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.]

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Americans Agree On One Thing: Citizens United Is Terrible

Tuesday marks the 10th anniversary of Chief Justice John Roberts taking the helm of the Supreme Court, and as academics and journalists look back on the cases that defined the past decade, none loom larger than the 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

Americans are pretty much of one mind about that ruling. By and large, they despise it.

Super PAC Contributions Can Be Considered Bribes: Judge

WASHINGTON -- A district court judge on Monday dismissed four corruption charges against Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and his donor Salomon Melgen, but denied motions to toss out other charges including, notably, the senator’s solicitation of contributions for a super PAC.

Lawyers for the senator had asked the court to dismiss charges related to Menendez’s solicitation of $700,000 from Melgen for Senate Majority PAC, a super PAC run by former aides to Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that made independent expenditures to support Menendez’s 2012 reelection.

Chicago Starts The Week With 14 Shot In 15 Hours

Chicago's bloody weekend spilled into the workweek, as 14 people were shot in the city over a 15-hour period from late Monday night to early Tuesday morning.

At least six people died. They included a pregnant woman and her mother, who were struck by a "barrage of bullets" in the Back of the Yards neighborhood, NBC Chicago reports. The woman's 11-month-old child was also injured in the shooting, although he is expected to recover.

Donald Trump's Tax Plan Could Balloon The Debt By 75 Percent

WASHINGTON -- Donald Trump's tax plan would increase the national debt by more than 75 percent over the next decade, according to an analysis by a conservative think tank.

Trump claims on his website that his plan "doesn't add to our debt." But the businessman-birther, who believes wrongly that vaccines cause autism, should at least recognize when numbers don't add up.

Some of America's Richest Companies Have Pathetic Paid Leave Plans

A group of five corporations announced on Tuesday at the Clinton Global Initiative’s annual meeting that they will improve their paid family leave policies. The companies, which include Barclays, Nestlé, and Danone (owner of Dannon yogurt and Evian water), have formed the Working Parent Support Coalition to work together to expand supportive policies for their employees, including breastfeeding access and programs to help them transition back to work.

Here's Who The Market Says Will Win Canada's Election

There’s a theory out there that if you want the most accurate possible forecast of election results, ask the people who have money riding on it.
The University of British Columbia has been running an election prediction marketsince 1993, and today investors can place between $25 and $1,000 on the outcome of the Oct. 19 federal election.

Dear Canadians: There is only one progressive choice this election

Dear friends:
I won't be voting Liberal on October 19.
With Election Day coming fast, the two-thirds of Canadians who don't want Stephen Harper as Prime Minister are mulling their options. For many of these voters, the ballot-box question is this: Who is the "progressive" choice? Justin Trudeau's Liberals, or Tom Mulcair's New Democrats?
Trudeau promises immediate debt-financed infrastructure investments to boost the economy. Mulcair's longer-term approach calls for a national child-care program (which Liberals promised 20 years ago) and a national drug plan (which all provinces say is long overdue).

Waiting for the elephant to be mentioned in the 2015 election

"We're paying [gas] prices similar to when oil was $100," Bruce Cran of the Consumers Association of Canada toldGlobal News reporter Jamie Sturgeon in August, just as the election got underway.
Motorists know major oil companies keep profits high by rigging prices they pay to fill up. When the oil price falls, profits are registered in gas sales instead of at the wellhead.
Why not keep prices at the pump high? Big Oil controls the production of petroleum, the sale of gasoline, and everything in between. Who is to stop them from abusing their power?
Canadian commuters looking for a break can look to government. An investigation into price fixing by the oil majors would be warmly welcomed by Canadians who drive cars, a significant number of voters.

Why Tories Don't Need a Majority to Keep Power in 2016, and Beyond

Call it an unexpected doomsday scenario for New Democrats, Liberals and Greens, but the Conservatives have a clear path to stay in power after the election into 2016 -- and then fight a second election -- without Parliament ever sitting.

And with some polls putting the Conservatives in first place, or at least with the best chance of winning the most seats, the odds of them pulling a magic rabbit out of the electoral hat keep increasing.

Aboriginal People Responsible to Raise Selves Out of Poverty, Conservative Says

When April Charleson, a chief of the Hesquiaht First Nation, described some of her community's challenges with poverty at an all candidates meeting, Conservative candidate and former Aboriginal Affairs minister John Duncan responded that she shouldn't expect help from Ottawa.

"We're struggling. We're poor," Charleson said, describing her community on the west coast of Vancouver Island, about an hour by boat northwest from Tofino. The population is spread out and not on the hydro grid.

Federal assistance rates are tied to provincial welfare rates that have been frozen since 2007, she said. The few hundred dollars people receive each month quickly disappear when it costs a minimum of $250 to charter a boat to get to a place where groceries are available, she said.

CBC hits back at Stephen Harper over funding cuts

WINNIPEG—The head of the CBC is hitting back at Conservative Leader Stephen Harper over the national broadcaster’s funding.

CEO Hubert Lacroix says the CBC has healthy ratings, but is crippled by a broken funding model.

After the CBC’s annual general meeting in Winnipeg, Lacroix said Canada must look to other European countries for ideas on how to fund public broadcasting.

Free Speech Gets the Death Penalty

In June, the US Department of Defense released its "Law of War Manual," within which the Pentagon states clearly that journalists may be "unprivileged belligerents," which leaves those reporting on the military in any capacity open to be treated the same as spies - or even terrorists.

"Unprivileged belligerent" is a legal term that can be applied to combatants (people who are not soldiers in a state-sanctioned military) in a conflict, who are given even fewer protections than combatants openly participating in war.

Harper's UN Peacekeepers Claim Contains 'Some Baloney'

OTTAWA — "Canada is still involved in peacekeeping in areas like the Sinai. We still contribute peacekeepers around the world." — Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, responding to Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau's suggestion that Canada is out of the peacekeeping business.
As Canada's political leaders slugged it out in a foreign policy debate in Toronto, world leaders meeting in New York pledged to increase the size of United Nations peacekeeping forces by 30,000.

Harper: Home Ownership Will Be 'Within Reach' For More Canadians

VAUGHAN, Ont. — The Conservatives are setting a target of creating 700,000 new homeowners by 2020.

Party leader Stephen Harper says a combination of previous tax breaks and new promises makes that a realistic goal.

They include commitments made on this campaign to expand the home buyers' plan, establish a permanent home renovation tax credit and measures to address foreign ownership of Canadian residential real estate.

Marco Muzzo, Man Charged In Fatal Vaughan Crash, Had Other Driving Offences

A man charged in Sunday's deadly car crash north of Toronto has a history of driving offences.

Three children and their grandfather were travelling in a van in Vaughan, Ont. when their vehicle was T-boned by another, emergency officials said.

Gary Neville, 65, died on scene. The children identified as Daniel, Harrison, and Milly Neville-Lake died after being rushed to hospital with life-threatening injuries on Sunday afternoon.

No Female Executives At Many Canadian Companies, Securities Regulators Find

TORONTO — A review of more than 700 companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange has found that the number of women on corporate boards and in executive positions varies by industry and company size.

For example, about 60 per cent of TSX-listed companies with a market capitalization more than $2 billion reported having at least two female board members. And 59 per cent of the reporting issuers of that size said they had at least two female executive officers.

Conservatives line up support from auto-parts makers for TPP deal

The governing Conservatives have lined up enough support for a massive Pacific Rim trade agreement from big auto-parts makers to expose a split in the industry ahead of talks this week that may yield a 12-country deal.

Talks between trade ministers resume shortly in Atlanta and one of the most contentious subjects is provisions agreed to by Japan and the United States that some warn could sideswipe some of the 80,000 auto-parts manufacturing jobs in Canada. Conservative Leader Stephen Harper has acknowledged some in the auto sector may not like the terms that would be reached in a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement.

Russian boots on Syrian ground create new reality for Canadian leaders, whether they discuss it or not

As the three principal contenders for the job of running the country weresparring entertainingly over the mostly insignificant differences among their platforms and trading slogans designed to obfuscate rather than illuminate -- "the threat we face today is not CSIS, it's ISIS" -- other actors on the geopolitical stage are creating new realities.
In fact, it would tell us voters a lot about how much of a threat the so-called Islamic State phenomenon is likely to actually present to Canadians if we had some idea of how Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau propose to respond to the efforts of the nations with troops on the ground in Syria, beyond the RCAF's occasional and apparently ineffective bombing raids in the neighbourhood, but the topic barely came up amid the posturing.

Police review into Jermaine Carby death brought to police board in closed-door meeting

In the wake of a damning report this summer accusing a Peel cop of “tampering” with the scene of a police-involved shooting, the regional force assured it would conduct a thorough review of its officers’ actions.

As public outcry grew over the Peel force’s handling of the September, 2014 shooting death of Jermaine Carby — and the revelation an officer had removed a knife from the scene of the shooting — Chief Jennifer Evans said she could not answer key questions about Carby’s death and its aftermath before the completion of the internal review.

Harper doesn’t have the power to eviscerate Canada’s reputation

What do Stephen Harper and Joan Jett have in common besides a burning love for rock and roll?

Neither, apparently, gives a damn about his or her reputation.

Jett said so explicitly in her hit song, “Bad Reputation,” released in 1980. And Harper, according to his foes, has quietly and deliberately diminished Canada’s international standing as the True North Strong and Friendly since he entered the prime minister’s office in 2006.

Prizefighter Trudeau proving a strong voice of a new generation

TORONTO — It was quite a night at the old Tin Can.

That is the name the doorman at the Intercontinental Hotel gave to the Roy Thomson Hall as I made my way to the best debate of a very lean season of good political theatre.

Hip, full of hop, and all showbiz, Justin Trudeau stole the show last night. It was billed as a foreign policy debate. It was really about politics as entertainment. The guy who isn’t supposed to be “ready” wasn’t quite Donald Trump, but he knew it was all about playing to the crowd.

Tory budget surplus came at cost to public safety

The Harper government is touting its $1.9-billion surplus for 2014-15 as an indication of sound fiscal management. But to get there it made major cuts to vital public services, which in some cases compromised public safety.

Starving the rail regulatory budget is a case in point. The government cut the rail safety division budget by 20 per cent between 2010 and 2014. It froze the transportation of dangerous goods (TDG) budget at a pitifully low $14 million and dismantled its team of professional engineers with unique expertise in this field.

Why I Won't Step Down to Stop Harper

I am a candidate in the upcoming federal election and a scientist committed to evidence-based decision-making.

As a scientist, I find myself among the throngs of Canadians who do not want Stephen Harper back in power. Does this mean, as suggested by David Beers last week, that today, Sept. 28, the deadline to remove my name from the ballot, I should step down unless I am positioned to win my seat?

The premise is undemocratic, but the question is rational. The Harper Conservatives leave us burdened with legislation designed to silence dissent, increase inequality, and suppress democracy. The urgency of climate change is denied, scientists are muzzled, and health, safety and environmental protections eviscerated. The recent drop in oil prices exposed the fragility of a petro-state economy. The list goes on. These "accomplishments" are the legacy of an ideology that is out of touch with the realities of our planet and Canadian values.

Potentially scandalous probe into muzzled scientists not likely out by Oct.19

A potentially explosive parliamentary investigation into the Harper government's so-called "muzzling" of government scientists shows no signs of being released before the federal election on Oct.19, despite Canada's Information Commissioner digging into it for more than two and a half years.

“Voters need to know what the result of that investigation has been,” said law professor Calvin Sandborn, with the University of Victoria's Environmental Law Centre. “I think the public needs to know the extent of the muzzling… Our submission is that it runs very deep in government."

Fiorina Endorses Torture, Warrantless Wiretap Programs

WASHINGTON -- Republican presidential candidate and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina may not be a career politician, but a new interview sheds light on some of her firsthand experience in the national security realm.

In a Yahoo News interview published Monday, Fiorina said that shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, she redirected trucks full of Hewlett-Packard servers on their way to retail stores to Fort Meade, Maryland, upon request of then-National Security Agency director Michael Hayden.

 In America, the Poorer You Are, the Poorer Your Children Will Be

When people talk about “balancing work and family,” they’re usually talking more about the workplace than what’s going on at home. Now we’re starting to get data on what the workaday life looks like from a kid’s eye view, and it doesn’t look good.

When debating the issue of work-life balance, arguments over unlimited vacation and employment discrimination center around women’s barriers to opportunity—the perennial glass ceiling that Anne Marie Slaughter and Sheryl Sandberg rage at when lamenting not “having it all.” For working-class folks crushed by on-call schedules or poverty wages, it’s often hard to find any life outside work, let alone to balance work and family lives. But centering the conversation not on career ambition but the life course of a family helps put the false dichotomy of work vs. life in perspective.

Margaret Atwood leads artists in a renewed push against C-51 on eve of election

Author Margaret Atwood and 200 of her fellow writers and artists are launching a renewed push to repeal Bill C-51 just 20 days before Canada’s federal election.

In an open letter published in Macleans on Sept. 29, the signatories warned that the anti-terror law endangers freedom of speech and expression, potentially restricting and criminalizing Canadian creative arts.

Donald Trump Releases Tax "Plan" the Rich Will Love

Good news! Donald Trump's tax plan is out. He claims it's revenue neutral, and, remarkably, doesn't claim that this is because of dynamic effects that will supercharge the economy. It's just plain revenue neutral. But let's put aside this extremely unlikely claim for the moment and look instead only at how Trump's plan affects his rich golfing buddies. Here are all the aspects of the plan that benefit the rich:

  • Cut the top marginal rate from 39.6 percent to 25 percent
  • Eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax
  • Eliminate the estate tax
  • Cut the corporate tax rate to 15 percent

Bill C-24: Trudeau Says Terrorists Shouldn't Be Stripped Of Citizenship In Leaked Audio

An audio recording of Justin Trudeau explaining why convicted terrorists should not be stripped of their Canadian citizenship has been leaked by Conservatives ahead of a key leaders' debate on foreign policy.

CTV News reported Sunday that the three-minute clip was recorded at a Winnipeg town hall in July.

In the recording, a man is heard asking the Liberal leader about Bill C-24, a controversial piece of legislation the man deems "absolutely disgusting."

Fact check: Harper's 'human trafficking' plan will do nothing to curb violence against women

The claim: the Conservatives will "stand up for victims" by fighting human trafficking
Stephen Harper announced that his government, if re-elected would continue to combat human trafficking. They'll do this by creating special RCMP human trafficking teams in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Winnipeg, doubling the money currently available for victims of human trafficking and declaring Feb. 22 human trafficking awareness day.

Donald Trump Previews His Tax Plan: Many Taxpayers 'Will Have A Zero Rate'

WASHINGTON, Sept 27 (Reuters) - Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump said in an interview that aired on Sunday on the eve of the unveiling of his tax plan that a "large segment" of U.S. taxpayers would have a zero rate if he wins the White House.

Trump's campaign has scheduled a news conference for 11 a.m. (1500 GMT) on Monday in New York to announce a tax policy it said would offer "a major tax reduction for almost all citizens and corporations, in particular, those in the middle and lower income classes."

Obama Jabs GOP For Being Behind The Times On Marriage Equality

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama on Sunday mocked the GOP for being behind the times, chiding the party and its presidential candidates for continuing to hold out against marriage equality, even though a majority of the country now supports it.

“The good news is they probably won’t use marriage equality as a wedge issue like they did in 2004 because the country has come too far," he said in a speech at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser in New York. "In fact, America has left the leaders of the Republican Party behind."

Shell To Cease Costly Alaska Arctic Exploration

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Royal Dutch Shell will cease exploration in Arctic waters off Alaska's coast following disappointing results from an exploratory well it just completed.

Shell found indications of oil and gas in the well in the Chukchi Sea about 80 miles off Alaska's northwest coast, the company said Monday in a release from The Hague, Netherlands. However, the petroleum was not in quantities sufficient to warrant additional exploration in that portion of the basin, the company said.

Ben Carson Says He’d Consider Religion As Probable Cause For Searches

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson told ABC’s This Week that he “would certainly be willing to listen to somebody” argue that the religion of Middle Eastern refugees should be considered probable cause for searches or wiretaps.

“I personally don’t feel that way, but I would certainly be willing to listen to somebody who had evidence to the contrary,” Carson said on the program Sunday morning. “I think that’s one of the problems, we get to our little corners and we don’t want to listen to anybody anymore.”

Elizabeth Warren Boosts Black Lives Matter Movement in Speech on Racial Injustice

While other high-profile politicians who claim left-leaning allegiances have fallen short, in one way or another, of speaking effectively about or to the Black Lives Matter movement and the issues that have shaped it in recent months, Sen. Elizabeth Warren broke from that pack Sunday.

Why We Must End ‘Upward Pre-Distributions’ to the Rich

You often hear inequality has widened because globalization and technological change have made most people less competitive, while making the best educated more competitive.

There’s some truth to this. The tasks most people used to do can now be done more cheaply by lower-paid workers abroad or by computer-driven machines.

Harper’s dollarama foreign policy on trial at Munk Debate

Stephen Harper has given Canada a complex – a military industrial complex to be precise. Among other things, Canada’s long farewell to diplomacy will be front and centre at the Munk Debate on foreign policy Monday night in Toronto.

But will the opposition lay a glove on the man who has single-handedly gutted foreign aid, erased peacekeeping as part of the Canadian vocabulary, and turned Canada’s foreign policy into Wrestlemania with real blood? If the debate on the economy is anything to go by, the answer is almost certainly no.

Leaked internal report warns of Canada's declining world influence

Canada’s international clout is “under threat” as its honest-broker role is replaced with a more assertive stand that plays down traditional multilateralism, an internal Foreign Affairs briefing document is warning senior federal government insiders.

The presentation, obtained by The Globe and Mail, is stamped “Secret” and was prepared by senior Foreign Affairs officials for a deputy-minister-level meeting Sept. 9. Departmental officials do not lay blame at the feet of the Conservative government, which has run foreign policy for the past nine years, but their analysis echoes criticism of Prime Minister Stephen Harper levelled by ex-diplomats, foreign observers and his political opponents.

In audio recording, Trudeau says Bill C-24 makes citizenship conditional upon 'good behaviour'

CTV News has obtained a recording leaked by the Conservative Party of Justin Trudeau’s answer in July to a question about Bill C-24, a law that allows dual citizens – those who are convicted terrorists – to be stripped of Canadian citizenship and deported.

The Liberal Leader began his answer by mocking Conservatives for their attack ads and calling attention to the portion of the answer that might be chosen for a future ad:

The homeless right to vote and home

The homeless have the right to vote and to a home.
According to Elections Canada and the lawyers who argued for the government and against the Council of Canadians and Canadian Federation of Students in their Charter Challenge in the Fair Elections Act case, if you are homeless, no worries, you can still vote in this federal election.
According to officials, a homeless person has only to go to the Elections Canada websiteto learn how they can vote.

Woman, 99, denied citizenship despite living in Canada since 1933

A 99-year-old woman is going public after she was denied Canadian citizenship and a health card despite living in Canada for more than 80 years.

Joan Stirling's application was rejected by Citizenship and Immigration Canada because she  couldn't produce a specific piece of identification — her birth certificate from almost a century ago.

Canada's patched-up military: Too few dollars, too many missions

National defence is a dead zone in our elections, rarely debated in depth in a country where the military and its multiple problems are mostly out of sight, out of mind.

Sure, the bizarre complexities of the F-35 stealth fighter inevitably surface, as they did when Justin Trudeau vowed to scrap it entirely from the competition to replace the aging CF-18s.

Chinese President Pledges Support For Women's Rights At UN, But Jails Feminists At Home

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — World leaders pledged money and political clout to achieve equality for women by 2030 at a U.N. meeting Sunday co-chaired by China's President Xi Jinping who has faced strong criticism for cracking down on women's rights activists.

Among the Chinese leader's strongest critics was Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton who tweeted: "Xi hosting a meeting on women's rights at the UN while persecuting feminists? Shameless."

All Nations Must Share the Blame, and Burden, or Lose the Climate Battle

LONDON—The developing world’s most polluting nations must abandon the decades-old rhetoric that blames rich countries for climate change and share responsibility for reducing emissions to avoid dangerous overheating, according to Brazil’s best-known scientist.

José Goldemberg, who took office as president of the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) this month, named Brazil, India and Indonesia—which account for 14% of global emissions—as the three key developing countries that need to abandon an outdated vision of development and use more energy-efficient technologies.

Truthdiggers of the Week: All Those Who Piled on Martin Shkreli

When Martin Shkreli, a 32-year-old pharmaceutical CEO, raised the price of a 62-year-old drug acquired by his company from $13.50 to $750 per tablet, the medical industry and the public exploded in outrage.

The former hedge fund manager’s decision threatened to increase the annual cost of treatment for rare, life-threatening parasitic infections sometimes contracted by AIDS and cancer patients to, in some instances, hundreds of thousands of dollars, a change that would drive most patients into deep debt and even bankruptcy.

Think Police Can’t Use Illegally Obtained Evidence Against You? Think Again.

Hudson v. Michigan (2006) is one in a series of cases in which
 the Roberts Court has blessed police officers with extraordinary power. This power authorizes cops to engage in the kind of violent and undemocratic policing that make places like Ferguson and Baltimore look less like American cities and more like the outposts of some totalitarian regime.

The scandal, it turns out, is not bad-apple cops. The scandal is that the conservative justices on the Roberts Court have provided the legal framework for black lives not to matter to the police.

GTA New Home Sales Plummet As Supply Runs Dry, Prices Stagnate

  • New condo prices haven’t grown in a year
  • Low-rise home prices turned downward in August
  • Lack of supply the main factor, BILD says

Sales of new single-family homes and condos in Greater Toronto fell by 25 per cent in August, compared to the same month last year, while a 19-month run of rising low-rise home prices came to an end.

Canada's more aggressive role in the world not gone unnoticed

In the camps for Syrian refugees, Canada is an ideal destination for those who have escaped the horrors of war.

"I think Canada is a great country," said Amar Aldoura, who fled Damascus nearly two months ago with his wife and baby boy. They stayed for a few weeks in a refugee camp along the Syrian-Turkish border before heading to Istanbul.

Liberals' Fiscal Plan Hangs On Finding $6.5-Billion In Savings In 4 Years

OTTAWA — The Liberals released a fiscal plan Saturday that was praised by external experts as prudent and transparent, but which also opened the door to new tax hikes, larger deficits and cuts to public sector spending.

The Liberals project a $9.9 billion deficit next year, followed by a $9.5 billion deficit in 2017-2018, $5.7 billion deficit in 2018-2019 and a $1 billion surplus in 2019-2020.

Canada Revokes Citizenship Of Toronto 18 Plotter

TORONTO — The federal government has revoked the citizenship of an Islamic extremist who masterminded a plot to bomb downtown Toronto in an effort to terrorize Canadians and cripple the economy.

A member of the so-called Toronto 18, Zakaria Amara was sentenced in 2010 to life in prison with no chance of parole until 2016 after admitting his role in the plan aimed in part at forcing Canadian soldiers to leave Afghanistan.

Quebec dairy farmers panicked over Trans-Pacific deal

In efforts to seal the Trans-Pacific trade deal, Canada may be prepared to open up to 10 per cent of this country's dairy market to American milk and related products, according to recent reports, and the news is making Quebec dairy farmers sick to their stomachs.

Quebec accounts for half of Canada's dairy farms, and industry representatives are concerned about the potential impact of the proposed 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), as chief negotiators from the 12 Pacific Rim member countries meet in Atlanta starting today.