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.]

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Arab-Jewish School, Symbol Of Jerusalem Co-Existence, Torched

JERUSALEM, Nov 30 (Reuters) - Suspected Jewish extremists set fire to a classroom in an Arab-Jewish school in Jerusalem, police said on Sunday, targeting a symbol of co-existence in a city on edge over a recent surge in violence.

The premises were empty late on Saturday when assailants torched a classroom used by first-graders at the Hand in Hand school, where Palestinian and Israeli children study together in Hebrew and Arabic.

NOAA: 2014 is shaping up as hottest year on record

(CNN) -- The first ten months of 2014 have been the hottest since record keeping began more than 130 years ago, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

That may be hard to believe for people in places like Buffalo, New York, which saw a record early snowfall this year.

Rudy Giuliani Finds A Way To Blame African Americans For Police Killings

Responding to a grand jury’s decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for killing 18-year-old Michael Brown, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said on Sunday that the black community is more responsible for the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police than the officers themselves.

Darren Wilson: America’s ‘Model Policeman’

Truth is stranger than fiction; it is also most certainly harder to accept.

In a nearly hour-long interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Tuesday, a day after thousands of protesters took to the streets from coast to coast, expressing outrage that yet another white police officer got away with the murder of another unarmed black person, Wilson stuck to his story: “I just did my job. I did what I was paid to do. I followed my training…. That’s it.”

Sure, there are plenty of reasons to doubt his account. If he knew Michael Brown was a robbery suspect, why did he politely stop him and Dorian Johnson for jaywalking only to “have a conversation,” as he described to Stephanopoulos? If the West Florissant section of Ferguson is “really a great community,” why did he testify that it was a not very “well-liked community” and a hotbed of anti-police sentiment?

Iran embassy report suggests little threat months before closure

A newly released report into security at Canada's former embassy in Iran suggests the threat to its officials wasn't as dire as the government suggested at the time.

The report, completed less than nine months before the Conservative government shut down the embassy and ordered Iranian diplomats out of Canada, said the biggest threat at the time was from a natural disaster.

"The high risk of catastrophic earthquake remains the most significant safety/security challenge for diplomatic missions in Tehran," says the report, which noted that high building density and poor local infrastructure in Iran's capital could lead a moderate earthquake to immediately kill 400,000 people.

Questions over Tony Blair’s 'opaque’ deals in Africa

Tony Blair was involved in attempting to secure business deals for wealthy clients in an African country that he also advised, according to emails obtained by The Telegraph.

Ohio Republicans push law to keep all details of executions secret

Republican lawmakers in Ohio are rushing through the most extreme secrecy bill yet attempted by a death penalty state, which would withhold information on every aspect of the execution process from the public, media and even the courts.

Legislators are trying to force through the bill, HB 663, in time for the state’s next scheduled execution, on 11 February. Were the bill on the books by then, nothing about the planned judicial killing of convicted child murderer Ronald Phillips – from the source of the drugs used to kill him and the distribution companies that transport the chemicals, to the identities of the medical experts involved in the death chamber – would be open to public scrutiny of any sort.

Cities 'Thrown to Wolves' by Province: Burnaby Mayor

On Derek Corrigan's desk sits a wooden slingshot, a gift from a Burnaby resident to the mayor at the centre of an increasingly heated battle with Kinder Morgan.

''It's a David and Goliath analogy,'' he says, turning the weapon over in his hand. ''I guess I'm David.''

Against Corrigan's wishes -- and despite several ongoing city legal challenges -- the Texas pipeline giant conducted exploratory drilling deep into Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area last week, sparking more than 100 arrests this week under a court injunction protecting company workers.

How Miriam Carey’s U-turn at a White House checkpoint led to her death

“We want to know: Why? What happened?”

So many questions, so much we still don’t know about the case of the woman shot to death by the Secret Service and the U.S. Capitol Police on Oct. 3, 2013, after a car chase from the White House to Capitol Hill. Her 13-month-old daughter survived in a car seat.

“Did we miss something?”

Barbara Nicholson is asking. The office manager of a dental practice in Ardsley, N.Y., is standing in the hygiene room, remembering the woman who used to clean teeth at this chair. Miriam Iris Carey — that was her name. She was one of the best dental hygienists and “one of the nicest people” Nicholson ever hired.

“We’re left with a void and no answers,” Nicholson says. “It’s like she was wiped off the face of the earth.

Nicholson’s voice catches. She pauses and looks away. “She’s missed. She’s very missed.”

Do you remember Miriam Carey? Her remarkably public death at 34 mesmerized us for a couple of news cycles. Then we moved on pretty quickly. I had to look up her name when I first started puzzling over this case. The main thing I remembered was that incredible video — the one showing the two-door black Infiniti surrounded by Secret Service officers with guns drawn near the Capitol Reflecting Pool. The car looks trapped. Suddenly the driver backs into a squad car and accelerates away. There’s the sound of gunfire while tourists take cover on the West Lawn. The Infiniti reappears, making a loop around a traffic circle, and proceeds up Constitution Avenue to what would be the fatal encounter outside the Hart Building.

What an afternoon. We were told that Carey “rammed” White House and Capitol “barriers.” That she tried to breach two security perimeters. That she had mental problems.

District Police Chief Cathy Lanier said federal officers acted “heroically.” The House of Representatives offered a standing ovation.

It was easy to call this a tragedy and turn the page.

Except that some of what little we thought we knew hasn’t held up. The part about ramming White House barriers and trying to breach two security perimeters? Not exactly true.

And how did a supposedly mentally unstable person remain a longtime, reliable and valued employee at two dental practices until the day she was killed? She had a condo and a family and, according to colleagues and relatives, plans for the weekend.

On the other hand, what person ignores commands from officers pointing guns, hits a couple of their cars, and drives on? “We all speculated that she was trying to get her child out of danger, when she was confronted with people with guns, because that’s what she would do,” Nicholson says.

The gunfire — 26 bullets in all — sets the Carey case apart. Shootings by officers on these two forces are rare. White House guards didn’t resort to their weapons in September, when fence-jumper Omar Gonzalez, who had a knife in his pocket, ran far into the executive mansion before being tackled. Carey was unarmed.

“There was no indication she ever had issues,” Nicholson continues. “You couldn’t ask for a more professional person than her. No one ever complained about her, and that’s highly unusual. She was the sweetest person you ever want to know.”

Nicholson looks out the window to the parking lot where Carey used to park the Infiniti. “You could see the [child’s] car seat in the back of that car,” she says.

The leaves are turning gold this afternoon in early October, as they would have been the last time Carey stood at this chair and looked out the window.

After her last patient that Wednesday, Oct. 2, Carey prepared to depart. She usually left by 5 p.m. to pick up her daughter at day care. She lived in Stamford, Conn., 24 miles from Ardsley, 265 miles from Washington.

Her schedule called for her to be off Thursday and Friday, then she was to work at her other dental job in the Bronx on Saturday, and she’d be back here at Advanced Dental of Ardsley on Monday.

“She was absolutely normal,” Nicholson says. “I still remember her standing there, saying, ‘Bye, have a nice weekend. See you on Monday.’ As if nothing.”

There is no public record of her movements or contacts until the following afternoon at 2:13, when she drove up to the Secret Service kiosk at 15th and E streets NW.

“You could see both sides of the story,” Nicholson says. “But I’m sorry. That child does not have a mother because they wanted to handle it their way.”

What did official investigations tell us?

By the time Carey got to town, Washington was already “on edge,” as more than one commentator would say. Two weeks before, a government contractor named Aaron Alexis had smuggled a sawed-off shotgun into the Washington Navy Yard. He murdered 12 people before being shot to death by D.C. police and U.S. Park Police officers.

Six months after that rampage, the Department of Defense released three reports, totaling 280 pages, by internal and independent investigators who took a critical look at how such a thing could happen. In July, the Metropolitan Police Department issued its own 83-page “After Action Report.”

The sum is 363 pages of narrative, timelines, diagrams and analysis of the attack and response, including recommendations for improvement.

The two incidents are, of course, vastly different in many ways, but in both cases, someone was killed by police. Yet in the Carey shooting, just one document has been shared with the public. Dated July 10, it is titled, “Press Release: U.S. Attorney’s Office Concludes Investigation into the Death of Miriam Carey.” It runs 21/2 pages.

U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr.’s role was to determine whether to charge the officers who fired at Carey with using excessive force in violation of Carey’s rights. Assisted by the Metropolitan Police Department, investigators interviewed more than 60 witnesses and reviewed ballistics reports, the autopsy, video footage and other evidence.

“There is insufficient evidence to pursue federal criminal civil rights or local charges against officers from the U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Capitol Police,” the release said.

Machen’s report offers a tight narrative of Carey’s actions during her last seven minutes — the time elapsed from her arrival at the White House checkpoint to her mortal wounding on Capitol Hill. Absent is any explanation for why officers resorted to deadly force, what threat Carey presented beyond alleged reckless driving, and whether officers followed their agencies’ policies.

Shortly before this story went to press, Machen’s office released one more sentence to The Washington Post: “There is more than sufficient evidence to show that under all of the prevailing circumstances at the time, the officers were acting in defense of themselves and others at the time they fired their weapons.” A spokesman said the office would not detail what that evidence is.

The Secret Service and the Capitol Police have declined to comment since the day of Carey’s death. D.C. Police Chief Lanier declined an interview request, and the city denied a request for the police department’s findings in support of Machen’s report.

At a budget hearing in March, Capitol Police Chief Kim Dine told Congress he could not comment while Machen’s criminal investigation was under way. “These officers are out there every day putting their lives on the line, and they have to make split-second decisions,” he added.

Now, four months after completion of the criminal probe, the department maintains silence about the case, it says, because the Carey family has filed a $150 million wrongful-death civil claim. The Capitol Police officers who discharged their weapons have been returned to active duty while an internal review continues.

The Secret Service, said a spokesman in an e-mail, “is not responding to any inquiries regarding this matter at this time.”

Who was Miriam Carey?

She grew up in the Pink Houses, a Brooklyn housing project. She was the second youngest of five sisters. Her father was a cook; her mother, a home health aide.

“We all had aspirations to be the best that we could be in our respective fields,” says older sister Valarie Carey, a retired New York police sergeant.

Miriam attended a high school outside the neighborhood where she could study for a health field. She got an associate’s degree from Hostos Community College in 2002 and began working as a dental assistant. Then she earned a bachelor’s from Brooklyn College, qualifying her to pursue a license as a registered dental hygienist.

“It was ‘Miriam I. Carey, RDH,’ ” says Timica Roach, a friend who is a college financial aid counselor. “She wanted to be addressed in that status.”

Miriam had ambitions to go further — to become a dentist or an instructor, or to write a book on the field. She started a placement agency for dental office personnel while working as a hygienist.

Did Miriam Carey have to die?

More than a year after Carey’s death, the answers are unclear.

“She wanted the best in life,” Roach says. “You could tell she was destined to be something.”

“She was full of life, passionate about everything she did,” says Jeannie Marra, office manager at Bronx Dental Implants and Periodontics. Marra remembers the playful hard time Miriam used to give the Listerine rep, arguing that alcohol should not be an ingredient in mouthwash.

Within the family, Miriam was the informal event planner — a baby shower, a trip, says older sister Amy Carey-Jones, a nurse.

One trip they’ll never forget is the excursion to Niagara Falls for Memorial Day 2007. Miriam looks giddy in a blue rain poncho on the Maid of the Mist boat ride to the Horseshoe Falls. At a butterfly conservatory near the falls, everyone was struck at how one landed on Miriam like a blessing.

After renting apartments in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, Carey was ready to buy her own place. In 2010, she found a condo in Stamford for $242,000, in a stately pre-World War II development set around a village green with a gazebo.

Stamford is a prosperous little city just 40 miles from New York, but it seemed a world away to the rest of the family in Brooklyn.

“I’m like, ‘Connecticut! What?’ ” recalls Valarie, who keeps a lighted candle beside a picture of Miriam.

Miriam still visited her mother and sisters nearly every weekend. To stay close to Valarie’s daughter, she would invite Shelby over for dinner and sleepovers.

“When she just moved there,” Shelby says, “it was a birthday weekend of mine. She picked me up, drove to Connecticut, took me shopping, cooked for me. That’s a good memory of mine.”

In Connecticut, Miriam met Eric Francis, who was 21 years older. He owned a heating and air conditioning business in the Hartford area. Valarie thinks they might have met over the computer, “which is so unlike Miriam, but, you know, she was in Connecticut. She wasn’t around us; she was by herself.”

Miriam did not share many details of her relationship with Francis, according to Valarie and Miriam’s colleagues at work. Miriam learned she was pregnant when she was hospitalized after she hurt her back in a bad fall.

Erica’s birth in August 2012, a week after Miriam’s 33rd birthday, opened a chapter of untold joy, and also challenge, for her mother.

Was Miriam Carey mentally ill? (And is that relevant?)

One day in late November 2012, Carey called the Stamford police to report male neighbors loitering outside her window. They had been stalking her for months, she told the 911 operator. “They’re trying to videotape me through my window,” she says on a recording of the call.

The operator said police would be right over, but there is no record of the outcome.

About two weeks later, shortly after midnight on a Monday, Carey locked herself in the bathroom with her daughter and wouldn’t come out, according to a call Francis made to the Stamford police. “It’s been going on for a week now,” he says on the recording. “She needs help.”

The episode was resolved — police records don’t say how — but before noon Francis summoned officers again. “She just went outside and I can’t get her back in,” he tells the emergency operator. “The baby doesn’t have no coat or anything.”

Four officers arrived and found Carey inside the condo, pacing with her daughter, according to the written police report. “She stated that the residence was hers and she wanted Francis removed,” said the report.

Asked why, “she replied it was because Stamford and the state of Connecticut [are] on a security lock down,” the report continued. “She stated that President Obama put Stamford in lockdown after speaking to her because she is the Prophet of Stamford. She further stated that President Obama had put her residence under electronic surveillance and that it was being fed live to all the national news outlets.”

An officer asked to hold the baby. “She replied no it was her Baby.”

Officers “grabbed” her arms, handed the child to Francis and handcuffed Carey. She slipped off the right cuff. “After a brief struggle” she was handcuffed again and transported to a location that is redacted.

Twelve days later, Francis called police before daybreak because he said he had not heard from Carey since the previous afternoon. He wanted to file a missing-persons report. Shortly after officers arrived, Carey returned. She got upset that police were in her condo, then calmed down, and the officers left.

An hour later, Francis again called police. “She needs to go back to the hospital,” he says on the recording. “She was on medication and she didn’t take her medication.”

The police report said officers found baby milk spattered around the apartment and Carey “acting out violently” toward “items” in the condo and Francis.

Officers pried the baby from her hold and gave her to Francis. After Carey was handcuffed, she tried to kick an officer whose colleagues “brought her to the ground,” the report said. She was taken to Stamford Hospital for an evaluation. We don’t know the outcome. Family members declined to share details.

At least two killed during Mubarak verdict protest near

Egyptian police in Cairo have used water cannon and tear gas against hundreds of demonstrators protesting against the acquittal of former president Hosni Mubarak by a local court. At least two people reportedly died and 15 were injured in clashes.

Other than riot control vehicles, security officers used birdshot to disperse the crowd.

RT’s Bel Trew reports from the Egyptian capital that live fire was allegedly applied by the police.

Christie Vetoes Pig Crate Bill In Controversial Move

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Republican Gov. Chris Christie has vetoed a politically charged bill that would have banned the use of certain pig cages in his state, a move many observers see as aimed at appeasing Iowa voters ahead of a potential 2016 presidential run.

In a veto message issued Friday, Christie called the bill opposing gestation crates a "solution in search of a problem."

Why Energy East Will Fail the Quebec and Ontario Climate Test

Last week, the governments of Quebec and Ontario imposed seven conditions on the Energy East pipeline project. Among them was a condition that the pipeline receive a"full environmental assessment that looks at impact of the project on greenhouse gas emissions". While one would think that the first consideration for building new fossil fuel infrastructure is the climate impact, the Canadian government has abdicated their responsibility to act on climate, so (unfortunately) this is a big deal.

10 Worst Countries For Women

Not one country in the world has successfully eliminated its gender gap, according to a recent report from the World Economic Forum (WEF). But while the scope of gender inequality has narrowed in some countries, in other countries women continue to severely trail men in economic participation, educational attainment, political empowerment, and even basic health outcomes.

ISIS Launches Attack On Syria's Kobani From Turkey: Activists

BEIRUT (AP) — The Islamic State group launched an attack Saturday on the Syrian border town of Kobani from Turkey, a Kurdish official and activists said, although Turkey denied that the fighters had used its territory for the raid.

The assault began when a suicide bomber driving an armored vehicle detonated his explosives on the border crossing between Kobani and Turkey, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Nawaf Khalil, a spokesman for Syria's powerful Kurdish Democratic Union Party.

Several Protesters Taken Into Custody In Ferguson

FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — In a Nov. 29 story and accompanying news guide about protests over the grand jury decision in the Michael Brown case, The Associated Press misidentified the Ferguson street where a Friday night protest happened. It happened on South Florissant Road, not West Florissant Avenue, which is also a street in Ferguson.

A corrected version of the story is below:

15 arrested at demonstration in Ferguson

15 arrested as protests return to Ferguson police department after mall shut-downs


Associated Press

Ferguson Protesters Chain Mall Doors Shut In Seattle: Cops

SEATTLE, Nov 28 (Reuters) - Protesters angered by a grand jury's decision not to indict a white police officer for killing an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, entered a pair of shopping malls in downtown Seattle on Friday and disrupted a tree-lighting ceremony.

More than 120 people were marching when a group broke off, went through Pacific Place mall and chained shut two doors, Seattle Police Department spokesman Patrick Michaud said.

Budget watchdog rips DND for keeping cost of Iraq mission secret

Canada’s budget watchdog slammed defence officials Friday for refusing to divulge the cost of the Iraq combat mission.

In a succinct letter, Parliamentary Budget Officer Jean-Denis Fréchette took aim at the deputy defence minister, Richard Fadden, for saying the military’s cost estimate for the six-month airstrike is a cabinet confidence.

“As you will be aware, cabinet confidence exists to allow for free and frank discussion of problems that come before Cabinet,” wrote Fréchette. “It does not, in this case, apply to the data provided to Cabinet.”

UN: More Than 16,000 People Sickened With Ebola

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Sierra Leone will soon see a dramatic increase in desperately needed Ebola treatment beds, but it's still not clear who will staff them, according to the top United Nations official in the fight against the disease.

Ebola has sickened more than 16,000 people of whom nearly 7,000 have died, according to figures released by the World Health Organization Friday.

Why Is California Keeping Kelly Savage in Prison for a Crime She Didn't Commit?

Kelly Savage had been planning her escape. She and her two children were going to take the 7:45 am bus from Porterville, in California's Central Valley, to Los Angeles. There, her sister would help them hide from Mark Savage, the husband whose brutal assaults Kelly had suffered for the past three years.

But 15 hours before their escape, while she was running last-minute errands, her husband beat her 3-and-a-half-year-old son Justin. The boy died. Both Mark and Kelly were arrested. At her trial, the prosecutor argued that Kelly enjoyed the beatings and that, because she had not fled, she was equally at fault for her son's death. Both were convicted of torture and first-degree murder and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. In 1998, nearly three years after her son's death - years Kelly Savage spent in jail - she entered California's Valley State Prison for Women. This year marks her 19th in prison.

How David Brock Built an Empire to Put Hillary in the White House

David Brock, the conservative journalistic assassin turned progressive empire-builder, is sitting in a conference room in the Park Avenue South offices of the MWW Group, a public-relations firm owned by Democratic mega-donor Michael Kempner. Fifty-two years old with a silver pompadour, and wearing round glasses with wire frames, he’s barely recognizable as the skinny, dark-haired operative who, during the Clinton administration, had an answering-machine message that said, “I’m out trying to bring down the president.”

Russia Test-Fires New 'Bulava' Intercontinental Ballistic Missile

The Russian Navy on Friday successfully test-fired a new intercontinental ballistic missile for a second time in as many months, proving its reliability following a troublesome development.

The Defense Ministry said the Alexander Nevsky nuclear submarine test-fired a Bulava missile from an underwater position in the Barents Sea. The missile's warheads reached designated targets at a testing range in Russia's far eastern Kamchatka Peninsula.

Why Oilsands are 'Canada's Elephant in the Atmosphere'

If oil prices continue their slide downward, the cancellation of high-cost oilsands projects are likely, but just because prices rebounded in the past and investment returned, does not mean that is a guide for the future, warns James Leaton, research director of the Carbon Tracker Initiative.

The One Word That Kept Darren Wilson Out Of Jail

In the aftermath of the Ferguson grand jury’s decision, many commenters and reportersnoted that the law made it very difficult for Darren Wilson to be found guilty of murder or any crime, under the circumstances.
If you are upset with the outcome of the case, the argument goes, don’t blame the prosecutor or the grand jury, blame the law.

Hosni Mubarak cleared of conspiring to kill protesters in Egypt’s 2011 uprising

Two people were killed in clashes between police and protesters after the former Egyptian dictator whose overthrow came to symbolise the promise of the Arab spring, Hosni Mubarak, was cleared of the murder of hundreds who called for his removal in 2011.

A Cairo court ruled on Saturday that it did not have jurisdiction over what it judged to be politically motivated charges, and dismissed the case. Mubarak, 86, was also acquitted of several other corruption charges. His interior minister, Habib al-Adly, and several senior Mubarak-era police officials were acquitted at the same time, as were Mubarak’s two sons, Gamal and Alaa, and an exiled Mubarak-era businessman, Hussein Salem.

Protests erupt in Egypt after Hosni Mubarak charges dropped

Protests erupted at universities across Egypt after a court’s decision to drop criminal charges against Hosni Mubarak, the president who was removed from power in the uprising of 2011.

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered at Cairo University, waving pictures of Mubarak behind bars and demanding the “fall of the regime”, the rallying cry of the Arab Spring uprisings that shook governments across the Middle East three years ago.

Police stood ready at the gates to bar students who sought to take their demonstration onto the streets.

Officers Who Shot 12-Year-Old Holding Toy Gun Refused To Give Him First Aid

The Cleveland officers who shot a 12-year-old boy holding a toy gun then failed to give him first aid for nearly four minutes. The boy was finally administered first aid when a detective and FBI agent arrived at the scene.
But it was too late. The boy, Tamir Rice, died after being transported to the hospital.

Ferguson Prosecutor Robert McCulloch’s Contempt for a Community

The name Ferguson should become shorthand for dehumanization.

No one should have been surprised that police officer Darren Wilson was not charged in the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown. I’ve written before, and likely will have to write again, about the tragically low value our society places on the lives of young black men. Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch led the grand jury in a manner that seemed designed to indict the unarmed Brown rather than the man who shot him dead. The outcome was not in suspense.

Why the Supreme Court should be the biggest issue of the 2016 campaign

Supreme Court justice and pop culture icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg left the hospital yesterday after having a heart stent implanted and expects to be back at work Monday. Despite various health issues over the years, Ginsburg insists that she is still of sound body at age 81 (her mind isn’t in question) and has no plans to retire before the end of President Obama’s term to ensure a Democratic replacement. If she keeps to that pledge, and presuming there are no other retirements in the next two years, the makeup of the Supreme Court could be a bigger campaign issue in 2016 than ever before. It certainly ought to be.

Ordinarily, the Supreme Court is brought up almost as an afterthought in presidential campaigns. The potential for a swing in the court is used to motivate activists to volunteer and work hard, and the candidates usually have to answer a debate question or two about it, which they do in utterly predictable ways (“I’m just going to look for the best person for the job”). We don’t usually spend a great deal of time talking about what a change in the court is likely to mean. But the next president is highly likely to have the chance to engineer a swing in the court. The consequences for Americans’ lives will probably be more consequential and far-reaching than any other issue the candidates will be arguing about.

Up to 13,000 working as slaves in UK

As many as 13,000 people in Britain are victims of slavery, about four times the number previously thought, analysis for the government has found.

The figure for 2013 marks the first time the government has made an official estimate of the scale of modern slavery in the UK, and includes women forced into prostitution, domestic staff, and workers in fields, factories and fishing.

The National Crime Agency (NCA)’s human trafficking centre had previously put the number at 2,744.

RACE BAIT -- Olivia Chow seemed unwilling to continue the conversation she had instigated on race, but at least it was a start

When Olivia Chow was asked during the election how she, a card-carrying New Democrat, would differ in leadership from former mayor and NDP member David Miller, Chow's reply was "I'm not male. Not white. Want to start there?"

Despite this brash invitation to explore diversity in politics, Chow seemed unwilling for much of the rest of the campaign to continue the conversation she had instigated where race was concerned.

This unfinished business - the unacknowledged truth that race and ethnicity affect people's daily experience - was frustrating for all who seek equity and social justice. It's fair to wonder if Chow's advisers told her to lay off the race stuff: critics dismissed her "not male, not white" remark as irrelevant; her supporters said it was a bad joke. All sides seemed eager to dismiss the subject and move on.

A Hawk Named Hillary

Hillary Clinton is running for president not only on her record as secretary of state, but also by presenting herself as tougher than Barack Obama on foreign-policy issues. With this stance, she presumably plans to distance herself from a president increasingly branded as “weak” in his approach to international issues, and to appeal to the supposedly more hawkish instincts of much of the electorate.

It is therefore necessary to ask a number of related questions, the answers to which are of crucial importance not just to the likely course of a hypothetical Clinton administration, but to the future of the United States in the world. These questions concern her record as secretary of state and her attitudes, as well as those of the US foreign-policy and national-security elites as a whole. They are also linked to an even deeper and more worrying question: whether the country’s political elites are still capable of learning from their mistakes and changing their policies accordingly. I was brought up to believe that this is a key advantage of democracy over other systems. But it can’t happen without a public debate—and hence mass media—founded on rational argument, a respect for facts, and an insistence that officials take responsibility for evidently disastrous decisions.

Cabinet minister's riding may have received $25K from SNC-Lavalin execs

SNC-Lavalin executives involved in an illegal political slush fund for Quebec provincial parties may have conducted the same practice at the federal level, CTV News has learned.

Elections Canada records reveal that 10 top SNC-Lavalin managers and their wives wrote personal cheques in 2009 to two federal Conservative riding associations that showed little chance of winning.

A total of $25,000 was funnelled to the ridings of Laurier-Sainte-Marie and Portneuf-Jacques-Cartier.

New Provincial Rules Will Rein in Police Dogs

On the same day that the British Columbia government announced new standards for the use of police dogs aimed at minimizing bites and injuries, Premier Christy Clark said she believes the animals should be allowed to bite "bad guys."

"You know, I'd never thought of that as an issue before," Clark said when a reporter asked if police dogs should be allowed to bite people. "I guess my answer is, I assume they should be able to do that. How else are they going to stop bad guys? Bark?"

Critical Offshore Weather Stations Dead for Six Months

Environment Canada lacks the resources to keep critical weather monitoring stations up and running throughout the year off the B.C. central coast, putting commercial and recreational mariners at risk as they enter one of the B.C. coast's most dangerous stretches of open water.

At least two weather tracking buoys were out of service as of Friday, and had been for months, according to Environment Canada.

Queen Charlotte Sound (see map lower down) is the largest unprotected run of coastal water between the B.C.-Washington border and Alaska. Without islands to brace the impact, it bears the full brunt of the North Pacific in winter. Hurricane-force winds can rip the coast with gusts over 80 knots, whipping up swells higher than a four-storey building.

Tony Clement's committee no-show irks NDP's Pat Martin

Leave it to New Democrat MP Pat Martin to turn the normally largely ignorable prelude to Friday question period into Must See Parliamentary TV.

In a statement delivered in his signature irascible style, the Winnipeg MP devoted every one of his allotted 60 seconds to decrying Treasury Board President Tony Clement's "refusal" to appear before the government operations committee to "defend hundreds of millions of dollars of proposed spending in the supplementary estimates."

Israel's Foreign Minister Wants to Pay Israeli Arabs to Leave

Last week, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved draft legislation to amend the country's Basic Law to declare that Israel is "the national homeland of the Jewish people" instead of a "Jewish and democratic state," as it had been since the state's founding in 1948, he had to tamp down criticism that the law codifies discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel—20 percent of the country's population.

"There are those who would like the democratic to prevail over the Jewish and there are those who would like the Jewish to prevail over the democratic," said Netanyahu. "Both of these values are equal and both must be considered to the same degree."

BEIRUT, Lebanon — American and Syrian warplanes screamed over the Syrian city of Raqqa in separate raids this week, ostensibly against the same target, the Islamic State militants in control there.

In the first raid, on Sunday, United States warplanes hit an Islamic State building, with no report of civilian casualties. On Tuesday, Syrian jets struck 10 times, killing scores of civilians, according to residents and Islamic State videos.

Canada's process to protect endangered species is failing, study finds

The Canadian government may be shirking its legal responsibility to protect endangered plants and wildlife, a new study suggests.

Scientists found that 86 per cent of legally protected species in Canada either maintain the same level of risk or have deteriorated over time.

Warming World Spells Trouble for Growing and Aging Populations

LONDON—Life is about to become more hazardous for more people in more places. As atmospheric carbon dioxide levels grow and the planet inexorably warms, there will be more frequent and more damaging floods, droughts and heat waves than ever before.

And since human numbers continue to soar, and the average age of many populations starts to increase, there will be more people, and a greater proportion will be increasingly vulnerable to climate extremes.

A Year After Congressional Testimony, Drone Strike Victims Still Searching for Justice

Drone strikes launched on October 11 of this year in Pakistan's Tirah Valley in the Khyber region and in Shawal in the North Waziristan region brought the total number of strikes in Pakistan to 400 since June 2004. The CIA's covert drone program regularly strikes parts of Yemen and Somalia as well.

In addition, a US-led coalition has been conducting airstrikes against IS fighters since the US military first launched its own airstrikes in Iraq in August. An increased emphasis on drone warfare to combat IS forces has longtime critics of the CIA's covert drone program, especially as it's used in countries like Pakistan and Yemen, on guard.

"The war hawks never met a conflict, they never met a problem, they didn't think could be solved by invasion, occupying or drones, and we're going to see more of that, unfortunately," says filmmaker Robert Greenwald, who directed Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars, in an interview. "It's almost a knee-jerk reaction."

Leighton Hay, wrongfully convicted of murder in 2002, walks free

The charges against Leighton Hay, a Toronto man convicted of an execution-style murder in 2002, were withdrawn this morning and he walked out of court a free man after more than 12 years in prison.

The Crown said it is no longer in the public interest to pursue the case.

Hay, 19 at the time, was found guilty of first-degree murder in the July 2002 killing of 51-year-old Colin Moore. But he appealed based on forensic testing on hairs found in his apartment.

Fine print on Ottawa's $200-million veterans fund: It'll take 50 years to pay

The federal Conservative government has trumpeted a new commitment of $200-million to help veterans deal with their mental-health issues, but it has been less vocal about the fact that the money will be paid out over the next half a century.

Veterans advocates and opposition politicians accuse the government of deliberately misleading Canadians about the scope of the new investment, which was announced just before the release of a report critical of its treatment of former military personnel.

Lawbreaking protesters outmatched by institutional lawlessness

Barack Obama looked at his most clueless, responding to the riots and rage in Ferguson, Missouri. He hasn't seemed so callow since the BP oil spill. Like he just wished it was over and could get on to the delights of his post-presidency. Or back to immigration reform and stalling that damn pipeline.
Using his slow voice, as if he's explaining something so basic that it's hard to understand, he declared that the U.S. is a "nation built on the rule of law" and added next day, he has "no sympathy" for those who go violent. The problem with this, at least for those in the streets, is the U.S. is not a nation of laws and resorts to official violence and/or illegality routinely.

Want to make amends with vets? Start by firing Fantino

There are bullying, disingenuous, condescending windbags … and then there’s Julian Fantino.

This is the minister who yelled at octogenarian veterans in front of the cameras, offered a fake apology for his rudeness after standing them up — and then insulted them again the next day by calling them union dupes. (Still better than a fake apology.)

This is the minister who manfully ran away from the wife of a suffering veteran rather than deal with her SOS. Equipped with the personality of a bar bouncer on a short fuse, Fantino has bellyflopped in every job Stephen Harper has given him. He is the last person who should be dealing with war-damaged veterans. A cattle prod — not the English language — is his preferred instrument of persuasion. Canadian veterans don’t take kindly to cattle prods.

Maneuver to derail Alberta gay-straight alliance bill shows Prentice Tories will tolerate bullying for political gain

By choosing yesterday to put the right of citizens to use their religious beliefs as an excuse for bigotry on the same level as the right of citizens not to be victims of bigotry, Alberta Premier Jim Prentice and his Progressive Conservative Government chose to tolerate, if not encourage, anti-gay bullying in schools.
Sorry, but that's just the way it is.
No matter what's in Prentice's promised amendments to the Education Act, the Human Rights Act and the Alberta Bill of Rights -- introduced in an unholy rush yesterday to derail Edmonton-Centre Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman's snowballing private member's bill that would have forced schools to permit students to organize gay-straight alliances -- there just ain't no way to square this circle.

Why Canada Shouldn't Open Up Its Dairy Market To New Zealand

New Zealand's high commissioner to Canada, Simon Tucker, was quoted recently as saying that he has been talking to Canadian dairy farmers, "and you do find a lot of them privately will talk that they recognize that change is necessary and inevitable." The change that he implies Canadian dairy farmers want is a fundamental shift in this country's system of supply management that would open up Canada's dairy markets to NZ milk.