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, September 19, 2014

Ontario pushes back on income splitting

OTTAWA - A controversial Conservative plan to allow some Canadian families to reduce their income taxes is under fire again — this time over what it could end up costing the provinces.

The government's income splitting idea is regressive and a threat to public services, Ontario charged Thursday as the opposition renewed calls to scrap the scheme amid claims it could cost provincial coffers at least $1.7 billion a year.

Stephen Harper’s comeback plan: distraction

There’s an elephant in the room: Stephen Harper’s record in office. He needs to make it disappear. He doesn’t have much time.

Sometime between now and the autumn of 2015, Canadians must decide whether their march into the post-democratic age under Harper will continue.

The prime minister’s latest foray into one-man government was his recent end-run around a special House of Commons committee reviewing his nominations to the Supreme Court of Canada. This was his answer to ending up with the fuzzy end of the lollypop in his dust-up with Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin over the unconstitutional appointment of Marc Nadon to the high court. This guy never forgets.

Ottawa admits to tracking hundreds of protests

OTTAWA—Ottawa has kept tabs on hundreds of demonstrations across Canada and around the world over the last eight years, from peaceful protests to public university lectures to riots.

Newly released documents show about 800 public demonstrations and events were observed and reported on by government departments and law enforcement agencies since 2006.

Reports were collected centrally by the Government Operations Centre, an agency tasked with preparing the federal government’s response to emergencies. Some were collected by Foreign Affairs on international protests, but the majority focused on domestic events — especially First Nations protests and environmental activism.

Cost of satellite ministerial offices soar

OTTAWA - The cost of paying Conservative political staffers working in a network of satellite minister's offices ballooned by 70 per cent during the same years the government was asking departments to tighten their belts.

Between 2009-10 and 2013-14, the budget for staffing at the regional offices rose from $1.6 million to $2.7 million, according to figures tabled in the House of Commons this week.

The number of satellite locations with staff has risen from 11 to 16 to include smaller centres such as Kitchener, Ont., Charlottetown and Iqaluit.

Why Bosses and Employees Shouldn't Be Friends

Can a boss really be friends with his or her employee? No, according to several human resources professionals. And I agree.

Some years ago, I became good friends with a now-former manager. He and I played squash, had friends and acquaintances in common and supported each other in our personal lives. Then, a client at the firm where we worked decided he wouldn't pay his invoices due to what he called poor service from the account executive on the business -- me. For him to pay his bills, he said I would have to be fired. And fired I was -- by my boss and (I thought) friend. As the adage goes, "Nothing personal, it's just business."

Harper to world: We are angry, and we have adjectives

Stephen Harper gave a big speech this week as Parliament returned. Our planet is a Dangerous Place, he said. But not to worry—the Conservative government is here to help good triumph over evil.

How are they going to do it? Mostly with the awesome power of their words.

In his speech, the Prime Minister had a lot of harsh words for a lot of people. Harsh words for the Russian president. Harsh words for Islamic State fundamentalists. Harsh words for those who would oppose Israel, or fail to sufficiently support Israel, or ever raise any question about Israel. (Imagine how irked he’d be at those who’d dare misspell Israel.)

Former Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty’s new gig as a lobbyist is problematic

The last time we heard from Dalton McGuinty, he was testifying before a committee of the Ontario legislature on his election-eve decision to cancel the construction of two electricity plants, at a cost, it was belatedly revealed, in excess of $1 billion. McGuinty was, as ever, unrepentant. “It’s never too late,” he admonished the committee, “to do the right thing.”

Or the wrong thing, apparently. A year and a half after his tire-screeching departure from office, the former premier has registered to lobby the government he led, on behalf of an educational software company, Desire2Learn, that benefited from millions of dollars in grants from that same government. What is more, neither McGuinty nor any of his erstwhile cabinet seatmates seem able to see why anyone would have a problem with this. Which sort of tells you why it’s a problem, and why this government has run into so many such “problems.”

'Canada Should Not Be Hostage' to Alberta: Jeremy Rifkin

Capitalism as we know it, our competitive system of exchange propped up by oil, coal and gas monopolies, is being eclipsed by a new economic model based on clean, decentralized energy and the principles of sharing. That vision of the future was described by Jeremy Rifkin -- famed futurist, business professor, author of 20 books, TED Talks speaker, namedropper of China's Premier Li Keqiang, and advisor to the European Union -- at this week's Zero Waste Conference 2014 in Vancouver.

"By 2050, the capitalist system is going to be totally transformed," he claimed, speaking via webcast from Spain. In Rifkin's idealized future, less and less of us will own cars, toys or other consumer goods -- we'll share them instead. Ultra-efficient 3D printers will replace our wasteful factories. Oil, coal and gas will give way to solar, wind and geothermal. And all of this will be linked through an "Internet of things" that may allow us to radically lower humankind's ecological footprint.

Occupy Wall Street Buys, Then Cancels, Student Debt

Some 40 million Americans collectively owe nearly $1.3 trillion on their student loans. On Wednesday, a small group of volunteers announced they helped reduce unpaid student bills by a smidgen, thanks to public donations and a desire to help Americans live debt-free.

Strike Debt, a group of anti-debt activists born out of the Occupy Wall Street movement, said it purchased $3.9 million in delinquent private student debt and immediately canceled it.

House Votes To Audit The Fed... And Deregulate Wall Street

WASHINGTON -- The House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to audit the Federal Reserve on Wednesday, a broadly bipartisan call for financial reform that accompanied two other bipartisan votes providing government perks to Wall Street on everything from higher mortgage fees to speculation in securities markets.

The votes underscore unique tensions among both Republicans and Democrats. All three bills garnered strong Republican majorities while essentially splitting Democrats down the middle.

Anthony Weiner and the Revolving Door

When former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) took a job with the investment bank Moelis & Co. earlier this month shortly after resigning his Congressional seat, he became the latest example of the tight-knit relationship between Wall Street and Washington. In an interview, I called this out for what it is: another sign that the revolving door still spins freely in Washington. Cantor had little experience in financial services, and the value of people like him to Wall Street firms is influence peddling, plain and simple.

Wall Street's outsized influence in our nation's capital is something I've talked about for a long time -- long before I even thought about running for office. But where I see a problem -- an infestation, really -- a lot of others in Washington, both Democrats and Republicans, seem to see government working just fine.

Chinese President Xi Jinping Sees 'Factory' China And 'Back Office' India As Global Engine

AHMEDABAD, India, Sept 17 (Reuters) - The "world's factory" and the "world's back office" could together drive global economic growth, Chinese President Xi Jinping said as he began a rare visit to India on Wednesday, playing down mistrust that has long kept the Asian giants apart.

India's new prime minister, Narendra Modi, is determined to build closer relations with the world's second-largest economy, whose leader arrived on Modi's 64th birthday armed with pledges to invest billions of dollars in railways, industrial parks and roads.

Can Great Britain Survive a Scottish “No” Vote?

The obvious question about the referendum on Scottish independence is: Will the secessionists win? The answer looks likely to be no. Of all the opinion polls carried out in the run-up to the vote, only one has shown the pro-independence side in the lead, and that survey was taken almost two weeks ago. The vast majority of the polls show the “no” side narrowly ahead; two published on Wednesday gave the unionists fifty-two per cent and the “yes” side forty-eight per cent, though both found a fair number of undecideds.

I wouldn’t rule out a last-minute swing toward independence. Some of the scare tactics employed by the British government and its allies over the past couple of weeks have been crude and clumsy: it’s always possible that the Scots, a proud and obstinate people, will react against them. But, assuming that the polls are accurate, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland will escape intact.

But for how long?

Scottish independence: Alex Salmond calls on voters to seize 'new dawn'

Alex Salmond urged tens of thousands of yes activists to "get to it" by seizing the extraordinary chance for a "new dawn for Scotland", as the final batch of polls before the vote confirmed the referendum hung on a knife-edge.

To chants of "yes we can", the first minister urged more than 1,200 activists at the yes campaign's final rally in Perth to continue campaigning vigorously on referendum day, urging them on with the words "let's do this now".

Supreme Court ruling hasn’t stopped police from warrantless requests for data

OTTAWA—Law enforcement agencies are still making warrantless requests for telecom customers’ personal data months after a Supreme Court ruling appeared to shut down the practice.

Police in Canada used to ask telecom companies to voluntarily hand over data on Canadian customers more than a million times per year. In June, the Supreme Court struck down this warrantless method as an invasion of privacy.

TransCanada Pipeline Rupture Prompts Evacuation Of Benton Harbor

TransCanada may have to take a break from trying to convince Canadians and Americans its Keystone XL and Energy East pipelines are safe in order to deal with some pipeline spills.

More than 500 residents of Benton Harbor, Michigan, were forced to leave their homes in the early hours of Tuesday morning for 10 to 12 hours after authorities discovered a leak on a TransCanada gas pipeline in the area, WSBT TV reports.

Police cordoned off a one-square-mile area rural area east of the town for 10 to 12 hours before allowing residents to return home.

Russia and Egypt Reportedly Strike $3.5 Billion Arms Deal

A top Russian military official said Wednesday that the country had made a sizable preliminary arms deal with Egypt to sell $3.5 billion worth of weapons to the North African nation.

Alexander Fomin, head of Russia’s Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, made this bit of news known at an arms trade exhibition in South Africa but declined to describe the deal further, as Reuters reported that day:
Russia, the world’s second-largest arms exporter, has sought to boost its military ties with Egypt after relations between Cairo and its long-standing ally Washington soured, causing some defense cooperation between the two countries to be frozen.
The head of Rosoboronexport, a state body that deals with arms exports, said the value of the agency’s order book was high in spite of Western sanctions against Moscow over Ukraine.
Egypt and Russia have evidently found a mutually beneficial workaround to offset shifts in their respective relationships with the U.S. government.

Original Article
Author: Donald Kaufman

Assembly of First Nations says its proposals on missing women 'tossed aside' by Ottawa

Ghislain Picard, the interim national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, says he is frustrated by the lack of input from the federal government with his organization on the issue of murdered and missing indigenous women and girls.

"We are representing over 600 communities across the country, and certainly one of our mandates is to find a way to engage the government, whatever government we have in Ottawa, and that’s what we’ve been attempting to do. If we can’t do that on an issue such as this, of course it's frustrating," said Picard.

How Fossil Fuels Make Inequality Worse

There’s a whole line of thinking, popular with the fossil fuel industry and its allies in politics and business, that though climate change is real, the costs of addressing it are too high, especially for the world’s poor. In June, Bill Gates, billionaire philanthropist, took to his blog to promote that argument, saying the poor “can’t afford today’s expensive clean energy solutions, and we can’t expect them [to] wait for the technology to get cheaper.”

World Hunger Decreasing, But 1 In 9 People Still Undernourished

ROME, Sept 16 (Reuters) - The number of hungry people in the world has fallen sharply over the past decade but 805 million, or one in nine of the global population, still do not have enough to eat, three U.N. food and agriculture agencies said on Tuesday.

The number of chronically undernourished people dropped by more than 100 million, equivalent to a country the size of the Philippines, according to a report by the United Nations food agency (FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and World Food Program (WFP).

Fighting Climate Change Makes Economic Sense; Cities Should Take The Lead, Study Finds

OSLO/LONDON, Sept 16 (Reuters) - Investments to help fight climate change can also spur economic growth, rather than slow it as widely feared, but time is running short for a trillion-dollar shift to transform cities and energy use, an international report said on Tuesday.

The study, by former heads of government, business leaders, economists and other experts, said the next 15 years were critical for a bigger shift to clean energies from fossil fuels to combat global warming and cut health bills from pollution.

The 47-year-old nuclear elephant in the room

Israel has a substantial arsenal of nuclear weapons.

Former CIA director Robert Gates said so during his 2006 Senate confirmation hearings for secretary of defense, when he noted — while serving as a university president — that Iran is surrounded by “powers with nuclear weapons,” including “the Israelis to the west.” Former President Jimmy Carter said so in 2008 and again this year, in interviews and speeches in which he pegged the number of Israel’s nuclear warheads at 150 to around 300.

Iraq PM Says Foreign Ground Troops Not Necessary In Fight Against ISIS

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq's new prime minister ruled out stationing U.S. ground troops in his country, chiding the international community Wednesday for inaction in Syria and lamenting the "puzzling" exclusion of neighboring Iran from the coalition being assembled to fight the Islamic State group.

Haider al-Abadi has been embraced by the West as a more inclusive leader who might heal the internal rifts that have dismembered Iraq. But his forthrightness in an interview with The Associated Press — his first with international media — suggested a man capable of parting ways on vision and holding his ground.

Islamic State Has Forced 1,500 Women, Girls and Boys Into Sexual Slavery, According to the U.N.

The heinous sexual violence Islamic State is inflicting on entire families is a form of warfare with long-lasting effects and a “crime against humanity,” former CIA analysts Aki Peritz and Tara Maller argue in Foreign Policy magazine Tuesday, but for some reason the subject’s barely been broached by the West. Peritz and Maller explain why rape and other types of sexual assault, which should be labeled as terrorist acts, are often overlooked or underreported and highlight the reasons why this is a foreign policy failing when it comes to dealing with IS insurgents.

The Questions Congress Should Ask About Obama’s War on ISIS

As military leaders make the case for deepening military engagement in Syria and Iraq to Congress on Tuesday, more than two dozen groups are calling on lawmakers to seek answers to a number of questions about the mission that the Obama administration has so far failed to address.

“If the past decade of war in the Middle East has taught us anything, it’s that we must demand answers to hard questions before launching into war,” Anna Galland, executive director of Civic Action, said in a statement. “That’s why, today, groups representing millions of Americans are calling on Congress to debate and be held accountable for America’s next steps in Syria and Iraq—so we don’t make the same mistakes we’ve made in the past.”

Scotland’s Referendum on Austerity

Glasgow, Scotland—Thursday’s Scottish referendum vote is often framed in terms of the politics of nationalism—and the desire of a people for self-determination. And of course there have always been, and there still are, impassioned Scottish nationalists.

But the reality that becomes overwhelmingly clear in the last hours before the referendum vote—which polls suggest will see an exceptionally high turnout and a close finish—is that this process is being shaped by the politics of austerity.

Texas' New Public School Textbooks Promote Climate Change Denial and Downplay Segregation

The battle over Texas textbooks is raging once again. On Tuesday, hundreds of citizens turned out for the first public hearing on the controversial social-science materials now under review as part of the state's contentious once-in-a-decade textbook adoption process. During the all-day proceedings, activists and historians pointed out numerous factual errors and complained that the books promoted tea party ideology while mocking affirmative action and downplaying the science linking human activity to climate change. "They are full of biases that are either outside the established mainstream scholarship, or just plain wrong," Jacqueline Jones, who chairs the history department at the University of Texas-Austin, said from the podium. "It can lead to a great deal of confusion in the reader."

New Alberta Education Minister Gordon Dirks' Ties To Church Criticized

EDMONTON - The NDP is criticizing the appointment of Gordon Dirks as Alberta's education minister, saying he is linked to a church that believes homosexuality is a sin.

But a prominent advocate for gay rights in the province says he met with Dirks on Tuesday and believes the former chairman of the Calgary Board of Education will work to promote safety for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer students in the province.

Dalton McGuinty's New Lobbyist Gig Defended By Ontario Liberals

TORONTO - The more schools that use software from an Ontario-based company, the more jobs will be created in the province, former premier Dalton McGuinty said Wednesday as he defended his new role as a registered lobbyist.

McGuinty signed on to the Ontario lobbyist registry in August — 18 months after he left office following a decade as premier — to act on behalf of Kitchener-based Desire2Learn, which develops educational software.

University Students and Grads Are Using Food Banks More Than Ever

It's that time of year again, summer is almost a memory and children are heading back to school. Some students dread the first day of school, while others can't wait for new adventures, and to see the friends they've missed. For over 130,000 Ontario children back to school often comes as a welcome relief to the daily struggle of trying to find a healthy, nourishing breakfast.

The Ontario Association of Food Banks' network includes 125 direct member food banks that support over 300 breakfast clubs across the province. These clubs ensure that students have access to a balanced breakfast to help them focus on school instead of their growling bellies. Many of our member food banks also offer additional support through lunch and snack programs, backpack programs, and helping children obtain back-to-school essentials such as binders, paper, and stationary.

The UN Climate Summit Will Benefit Corporations

The United Nations will host dozens of governments, corporations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) during a one-day Climate Summit 2014 in New York on September 23, but, alas, according to scientists and environmentalists, the meeting will deal mainly with only one limited way of fighting climate change.

In recent years the UN has proven incapable of playing an important role in slowing world climate change in a meaningful way, and is not practically dictated to by a powerful lobby.

7 Things Harper Doesn't Want You To Know About The China Trade Treaty (And A Few He Does)

I’m going to go out on a limb and say the Harper government doesn’t want attention drawn to the deal it just signed with China.

Why? Because after two years of delays, the official announcement of an investor-protection treaty with the world’s second-largest economy came in the form of a press release late Friday afternoon. That’s how you release information if the idea is to bury it.
Not to mention the two years of delays to begin with. Harper made the surprise announcement of a Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement, as it’s known, on a trade mission to Vladivostok, Russia, in 2012. China finalized the deal quickly, but Canada sat on it.

Israel’s N.S.A. Scandal

WASHINGTON — IN Moscow this summer, while reporting a story for Wired magazine, I had the rare opportunity to hang out for three days with Edward J. Snowden. It gave me a chance to get a deeper understanding of who he is and why, as a National Security Agency contractor, he took the momentous step of leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents.

Among his most shocking discoveries, he told me, was the fact that the N.S.A. was routinely passing along the private communications of Americans to a large and very secretive Israeli military organization known as Unit 8200. This transfer of intercepts, he said, included the contents of the communications as well as metadata such as who was calling whom.

How Walmart Is Getting Away With Making Employees Buy New Work Outfits

Last month, Walmart employees were informed that the company is instituting a new dress code, requiring them to ditch their plain blue shirts for collared ones at their own expense. The company will provide new vests.
At first glance, making Walmart workers pay for their work outfits seems illegal. Under federal labor law, employers can’t make their workers buy uniforms with their own money if doing so would drop their wages below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Given that reports put sales workers’ pay at about $8.80 an hour, paying for new clothes out of that figure would likely bring their wages too low. (The company claims full-time workers make $12.78 an hour.)

Inmates Aren’t the Only Victims of the Prison-Industrial Complex

The worst part of Dave’s job as a death-row guard happened early morning on the day of an execution. After taking the inmate for his final shower and instructing him to change his clothes for his last visit with his family, Dave would bring him back to his cell. Officers would then escort him in handcuffs to a prison van, which would take him from the Polunsky Unit in the east Texas town of Livingston to the death chamber at another prison in Huntsville, forty miles away.

“They have that look—like they know what’s coming,” Dave (not his real name) says. “Man, it’s hard to look at them in the eyes.”

The US Has Been the World’s Sole Superpower for the Last 13 Years—Why Hasn’t It Done Anything Good?

It’s possible I’ve lived most of my life on the wrong planet—and if that sounds like the first sentence of a sci-fi novel maybe, in its own way, it is. I thought I knew where I was, of course, but looking back from our helter-skelter world of 2014, I wonder.

For most of the last several hundred years, the story in view might be called the Great Concentration and it focused on an imperial struggle for power on planet Earth. That rivalry took place among a kaleidoscopic succession of European “great powers,” one global empire (Great Britain), Russia, a single Asian state (Japan) and the United States. After two world wars that devastated the Eurasian continent, there emerged only two “superpowers,” the US and the Soviet Union. They were so stunningly mighty and over-armed—great inland empires—that, unlike previous powers, they could not even imagine how to wage war directly upon each other, not without obliterating much of civilization. The full planet nonetheless became their battlefield in what was known as the Cold War only because hot ones were banished to “the peripheries” and the conflict took place, in part, in “the shadows” (a situation novelist John le Carré caught with particular incisiveness).

BP Caught Trying 'College' Tricks In Massive Oil Spill Court Case

BP has been told off by a US judge for trying to squeeze six extra pages into a court filing by changing the line spacings, in a move that was branded "not be appropriate for a college term paper".

The oil giant was rebuked in a case concerning the oil spill that happened in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, after its lawyers were invited to submit a response of up to 35 pages, with the lines double spaced.

Boycotting immigration detention in Canada

Lynval Daley has been in immigration hold for three years while Canada attempts to deport him to Jamaica. As a refugee claimant who came from Nigeria more than nine years ago, Azuka Abagbodi was detained upon attending his monthly visit with immigration enforcement in August 2012. He's since been deported.
"What am I doing in a maximum-security prison for 28 months," said detainee Amin Mjasiri. "28 months of my life, you cannot give that back to me. Even if you were to deport me right now, you cannot give that back to me."

Remembrance and ignorance, Harper and Islamic State

Terrorism is a profoundly emotional subject, as we are reminded every September 11 when we recall exactly where we were when we heard the news that fateful day.

We all know from our personal lives that deep emotion can distort our perceptions, often making it harder to do what is in our own interest.

Stephen Harper is unusual in that he basks in his ignorance — making a laugh line out of seeking the “root causes” of terrorism in a speech on Monday. He’s not alone, however, in finding it difficult to think clearly about what has happened to us in the years since those airplanes struck the twin towers.

Answering a written question from an MP cost the government $117,188

Answering a single written question from a Liberal MP cost the federal government $117,188 in staff time, according to information tabled this week in the House of Commons.

The right to ask departments for written answers is a key tool for MPs – primarily on the opposition benches – to dig up information that can later be used against their political rivals.

The answers can lead to news stories on the details of government expenses, revealing everything from how often cabinet ministers use government jets to how much the RCMP spends destroying marijuana crops.

Ezra Levant Goes On Outrageous Rant Over Trudeau Bridal Party Photobomb

Justin Trudeau kissed a bride on the cheek and Ezra Levant didn’t like it. So much so that he found a way to call Trudeau’s father a “slut.”

The Sun News Network host delivered his diatribe on Monday’s episode of “The Source” – and railed over a photo of the Liberal leader stealing a kiss on the cheek from an unnamed bride.

The federal Liberal Party leader was at the Hilton Hotel in Markham, Ont. on Saturday for a general meeting when Trudeau’s photographer Adam Scotti snapped the picture of the bridal party photobomb.

Jamila Bibi, Saskatoon Woman Deported To Pakistan, Faces Stoning

TORONTO - A 65-year-old woman working as a cook in Saskatoon has been deported to her native Pakistan, where her lawyer says her life could be in danger.

Lawyer Bashir Khan says Jamila Bibi was flown out of Toronto on Tuesday afternoon.

He says his client has been barred from re-entering Canada on any visa on the future.

Khan says Bibi fled to Canada in 2007 after being falsely accused of adultery by her husband.

UK unemployment falls to 6.2pc but pay squeeze continues

The squeeze on Britain's households continued last month as official data showed pay packets grew at the slowest pace on record even as unemployment fell at the sharpest pace in more than a quarter of a century.

Average weekly earnings including bonus payments grew by 0.6pc in the three months to the end of July, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Regular pay grew by 0.7pc over the same period, representing the weakest growth since records began in 2001.

U.S. is off to a war that doesn't make sense — again

America is going to war again. People are scared again.

The American news media have a scary monster in the Middle East again, and commentators are practically saluting on air. Again.

Dick Cheney, smirking, is back onstage. Last week, at a speech in Washington, he called for immediate military action, "sustained … across several fronts."

Demonizing the Minimum Wage

With the midterm elections approaching, the United States Congress finds itself in an exaggerated version of its customary posturing gridlock. Among the many urgent issues that it almost certainly won’t address this year are immigration reform, gun control, the Keystone XL Pipeline, the fate of the Export-Import Bank, and the federal minimum wage. A bill to raise the minimum wage from its current level, $7.25 per hour, to $10.10 an hour, over the course of two years, has been rattling around on Capitol Hill for eighteen months—with, it now seems, no hope of passing. Because the federal minimum wage has never been indexed to the cost of living, the debate over its efficacy and morality is regularly reëngaged as its value sinks and Congress is called upon to act.

Home Free?

In 2005, Utah set out to fix a problem that’s often thought of as unfixable: chronic homelessness. The state had almost two thousand chronically homeless people. Most of them had mental-health or substance-abuse issues, or both. At the time, the standard approach was to try to make homeless people “housing ready”: first, you got people into shelters or halfway houses and put them into treatment; only when they made progress could they get a chance at permanent housing. Utah, though, embraced a different strategy, called Housing First: it started by just giving the homeless homes.

Handing mentally ill substance abusers the keys to a new place may sound like an example of wasteful government spending. But it turned out to be the opposite: over time, Housing First has saved the government money. Homeless people are not cheap to take care of. The cost of shelters, emergency-room visits, ambulances, police, and so on quickly piles up. Lloyd Pendleton, the director of Utah’s Homeless Task Force, told me of one individual whose care one year cost nearly a million dollars, and said that, with the traditional approach, the average chronically homeless person used to cost Salt Lake City more than twenty thousand dollars a year. Putting someone into permanent housing costs the state just eight thousand dollars, and that’s after you include the cost of the case managers who work with the formerly homeless to help them adjust. The same is true elsewhere. A Colorado study found that the average homeless person cost the state forty-three thousand dollars a year, while housing that person would cost just seventeen thousand dollars.

Smuggled Across Turkey's Border, Homeless Syrians Call A Bus Station Home

KILIS, Turkey -- Outside of a Turkish bus station, weary travelers shuffle past a taxi driver shouting “To the fence!” in Arabic, offering rides to those wanting to be smuggled across the Syrian border just a couple of miles away.

Bobby Jindal Trusts Science Except When He Doesn't

WASHINGTON -- America needs a leader to bridge the widening gulf between faith and science, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a devout Roman Catholic with Ivy League-level science training, thinks he can be that person.

As a studious man of immigrant background with the kind of credentials admired by coastal intellectual meritocrats -- Brown, Oxford and McKinsey & Company -- the Republican governor, at least on paper, has a chance to appeal to the middle, should he run for president in 2016. He also has an impressive record as a government bureaucrat and administrator, both in Washington and in Baton Rouge.

This Republican Tried To Stop North Carolina From Apologizing For A Racist Massacre. He’d Like Your Vote, Please.

In 1898, furious that a mixed-race coalition had swept the city's municipal elections, white supremacists burned down a black-owned newspaper in Wilmington, North Carolina; overthrew the local government; and killed at least 25 black residents in a week of rioting. It was one of the worst single incidents of racially motivated violence in American history. But in 2007, when a nonpartisan commission recommended that the state legislature pass a resolution formally apologizing for the massacre, Republican Senate nominee Thom Tillis, then a first-term state representative, rose to block it.

Canadian Telecoms Gave Environment Canada Hundreds Of Subscribers' Information

OTTAWA - Newly disclosed records show Environment Canada obtained information from telecommunications companies about hundreds of subscribers in the last five years.

Employment and Social Development Canada, the Competition Bureau, Justice Canada, the military police and the Transportation Safety Board also say they request subscriber details in the course of their work.

Harper Sidestepped MPs On Supreme Court Pick Due To Nadon 'Leaks'

Concerns over alleged leaks from the all-party panel of MPs that vetted the aborted appointment of Marc Nadon to the Supreme Court led the government to leave MPs out of the loop when it named Justice Clement Gascon to replace him, documents tabled in the House reveal.

In response to a written question filed by Liberal MP Irwin Cotler last June, Justice Minister Peter MacKay confirmed that "it was … felt that certain breaches of confidentiality related to the Nadon appointment had compromised the integrity of the current selection process, and that it needed to be reviewed."