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, October 17, 2014

The Tangled Story Of Why Ebola Vaccine Research Came Up Short

WASHINGTON -- Around 2008, an Ebola outbreak in Africa sparked a renewed push within the U.S. biomedical research community to find a vaccine. A company called Integrated BioTherapeutics Inc. was given a $5.8 million contract from the National Institutes of Health for vaccine research.

Integrated Biotherapeutics, with subcontractor Protein Sciences Corp., began exploring a way to develop proteins associated with Ebola as a means of boosting antibodies. They hoped to introduce benign elements of the virus to the immune system, priming the body to more quickly recognize and attack the disease in the event of actual Ebola exposure. Protein Sciences had done the same work on an influenza vaccine, with good results. Scientists had confidence they could replicate the flu formula for other diseases.

I'm a Hazmat-Trained Hospital Worker: Here's What No One Is Telling You About Ebola

Ebola is brilliant.

It is a superior virus that has evolved and fine-tuned its mechanism of transmission to be near-perfect. That's why we're all so terrified. We know we can't destroy it. All we can do is try to divert it, outrun it.

I'm a Hazmat-Trained Hospital Worker: Here's What No One Is Telling You About Ebola

Ebola is brilliant.

It is a superior virus that has evolved and fine-tuned its mechanism of transmission to be near-perfect. That's why we're all so terrified. We know we can't destroy it. All we can do is try to divert it, outrun it.

Has polling turned into just another propaganda tool?

Pollsters are the new rock stars of political journalism. They produce far more stories than investigative reporters, more insights than sage columnists. Almost no one challenges these 21st century versions of the Oracle at Delphi. If it’s numbers, it must be science. A news show without a pollster is half a news show.

But has polling become just another weapon in the dark arsenal of modern politics, alongside robocalls, micro-targeting and attack ads? In this new age of elections as crowd control — the techniques of which Stephen Harper has so thoroughly mastered — do pollsters measure public opinion or try to lead it? Are they being used by special interest groups? Can they be trusted?

Has polling turned into just another propaganda tool?

Original Article
Author: Michael Harris

New powers for CSIS: experts have concerns

The federal government will face intense scrutiny – perhaps even a constitutional challenge – when it introduces legislation to give its spies more legal powers, say experts on the work of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney Thursday announced that amendments will come as early as next week to the act governing CSIS, the country’s spy agency.

Citizenfour review – gripping Snowden documentary offers portrait of power, paranoia and one remarkable man

This documentary is about that very remarkable man, the former NSA intelligence analyst and whistleblower Edward Snowden, shown here speaking out personally for the first time about all the staggering things governments are doing to our privacy.

Fundamentally, privacy is being abolished – not eroded, not diminished, not encroached upon, but abolished. And being constructed in its place is a colossal digital new Stasi, driven by a creepy intoxication with what is now technically possible, combined with politicians’ age-old infatuation with bullying, snooping and creating mountains of bureaucratic prestige for themselves at the expense of the snooped-upon taxpayer.

Before Gentrification, a City Covered in Graffiti

In the optics of law enforcement, there are no wins quite like the ritual display of guns, money, or drugs on a table. When the New York Police Department finally ensnared the graffiti artist Adam Cole, last week, a stack of stickers and a drum of glue sufficed. In the late eighties and early nineties, Cole was astonishingly prolific, blanketing the city with spray-painted stencils and wheat-pasted stickers bearing the name COST (as well as the occasional absurdist in-joke). After a fourteen-year hiatus, Cole’s COST tags reëmerged in 2010, grabbing the attention of the police department’s big-game hunters. Cole’s arrest was a reminder of how much had changed during his years away. Officers briefed by the department’s sophisticated, graffiti-busting Vandal Squad pinched Cole near the meatpacking district, where he had pasted some COST posters above a specialty wine shop.

Lockheed Martin Unveils Compact Fusion Reactor Which 'Could Provide Limitless Clean Energy'

An American defence company claims it is on the verge of launching a new atomic age with a truck-sized fusion reactor that could be tested in less than a year. Lockheed Martin expects to unveil a prototype of its compact fusion reactor (CFR) by 2020.

A decade from now it could be powering warships and in 20 years providing a source of virtually limitless clean energy around the world. Unlike conventional nuclear fission that relies on splitting atoms, fusion harnesses the same forces that drive the sun.

Palestinian Boy Shot Dead By Israeli Troops In West Bank: Police

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — Palestinian police say a 13-year-old Palestinian boy has been shot dead by Israeli soldiers during a clash in the West Bank.

They say the soldiers opened fire after demonstrators threw stones and at least one Molotov cocktail at three Israeli army jeeps that entered the village of Beit Lykia near Ramallah.

Director Ahmed Betawai of the Ramallah Hospital said the boy was shot three times in the chest and died of his wounds about two hours after the incident.

There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military.

Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians have spiked in recent days amid Palestinian charges that Israel is unfairly limiting access to Palestinian worshippers at a sensitive Jerusalem holy site.

Original Article

How Laissez-Faire Economics Led to Inequality and Recession

Remember in 2009 when everyone was dodging blame for the financial crisis? Depending on who you asked, it was the bankers, the federal regulators, Fannie Mae, fraudster mortgage companies, the ratings agencies and the sub-prime borrowers themselves. The favorite claim of excuse makers was that no single group was to blame -- it was a cluster-f*** as one journalist friend put it.

If everyone did it, no one could be held accountable. But it wasn't true. Bankers and regulators were the major creators of the crisis, for their neglect and single-minded self-aggrandizement that often involved bending the rules.

Only 4% of drone victims in Pakistan identified as al Qaeda members

As the number of US drone strikes in Pakistan hits 400, research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism finds that fewer than 4% of the people killed have been identified by available records as members of al Qaeda. This calls in to question US Secretary of State John Kerry’s claim last year that only “confirmed terrorist targets at the highest level” were fired at.

America may never have a draft again. But we’re still punishing low-income men for not registering

The last time Danieldevel Davis got out of prison it was 2012 and he was 38.

“I ain’t going back into no man’s prison again,” he vowed.

He’d been locked up for six years, which was the longest he’d ever lived in one place. Davis grew up in foster homes, dropped out of school in the 11th grade and then hit the revolving door: streets, juvenile detention, streets, prison. He’s never possessed a driver’s license. He’s never had a bill in his name.

Democrats, Republicans Take Advantage Of New Big-Money Rules

WASHINGTON -- Both the Republican and Democratic parties are raising historic sums from single donors for the 2014 midterm elections under new rules resulting from a major Supreme Court ruling in April.

The Supreme Court's McCutcheon decision struck down aggregate campaign contribution limits that prevented a single donor from giving more than $123,200 to candidates, political party committees and political action committees per two-year election cycle. Sub-limits for aggregate contributions that barred donors from giving more than $48,600 to candidates and $74,600 to parties and PACs also were eliminated.

Insiders Blame Rove for Covering Up Iraq’s Real WMD

There’s one man, some Republicans say, who kept the public from learning about the chemical shells littered around Iraq. He was Bush's most important political adviser.

Starting in 2004, some members of the George W. Bush administration and Republican lawmakers began to find evidence of discarded chemical weapons in Iraq. But when the information was brought up with the White House, senior adviser Karl Rove told them to “let these sleeping dogs lie.”

What Happens When A City Decides to Offer Addicts Services, Not Prison Sentences?

For decades, the United States has tried to punish and shame people out of drug addiction with courts, jails and criminal records. It has been massively unsuccessful, as the nationwide rise in opiate addiction over the last few years demonstrates, and few people are more aware of its failure than the police officers tasked with arresting addicts.

“We were chasing the same people over and over again,” Santa Fe Police Captain, Jerome Sanchez, told The Nation. “We learned quickly what we were doing wasn’t working.”

Even Red-State Voters Want to Raise the Minimum Wage

The first national campaigns of the Republican Party, more than 150 years ago, linked economic progress with democratic participation, urging immigrants and urban workers to “Vote Yourself a Farm” by empowering the party that would distribute land to the poor. So it shouldn’t be that surprising that states where voters are considering substantial minimum-wage hikes this fall are for the most part GOP bastions: Alaska (to $9.75 an hour), Arkansas (to $8.50), Nebraska (to $9) and South Dakota (to $8.50, with future hikes indexed to inflation).

Mark Carney Slams Bankers, Warns Most Of World's Oil Can't Be Burned

The banking executives at the heart of the 2008 financial crisis “got away without sanction” and that has to change, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney says.

Speaking in Washington recently, the former Bank of Canada Governor also added his voice to those who say the oil industry is in a “carbon bubble.”

Court Challenge Launched to Save Mail Home Delivery

A collection of seniors' groups, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers and organizations representing people with disabilities say they intend to launch a legal challenge against Canada Post's decision to end home delivery.

About five million Canadian homes will have their home delivery ended by 2019 with an aim to eventually eliminate it completely. Currently two thirds of Canadian addresses don't have home service.

Ministry Muzzled Expert on Gambling Addictions

Senior finance ministry officials ordered an expert on gambling addictions to turn down an interview request from a Vancouver radio station.

Emails included in a response to a freedom of information request about the proposal to introduce slot machines on BC Ferries show that Surrey-based counsellor Kuldip Gill was ready to participate in the Feb. 2014 interview for the Simi Sara Show on CKNW, which is broadcast province-wide.

But when Gill checked with finance officials whether she could talk about her work with the ministry on gambling addiction, she was told to tell CKNW that the topic was outside her area of expertise.

Jean Chrétien defends Trudeau’s opposition to Iraq combat mission

Former prime minister Jean Chrétien is defending Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s controversial decision to oppose Canada’s air combat mission in Iraq, saying the fighter planes the Harper government is deploying are a “very marginal” response to the crisis caused by Islamic State militants.

“I believe the best ‎contribution Canada can make is by engaging in massive, not token, humanitarian assistance. It is why in answer to the questions asked of me, I support the position of Justin Trudeau,” Mr. Chrétien writes in a column to be published in Friday's Globe and Mail.

Why Houston’s Pastor Subpoenas Have Nothing To Do With Religious Liberty

There has been a new clash this week in the fight over the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), a law that would protect LGBT individuals and other targeted groups from discrimination. The latest hubbub involves the city subpoenaing five pastors for their sermons, which has prompted conservatives to claim that religious liberty is under attack and that the subpoenas are a form of intimidation.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, was on Fox News last night claiming that Houston Mayor Annise Parker (D) is “taking a bulldozer to that wall of separation [of church and state]” and trying to “dictate what pastors preach.” Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) tweeted that the subpoenas constitute a “march against our freedoms.” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) called the subpoenas a “grotesque abuse of power.” And Texas Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott (R) wrote to the Houston City Attorney that the subpoenas should be unilaterally withdrawn because they reflect “hostility to religious beliefs.”

Hupacasath First Nation puts China on notice over FIPA

The Hupacasath First Nation put the Chinese government on notice today, stating it does not acknowledge the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) ratified by Prime Minister Stephen Harper last month.

The small B.C. First Nation is requesting other First Nations across Canada to write the People’s Republic of China and express opposition to the investment agreement, which is expected to give Chinese state-owned corporations greater power over Canada's natural resources.

European Markets Tumble

LONDON/PARIS, Oct 16 (Reuters) - European shares extended steep losses on Thursday on mounting concerns over weakness in the global economy and fears of deflation in the euro zone, sending a benchmark index to a 13-month low at one point.

Cyclical shares, which are more sensitive to economic conditions, were the worst hit. The euro zone's banking index fell 2.7 percent, insurers dropped 2 percent and the construction index was down 1 percent.

U.S.-Led Airstrikes Stall Islamic State Militants' Advance On Kobani

MURSITPINAR, Oct 16 (Reuters) - The advance of Islamic State fighters on Kobani stalled on Thursday according to a monitoring group, after U.S.-led coalition warplanes launched their heaviest bombardment yet on the militants, who have been assaulting the Syrian border town for nearly a month.

Last week Turkish and U.S. officials said Islamic State were on the verge of taking Kobani from its heavily outgunned Kurdish defenders, after seizing strategic points deep inside the town.

Just How Closely Do the NSA and U.S. Companies Work Together?

Newly disclosed National Security Agency documents suggest a closer relationship between American companies and the spy agency than have been previously disclosed.

The documents, published last week by The Intercept, describe “contractual relationships” between the NSA and U.S. companies, as well as the fact that the NSA has “under cover” spies working at or with some U.S. companies.

The Brain Cancer Rate for Girls in This Town Shot Up 550%—Is a Defense Contractor to Blame?

A pixielike girl with big blue eyes and long brown hair, Hannah Samarripa began experiencing headaches and fatigue in the middle of eighth grade. By the time the spring dance rolled around, Hannah didn’t have the strength to paint her own toenails. Her mother, Becky Samarripa, did it for her, and then drove Hannah to school and waited outside, knowing she’d be able to put in only a brief appearance. The teenager’s mysterious decline continued on to limping, vomiting, incontinence and—perhaps her most disturbing symptom—occasional fits of barking laughter that sounded so strange and demonic, her father wondered whether she was on drugs. Then, in the summer before ninth grade, while her family was visiting a Civil War memorial on the coast of Alabama, Hannah collapsed.

How Liberia's Government Is Using Ebola to Crack Down on the Media

Ebola has already claimed the lives of more than 2,000 people in Liberia. Now, the Liberian president's critics are warning that her response to the epidemic is threatening to undermine the country's fragile democratic institutions.

The controversy began back on August 6 when President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf announced a 90-day state of emergency to deal with the crisis. More recently, Sirleaf wrote a letter to the national legislature requesting the legal authority to suspend a number of civil liberties guaranteed by the country's constitution. If enacted, the measures would give Sirleaf the power to restrict the movement of certain communities by proclamation and even to limit speech that could create "false alarm." The government would also be able to confiscate private property "without payment of any kind or any further judicial process" in order to protect the public's health.

Elliot Lake Collapse: Neglect, Greed Led To Cave-In, Inquiry Finds

ELLIOT LAKE, Ont. - Decades of incompetence, neglect, greed and dishonesty by a succession of owners, engineers and municipal officials led to the deadly cave-in of a northern Ontario mall two years ago, a judicial inquiry reported Wednesday.

In a scathing indictment of those who allowed the Algo Centre Mall to rust to the point of collapse, Commissioner Paul Belanger pulls few punches in holding those responsible to account.

Urban Planet's Ad For 'Student Volunteers' Raises Questions About High School Co-Ops

Help Wanted: responsibilities include selling, hanging and folding clothes.

The ad reads like a posting for the typical after-school mall gig. But the difference is this student won’t be paid.

A Kijiji job posting for “student volunteers” at the Urban Planet in Oshawa, Ont., posted Sept. 30, was removed Tuesday over what the company called mistaken wording, but not before the unpaid retail position sparked outrage online. The posting became a flashpoint for activists concerned about the growing number of unpaid internships in this country and what they call the exploitation of youth.

Two child care plans — one for the rich, one for the rest

All of a sudden, it looks like the battle lines in the coming federal election may be less over whether to send our warplanes to Iraq and more over whether to send our children to day care.
With their announcement this week of plans for a national child care program, the NDP has not only proposed the beginnings of a solution to a gaping social need in Canada, it also has carved out territory where its contrast with the Harper Conservatives could not be starker.

Why Canada won’t copy U.K. vote on Palestinian statehood

Days after British lawmakers passed a symbolic motion recognizing Palestine as a state alongside Israel, it doesn’t look like Canada’s Parliament will consider doing the same anytime soon.

The U.K. vote Monday followed a motion put forward by the third-place Labour Party. The motion, amended to say a Palestinian state would only be recognized once peace negotiations have successfully concluded, passed 274 to 12.

Although fewer than half of MPs took part in the vote — Prime Minister David Cameron and his cabinet abstained — and the vote will not alter the government’s stance on the issue, experts say it is still significant as a reflection of shifting public opinion following the war in Gaza.

CSIS to get more powers in fight against homegrown radicals

The federal government will unveil new measures Thursday to give federal security agents more power to track suspected terrorists, the Citizen has learned.

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney is to announce the content of a bill he aims to table next week, according to government sources. The bill would enhance powers for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, including:

Allowing CSIS to obtain information on Canadians fighting abroad with terror groups through the “Five Eyes” spy network, which includes Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.

Return of the Bitumen Bubble, sort of, rains on otherwise cheerful Prentice parade

Just when you think you're finding your way out of the woods, there's that damned Bitumen Bubble again.
This time, it's crude oil prices that are declining -- or, as they say in journalese, the official language of the Internet, "plummeting."
This is handy for conservatives once they're elected and want to cut the crap out of public services they promised to protect, but not so good in the lead-up to an election during the phase when conservative governments of all stripes go into a tax-and-spend-liberal-spree mode and shower dollars on electors.
The special problem facing newly selected Progressive Conservative Premier Jim Prentice out here on the western edge of the Great Aspen Parklands is that his principal opponent in the upcoming Oct. 27 mini-election, in which he hopes to get his own place in the Legislature and a couple more for his two unelected cabinet members, is another conservative party.

UP! How the NL government and its unions solved their pension problem

In a country characterized by increasingly confrontational labour relations, an unlikely story of cooperation and negotiation emerges. Are there lessons for the rest of the country?
It took two years of wrangling -- and over a decade to get to the wrangling stage -- but on September 2, 2014, the government of Newfoundland and Labrador announced that it had reached an agreement on pension reform with five of its employees' labour unions.
In an era of increasingly hostile labour relations, the NL government and its unions managed to negotiate an agreement. Unions now have equal say in the new corporation that is to be established to administer the revised plan.

Abortion as a Social Good: Author Katha Pollitt Pens New Vision for Pro-Choice Movement

We look at a book out this week that offers a new vision for the pro-choice movement. In "Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights," Nation columnist Katha Pollitt dissects the logic behind the hundreds of abortion restrictions enacted over the past few years and shows that, at their core, they are not about safety, but about controlling women. In order to reverse the tide of eroding access, Pollitt concludes, the pro-choice movement must end the "awfulization" of abortion. She writes, "I want us to start thinking of abortion as a positive social good and saying this out loud."

Author: --

The Political Economy of Ebola

The Onion, as ever, is on point with its “coverage” of the worst recorded outbreak of Ebola, and the first in West Africa, infecting some 1,779 people and killing at least 961. “Experts: Ebola Vaccine At Least 50 White People Away,” read the cheeky headline of the July 31 news brief.

Our shorthand explanation is that if the people infected with Ebola were white, the problem would be solved. But the market’s role in both drug companies’ refusal to invest in research and the conditions on the ground created by neoliberal policies that exacerbate and even encourage outbreaks goes unmentioned.