racism.
Original Article
Author: AP

Why the so-called Canada Job Grant isn’t working

Schemes to place hard-to-employ young people in jobs tend to come and go. BladeRunners is the exception. The British Columbia program has been around since 1994, long enough that even its managers aren’t entirely clear on how it got its name—and for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development to single it out as a proven model. BladeRunners helps unemployed 15- to 30-year-olds—mostly Aboriginal, sometimes homeless, often with histories of substance abuse—learn basic skills and land several key weeks of job experience. Counsellors are on call around the clock when participants run into the inevitable problems.

Canadian Dollar's Decline Will Spur Business Growth, But Slam The Consumer

Canadians can soon expect to pay a lot more for everyday items from t-shirts to toothpaste as the sinking loonie hits household goods prices hardest.

The Canadian dollar closed this week at 90 cents U.S. for the first time since 2009, when the country was locked in recession. The already weakening loonie’s plunge accelerated after the Bank of Canada warned it anticipates an era of low inflation, sparking an investor flight from the loonie.

While the declining Canadian dollar will help shore up balance sheets in corporate Canada, it will put a bigger squeeze on your household finances.

Venture Capitalist Compares 'Progressive War On 1 Percent' To Nazi Anti-Semitism

Venture capitalist Thomas Perkins wrote a letter to the editors at the Wall Street Journal, comparing the "progressive war" on the rich to Nazi anti-Semitism, called "Progressive Kristallnacht Coming?"... and the WSJ published it.

"I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its 'one percent,' namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the 'rich,'" writes Perkins, one of the founders of venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers.

"From the Occupy movement to the demonization of the rich embedded in virtually every word of our local newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, I perceive a rising tide of hatred of the successful one percent," Perkins continues. "There is outraged public reaction to the Google buses carrying technology workers from the city to the peninsula high-tech companies which employ them. We have outrage over the rising real-estate prices which these 'techno geeks' can pay."

Perkins ends his rant with: "This is a very dangerous drift in our American thinking. Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendent 'progressive' radicalism unthinkable now?"

Obviously, there has been backlash to the letter. "It certainly proves you can get rich without being very thoughtful, perceptive, or intelligent," Slate's Matt Yglesias writes.

Original Article
Author: The Huffington Post  |  By Alexis Kleinman

Egypt: protesters killed on anniversary of anti-Mubarak revolt

At least 54 people have been reported dead in clashes with anti-government protesters in Egypt on the third anniversary of the uprising that culminated in the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak as president.

Thousands of Egyptians also rallied in support of the army-led authorities, underlining the country's deep political divisions.

The majority of the deaths were in Cairo, according to the health ministry. Security forces lobbed teargas and fired in the air to try to prevent anti-government demonstrators from reaching Tahrir Square, the symbolic heart of the 2011 uprising, where government supporters called for the head of the military, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, to run for the presidency.

The Sochi Olympics and the making of 'Putin the Great'

"Why can't we Russians be normal?" shaken TV panelists asked themselves in the aftermath of the failed but violent coup attempt against Boris Yeltsin and his chaotic efforts to bring democracy 20 years ago.
Back then, the "norm" they yearned for was roughly that of modern Germany, where things (and people) worked and peace and order prevailed.
Yeltsin then looked favourably toward the West, much as Peter the Great had in the 18th century.

Payroll taxes up despite low-tax claims by Jim Flaherty

OTTAWA—Despite the Conservatives’ oft-heard statement that they have lowered taxes, Canadian workers are handing over more in payroll taxes—as much as $180-a-year more as a result of increases in Employment Insurance (EI) premiums under Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.

In the upcoming federal budget, Flaherty will be sure to point out that, beginning in 2017, the Conservatives want EI premiums set on a seven-year break-even track, which is expected to reduce what workers and employers send to Ottawa to pay for EI.

A $10,000 flight to save half an afternoon: Alison Redford’s lavish travel irks critics

The funeral of Nelson Mandela behind her, Alberta Premier Alison Redford needed to get back to Edmonton, where a new cabinet would be awaiting a swearing-in ceremony.

Ms. Redford travelled to South Africa on Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s aging Airbus A310, along with other Canadian dignitaries. On the way back, however, she chose to save herself a few hours by opting for commercial travel instead.

She booked a flight to Alberta from South Africa — at a cost of about $10,000.

PC-Wildrose provincial feud ‘a big deal’ in federal Tory nomination races

As Rob Anders faces a new battle to carry the Tory flag in Calgary’s west end, the controversial Conservative MP says there’s an X factor in the race: provincial politics.

Anders — who has characterized himself as a true conservative beset by “Red Tories” — said his vocal support for the Wildrose party, along with his past jousting with Premier Alison Redford, has made him a target for provincial Progressive Conservatives.

Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Pulls Out Of Joint Oilsands Monitoring Program

FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. - The First Nation that was the main focus of Neil Young's recent concert tour about Alberta's oilsands has withdrawn from a government environmental panel.

The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation announced Friday that it is pulling out of the Joint Oil Sands Monitoring program.

The program is the showpiece of federal-provincial efforts to monitor environmental change in the oilsands region.

Advertising Standards Canada: No Sanctions For False Government Ads

OTTAWA - Government advertisers are free to blatantly misrepresent services or programs without public censure from the ad industry's self-regulatory watchdog, so long as they stop airing the offending ads after citizens complain.

The Conservative government's $2.5 million campaign last spring to promote the Canada Jobs Grant, a proposed job-training program that still doesn't exist almost a year later, is a case in point.

Manitoba Pipeline Explosion Leaves Thousands Without Natural Gas Service

ST. PIERRE-JOLYS, Man. - Several thousand people in southern Manitoba have been told that a pipeline explosion could mean they'll be without natural gas service for up to several days as temperatures hover close to —20 C.

"As far as the temperature is concerned, the words 'polar vortex' is what they're saying," Myron Dyck, a spokesman for the Town of Niverville, said on Saturday.

The explosion and fire at a TransCanada Pipelines valve site near St. Pierre-Jolys happened early Saturday morning, sending a massive fireball into the dark sky.

Columbia Mall Shooting Leaves 3 Dead

COLUMBIA, Md. -- A gunman opened fire at a busy shopping mall in suburban Baltimore on Saturday, sending store employees and customers scrambling for cover. Police said three people died, including the person believed to be the shooter. Five people were injured, none seriously.

Police were still trying to determine the identity and motive of the heavily armed gunman who killed a man and a woman, both in their 20s, at a skate shop called Zumiez on the upper level of the Mall in Columbia, a suburb of both Baltimore and Washington. Their identities were not released.

N Is for Neo-Serfdom, O for Offshore Banking

Neoclassical economics: The school that arose in the last quarter of the 19th century, stripping away the classical concept of economic rent as unearned income. By the late 20th century the term “neoclassical” had come to connote a deductive body of free-trade theory using circular reasoning by tautology, excluding discussion of property, debt and the financial sector’s role in general, taking the existing institutional environment for granted. (See Marginalism and Parallel Universe, and contrast with Structural Problem and Systems Analysis.)

San Francisco's guerrilla protest at Google buses swells into revolt

Google's corporate mantra may be to do no evil, but to a determined band of activists in San Francisco the company could just be the devil incarnate.

Corporate buses that Google and other tech companies lay on to ferry their workers from the city to Silicon Valley, 30 or 40 miles to the south, are being targeted by an increasingly assertive guerrilla campaign of disruption. Over the last two months, a groundswell of discontent over the privatisation of the Bay Area's transport system has erupted into open revolt.

Disabled charities attack fit-to-work tests after 1m people denied benefit

Disability charities have renewed their criticism of fitness-to-work tests after the government said almost a million people who applied for sickness benefit have instead been found fit for work.

The applicants were denied benefits after undergoing a work capability assessment carried out by private firms contracted to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). But disability charities said the tests were unfair and the system was failing to give people the support they needed to get a job.

Conservatives slashing jobs and spending in bid to balance budget

OTTAWA — Embassies are being sold, government libraries closed, thousands of public sector jobs eliminated and billions of dollars are going unspent in the name of one broader Harper government goal: eliminating the deficit.

The Conservative government’s unflinching efforts to balance the books and eliminate a deficit estimated at $17.9 billion will drive a federal budget many believe is likely to be delivered in mid-February — when public attention is focused on the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Ad industry self-regulatory group won’t name and shame false government campaign

OTTAWA - Government advertisers are free to blatantly misrepresent services or programs without public censure from the ad industry's self-regulatory watchdog, so long as they stop airing the offending ads after citizens complain.

The Conservative government's $2.5 million campaign last spring to promote the Canada Jobs Grant, a proposed job-training program that still doesn't exist almost a year later, is a case in point.

Both Global News and PostMedia News have revealed that Advertising Standards Canada, the "national, not-for-profit, advertising self-regulatory body," chided the government for the misleading ads, which were in heavy rotation last spring — including during pricey NHL playoff telecasts.

How the Coal Industry Impoverishes West Virginia

Charleston—There’s a joke circulating among Syrians who fled the brutal conflict devastating their country to the quiet mountains of West Virginia: “We escaped the lethal chemicals in Syria only for them to follow us here.” Of course, what’s happening in West Virginia right now is no laughing matter. But how could the refugees not be reminded of their decimated homeland after finding themselves, along with 300,000 other West Virginians, without access to potable water? Unfortunately, West Virginia is no stranger to having its living conditions compared to those in developing countries.

The Hidden Environmental and Human Costs of the Sochi Olympics

The sochi olympics are already infamous for being the most expensive in history. But corruption-inflated construction contracts aside, there is also a huge environmental and human cost to building the Games from scratch, at breakneck speed. It can’t be calculated in a single figure, but it’s found in places like the Sochi-area village of Uch-Dere, where smoke from underground fires pours out of a sprawling construction waste dump polluting the neighboring river; in the village of Akhshtyr, where limestone quarrying has dried up the wells and covered residents’ fruit in dust; and in the village of Vesyoloye, where construction waste dumping triggered a landslide that ruined homes. The activists who try to fight these abuses have been harassed, jailed and, in the case of at least one environmentalist, looking at prison time.

Who Backs the TPP and a ‘NAFTA on Steroids’? ALEC

If President Obama uses his State of the Union address to launch a major push for “fast-track” authority to bypass congressional input and oversight on a sweeping Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, he will need new allies to generate support around the country.

The president won’t be able to look to organized labor. Unions are overwhelmingly opposed to a deal that Communications Workers of America posters refer to as “NAFTA on Steroids.”

Ottawa Defends CSEC, Says Collection Of Canadians' Data 'Incidental'

VANCOUVER - The federal government is defending its secretive eavesdropping agency in a lawsuit filed by a British Columbia-based civil liberties group, insisting its spying activities are legal and essential to protecting Canadians.

The government filed a statement of defence this week in a lawsuit launched by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, which maintains much of the intelligence-gathering activity of Communications Security Establishment Canada, or CSEC, violates the rights of Canadians.

Doug Ford's Potential Candidacy Making Some Ontario Tories Nervous

It appears some Ontario Progressive Conservatives are expressing concern about the potential candidacy of Doug Ford and how the controversial Toronto city councillor may impact Tory Leader Tim Hudak's chances to become premier.

Doug Ford, a perpetual defender of his brother, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, hasn't been shy about his interest in making the leap to provincial politics.