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.]

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Georgia Immigration Law: Thousands Protest For Reform At State Capitol

ATLANTA (AP) -- Thousands of marchers stormed the Georgia Capitol on Saturday to protest the state's new immigration law, which they say creates an unwelcome environment for people of color and those in search of a better life.

Men, women and children of all ages converged on downtown Atlanta for the march and rally, cheering speakers while shading themselves with umbrellas and posters. Capitol police and organizers estimated the crowd at between 8,000 and 14,000. They filled the blocks around the Capitol, holding signs decrying House Bill 87 and reading "Immigration Reform Now!"

Friends Jessica Bamaca and Melany Cordero held a poster that read: "How would you feel if your family got broken apart?"

Bamaca was born in the U.S., but her mother and sister are from Guatemala. She said she fears they will be deported.

"I would be here by myself," said Bamaca, 13. "I have a feeling (the governor) doesn't know the pain affecting families. If he were to be in our position, how would he react?"

Adelina Nicholls, executive director of the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, said the crowd was sending a message.

"They are ready to fight," Nicholls said. "We need immigration reform, and no HB87 is going to stop us. We have earned the right to be here."

Azadeh Shahshahani of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia called the rally inspiring and said she hoped lawmakers would recognize the law's potential to damage the state.

"I think it's going to have an impact," she said. "Unfortunately, the damage has already been done as far as people of color having second thoughts about moving to Georgia."

Several different groups stood with the largely Latino crowd, including representatives from the civil rights movement. The Rev. Timothy McDonald, an activist who has been supportive of immigration protesters, was among the speakers showing his solidarity.

"You are my brothers and my sisters," McDonald told the crowd. "Some years ago, they told people like me we couldn't vote. We did what you are doing today. We are going to send a message to the powers that be ... that when the people get united, there is no government that can stop them. Don't let them turn you around."

MiLi Lai, a student at Emory who is Chinese, also attended the rally because the immigration law doesn't just apply to Latinos, but "all non-American people."

"We are the same community," Lai said. "We have to fight for our rights."

Full Article
Source: Huffington 

New Jersey Anti-Union Bill Paves Way For Employee Benefit Cuts In Other States

TRENTON, N.J. -- The nation's financial downturn left many states in such a precarious position that they were forced this year to make tough decisions on expensive but long-untouchable public employee benefits.

Nowhere was this breakthrough more evident than in union-friendly New Jersey, where a Republican governor aided by Democrats enacted sweeping cost-saving changes that touched pensions and health care simultaneously.

Experts say the overhaul is not only significant in scope, but also marks a pivotal moment as other states look to defuse the ticking time-bomb employee benefit obligations have become as a result of the recession, government benefits becoming more generous than those in the private sector, and poor planning by politicians.

With one bill, New Jersey increased required pension contributions, increased the amount workers will pay for health benefits, raised the retirement age, and eliminated automatic cost-of-living increases for current retirees among other things.

The ideas aren't new, experts said, but New Jersey's success in adopting a comprehensive solution rather than taking a piecemeal approach is noteworthy.

"What New Jersey has done is farther-reaching versions of the reforms done all around the country, but all together at once," said Joshua Rauh, an associate professor of finance at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

All 50 states have combined unfunded pension and retiree health care obligations that top $1 trillion, according to an Associated Press examination of state balance sheets.

Five states have unfunded public employee pension liabilities of $50 billion or more, and a recent study by the Pew Center for the States found that only 5 percent of states saved toward their obligations for retiree health care benefits.

"The bigger the annual (obligation) bill is for states, the more pressure it puts on them to not spend money on things like education or public safety," said Sue Urahn, the managing director for Pew.

Although New Jersey's powerful public employee unions did not go down without a fight, Republican Gov. Chris Christie and his and Democratic allies in the Legislature managed to circumvent collective bargaining without the turmoil that occurred in several other states – most notably Wisconsin.

Unlike Wisconsin though, New Jersey suspended – not eliminated – collective bargaining on health care for four years. And New Jersey had a much larger pension and health benefits problem to solve.

With underfunded retirement systems short of eventual liabilities by a combined $110 billion, New Jersey's retiree obligations are among the biggest in the country and are growing. Some studies estimated the pension fund in the New Jersey, the nation's most densely populated state, would go broke within the decade.

"There is nothing like the absence of cash to focus one mind's on change," said former New York lieutenant governor Richard Ravitch, who along with other government officials will serve on a new task force to look into states' current money problems and the extent of their debt.

Illinois and California are also in dire straits with each owing more than $100 billion in promises to state and local public workers. Wisconsin, where public protests raged on for days over the GOP-led elimination of collective bargaining rights, falls in the middle of all states in terms of retiree obligations.

While bigger states have bigger debt obligations, smaller Northeastern states – with more prevalent unions than out West – fared worse in terms of the percentage they have set aside for retirement funds. As in New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maryland, New Hampshire, and Maryland all have pension systems that are underfunded by at least a third, according the Pew Center.

An examination of health care debt reveals an even worse financial picture.

Nineteen states haven't set aside any money toward their health care funds, instead dealing with benefits that far exceed those in the private sector on a pay-as-you-go basis for expenses incurred by current retirees, Pew found.

In 2009, 14 states offered free health benefits to some or all individual state employees, and half as many states also paid for family plans, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

What is even more notable than the scope of New Jersey's change to employee benefits, is that normally union-backing Democrats – albeit only a handful – helped to pass it. Those who supported it said the state could not wait any longer.

"Unions at the local levels were unwilling to give up any concessions at all," said New Jersey's Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver. "I think at some point you have to put politics aside and solve the problem."

Union officials say politicians have been effective at deflecting blame for years of irresponsible behavior, such as skipping pension payments and borrowing against investments in flush years, by using the economic downturn to portray public workers as the problem.

"They flipped the tables to say `Look at these individuals who have these plans that you don't enjoy anymore and you're paying for it,'" said Harold Schaitberger, general president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, which represents 300,000 career firefighters in North America.

"They use those debt figures to whip up public fear because people aren't paying attention to what politicians are doing," added Bob Master, the political director for the Communications Workers of America's Northeast region.

Master said that increasing health premiums for current state workers will do nothing to shore up the liability for existing retiree obligations.

Michigan tried to address its health care obligation by making teachers and state workers start paying 3 percent of their pay toward retiree health costs last year under Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Public sector unions sued and the payments are tied up in court because judges have so far ruled that employees can't be forced to pay for retirement benefits they may never get.

New Jersey unions also plan to sue over the elimination of cost-of-living increases, called COLAs, for current retirees.

Colorado, Minnesota, and South Dakota have all tried to reduce COLAs only to face ongoing lawsuits. A few other states have managed suspend them for a year, but no state has been successful in eliminating them totally.

Getting rid of the annual increases achieves a large and immediate savings.

In separate district court rulings on Wednesday, judges in Colorado and Minnesota upheld the reduced COLAs – a good signal for New Jersey, which allows for them to be reinstated once the pension account becomes 80 percent funded.

"COLAs needed to be addressed head-on ... it's a big cost savings," said Alicia Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. "It attacks the notion that pensions cannot be changed for existing employees."

But Munnell said the New Jersey legislation was also sweeping for what it gave to unions: the power to sue if the state should once again skip an annual pension payment – a move intended to ensure that the state doesn't get itself back into trouble when the economy improves.

Full Article
Source: Huffington 

The Damaging Three Words of the Declaration of Independence

When I moved to San Francisco decades ago, I was invited to any number of July 4th gatherings. They all had two things in common.

First, they were freezing. What was with this fog?

Second, at someone's suggestion - I think mine, but cannot claim authorship for sure - we started reading the Declaration of Independence out loud. I had a World Almanac that contained a copy. Yes, the New York Times prints a full page version of the original, but those old f's for s's, among other stumbles, made us choose more modern type.

Our tradition was to set out the picnic stuff, run back to the car for another jacket or sweater, maybe a hat or gloves, then, once the shivering merriment was underway, pull out the Almanac, and open it to the Declaration.

We took turns, each person reading a paragraph or two, or part of one, depending on such factors as the reader's dramatic interpretation inclination, or shyness. Then the reader would pass the book to the next person.

I really liked doing this - if not then, when? - but the tradition took place years before I started working on my book, Indian Voices: Listening to Native Americans and, well, I was not paying a lot of attention to certain phrases. My Euro-centric background was just fine with Th. Jefferson's prose. So much of it was thrilling. "He has plundered our Seas, ravaged our Coasts ..." Whew! "... circumstances of Cruelty and Perfidy" what rhythm, what cadence, I thought.

Eventually, however, we get to "domestic Insurrections amongst us," and here it comes, the phrase that distresses me so much after spending close to a decade meeting, and listening to, Native Americans, that I can barely stand to read it, nor type it.

"... the merciless Indian Savages."

Say what? From the elegantly-quotable Jefferson? Yes. "... the merciless Indian Savages, whose known Rule of Warfare, is an undistinguished Destruction, of all Ages, Sexes and Conditions."

While Native Americans celebrate this 4th of July weekend, probably with hotdogs and fireworks, and possibly a powwow (as far as I know, the day has not attained the level of dislike or dismissal in Indian country that there is towards Columbus Day), I wonder whether we might all read the Declaration of Independence out loud, consider what that three word phrase wrought, not to mention the words about "undistinguished Destruction." Destruction of who by whom? Native people, among others, may ask.

The words themselves are so savage, it is a wonder to me that there had already been a celebrating of Thanksgiving.

Source: Huffington 

Buried bombs take increasingly deadly toll on Afghan civilians

The latest casualties came Saturday in Zabul province, in southern Afghanistan, when a van filled with travelers struck a roadside bomb. Thirteen people were killed, including four children and four women, said a spokesman for the provincial government.

On Friday evening, two separate bombs planted close together killed four people in the rural Maruf district of volatile Kandahar province. One was apparently triggered by a donkey, and two people riding or leading the animal died in the explosion. Then two more people who rushed to the rescue were killed by another bomb, police said.

The Taliban and other insurgents often plant bombs close together, in hopes of killing troops and then those who rush to the rescue.

The bombings in Zabul and Kandahar followed another deadly episode on Thursday night in nearby Nimroz province, a roadside bomb that killed 13 people and injured about three dozen others.

Civilians have been dying in record numbers as violence ratchets upward across Afghanistan. The United Nations said May was the deadliest month for noncombatants since it began keeping track five years ago, with 368 civilians killed in war-related violence. That month coincided with the start of the Taliban spring offensive.

Full Article
Source: Los Angeles Times 

Herman Cain Excites Mainstream Conservatives, Pushes Ahead In Polls

ATLANTA -- Bolstered by support from his loyal radio talk-show audience and tea party backers, businessman Herman Cain has revved up mainstream conservatives, rising recently to third place in a poll of voters in Iowa, the leadoff caucus state.

In his pursuit of the Republican presidential nomination, Cain's views on the economy and his fiery delivery have resonated with some in the GOP. His campaign has also been marked by controversy, including his comment that he would not want a Muslim bent on killing Americans in his administration. Just this week, Cain accused comedian Jon Stewart of disliking him because he is an "American black conservative."

Already losing some of his cachet to tea party favorite Michele Bachmann, Cain, the lone African-American GOP candidate, is trying to win over a party that hasn't had a black nominee. Sidestepping race as an issue in his campaign may have helped him gain momentum in recent weeks, but whether he can turn vigor into votes will depend largely on voters' ability to look past his skin color and perceive him as a serious candidate.

"He appeals to people because he doesn't talk about race," said South Carolina Republican strategist Chip Felkel. "I think that too often, if anyone does go into that discussion, it's then used by other people to criticize them. I don't think that needs to be part of his narrative. He's a business person. He's an American."

Cain has been on a remarkable trajectory since entering the race more than a month ago, when a crowd of 15,000 stormed a downtown Atlanta park to cheer him on at his campaign announcement. He was received well at the Republican Leadership Conference this month in New Orleans and drew nearly 100 in Greenville, S.C., for a discussion of his economic plan.

His narrative – outlined in a patriotic, four-minute video that winds across rolling hills and pastures and ends in a boardroom against the backdrop of the American flag – is that of a no-excuses, no-nonsense fighter who isn't afraid of a challenge. On the stump, he offers simplified stances on complex issues like national defense, the federal income tax and why he thinks America should return to the gold standard. He has been compared to Republican heroes like Ronald Reagan.

"He's fresh, he's outspoken," said Debbie Dooley, head of the Georgia Tea Party Patriots. "If they hear him speak, he usually wins them over. With him, what you see is what you get. People like that."

Cain's story of uplift is not without hints of his heritage. In a campaign video, the great-great grandson of slaves recalls his hardscrabble beginnings in the Jim Crow South, where his father worked three jobs to buy a house and stressed the importance of education to Cain, a graduate of the all-male, historically black Morehouse College.

"He doesn't believe in the whole business of race being a defining factor of anything in this country," said William Boone, a political science professor at Clark Atlanta University, which is predominantly black. "He says, `If you work hard, you will make it. Look at me.' He believes racism is just one of the many obstacles people face. If he ran any other way, he wouldn't be showing up in the polls."

Cain, a former pizza company executive, said he became a conservative "when I started to make some money" and dismisses the idea that his views somehow diminish his black identity.

"I have never left the black community," Cain told The Associated Press, noting he's attended the same black Baptist church for years. "I am a part of the black community. I don't have to do anything special. I just have to tell the truth. That transcends ethnicity."

Recent poll numbers and a flurry of media attention seem to suggest his strategy is working.

Full Article
Source: Huffington 

Minnesota Government Shutdown Begins, No End In Sight

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Minnesota lawmakers headed home for a long holiday weekend, bracing for likely public anger as some of them meet constituents for the first time since a failure to reach a budget agreement forced a government shutdown.

The reception they get starting Saturday, and during 4th of July parades around the state, could go a long way toward determining how long the shutdown lasts. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and GOP leaders had no plans for new talks before Tuesday, five full days after the shutdown started.

Minnesota's second shutdown in six years was striking much deeper than a partial 2005 shutdown. It took state parks and rest stops off line, closed horse tracks and made it impossible to get a fishing license. But it also was hitting the state's most vulnerable, ending reading services for the blind, silencing a help line for the elderly and stopping child care subsidies for the poor.

The shutdown was rippling into the lives of people like Sonya Mills, a 39-year-old mother of eight facing the loss of about $3,600 a month in state child care subsidies. Until the government closure, Mills had been focused on recovering from a May 22 tornado that displaced her from a rented home in Minneapolis. Now she's adding a new problem to her list.

"It just starts to have a snowball effect. It's like you are still in the wind of the tornado," said Mills, who works at a temp agency and was allowed to take time off as she gets back on her feet – but after the shutdown also has to care for her six youngest children, ages 3 through 14, because she lost state funding for their daycare and other programs.

Minnesota is the only state to have its government shut down this year, even though nearly all states have severe budget problems and some have divided governments. Dayton was determined to raise taxes on the top earners to help erase a $5 billion deficit, while the Republican Legislature refused to go along with that – or any new spending above the amount the state is projected to collect.

Here, as in 21 other states, there's no way to keep government operating past the end of a budget period without legislative action. Even so, only four other states – Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Tennessee – have had shutdowns in the past decade, some lasting mere hours.

The shutdown halted non-emergency road construction and closed the state zoo and Capitol. More than 40 state boards and agencies went dark, though critical functions such as state troopers, prison guards, the courts and disaster responses will continue.

On Friday, former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz started the court-appointed job of sifting through appeals from groups arguing in favor of continued government funding for particular programs.

Nonprofit groups helping the state's poor have already been hit hard. Some closed their doors immediately, while others continued services, at least for now. Some were looking at layoffs, said Sarah Caruso, president and CEO of Greater Twin Cities United Way, which funds 400 programs serving poor people. She said the impact will depend on how long the shutdown lasts.

"If we go well beyond that two-week window, I think then we will start seeing much more significant closure of programs to support the vulnerable, and the long-term financial viability of some of these agencies will really be called into question," she said.

So far, 30 agencies had accepted United Way's offer of advances on their grants, seeking cash to stay up and running.

The stoppage suspended some programs for the blind and visually impaired, including a radio reading service run by volunteers and training for blind people who are learning to walk with a cane. Bonnie Elsey, director of the state's Workforce Development Division, said a vocational rehabilitation program that places people with disabilities in jobs or school was halted.

Minnesota food pantries scurried to make sure they would still get 700,000 pounds of food – about 30 percent of their total volume – in the next two months through a federal program. Nearly a million pounds already in warehouses were also put on hold by the shutdown. Colleen Moriarty, executive director of Hunger Solutions Minnesota, said the federal program's operation depended on a single state employee working in a data management system. Later Friday, Moriarty said the employee had been called back to work.

The shutdown also idled a state hotline set up to help seniors and their caregivers find services, housing options, help with Medicaid and Medicare insurance and more. A call to the 800 number Friday got a recording saying callers could leave a message.

The political stalemate meant instant layoffs for 22,000 state workers, including Paul Bissen, a road and bridge inspector for more than 26 years. Bissen said he cut back on spending last month. He figured he could go a couple of months without worrying, but on the first day of the shutdown, he said it looked like his washing machine had died – adding another expense.

"I want to work. I've got road construction projects to build, to try to make them safe and make them smooth so people can get back to forth to their work," Bissen said.

Fearful of voter anger, both parties blasted each other for Minnesota's second shutdown in six years.

GOP Chairman Tony Sutton called Dayton a "piece of work" and accused him of inflicting "maximum pain" for political reasons.

Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party Chairman Ken Martin laid the blame on Republicans, saying they drove the state to a shutdown to protect millionaires from tax increases sought by Dayton.

The Alliance for a Better Minnesota, a left-leaning group supportive of Dayton, plans to run weekend radio ads in three popular vacation areas blaming Republicans for the impact of the shutdown, including closed state parks. The group also debuted a "shutdown shame" website.

The shutdown has been a slow-motion disaster, with a new Democratic governor and new Republican legislative majorities at odds for months over how to eliminate the state budget deficit. Dayton has been determined to raise taxes on high-earners to close the deficit, while Republicans insisted that it be closed only by cuts to state spending.

Even after the shutdown looked like a certainty, Dayton and Republicans did not soften their conflicting principles. Dayton said he campaigned and was elected on a promise not to make spending cuts to a level he called "draconian."

Source: Huffington 

Google's Transparency Report 2011 Reveals Which Countries Request Most Information About Users

Google regularly receives requests from governments around the world, asking them to remove content and fork over user data.

In its recently published Transparency Report, Google reveals which countries place the most requests for information about users and for removal of content.

Content-removal requests can vary dramatically from country to country, depending on local laws. While many requests occur over alleged defamation, hate speech or pornography law violations, others are just, well, snoopy.

United States, for example, submitted more than 4,000 requests in just six months last year.

See who else topped the list of countries requesting the most information from Google between January 2010 and July 2010.

Source: Huffington 

Hundreds of Thousands of Greek and British Workers Stage Strikes As Governments Push Austerity Cuts

More than 750,000 British public sector workers staged a 24-hour strike Thursday in a stand-off with the government’s plans to reform public sector pensions. The reforms come as the government tries to trim its deficit and would require public workers to work longer, pay more toward their pension and receive less upon retirement. Meanwhile in Greece, thousands of workers staged a 48-hour strike and many took to the streets after the Greek Parliament approved a raft of austerity measures that include spending cuts, tax increases and privatizations as a condition for a massive bailout to avert the Eurozone’s first default. “There is a common theme to the protests that are taking place across Europe, and that is not just the public sector workers defending their pension rights, but also a generation of young people for whom quite a stark picture is being painted of their future,” says our guest Paul Mason, an economics editor for BBC Newsnight who just returned from reporting in Greece. We also speak with David Graeber, author of "Debt: The First 5,000 Years." “Most revolutions in our history have been about debt,” says Graeber. “It is a perennial tool by those who are powerful to make the victims of structural inequalities feel that it is somehow their fault.”

Source: Democracy Now! 

Ford and the ‘family values’ case for gay rights

To Irene Miller, who will march down Church St. on Sunday with moms, dads, sisters and brothers, Mayor Rob Ford’s absence would be a declaration.

“He would be choosing his family over our family,” says the president of PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) Toronto, who waits in vain for Ford to answer her invitation to the Pride parade.

“We’re a safe place to march. We’re moms and dads wearing lots of suntan lotion, T-shirts and sensible shoes,” she said, adding it’s vital to send a message of equality to gays and straights.

“One in 10 hands he shakes every day are probably LGTB (lesbian, gay, transsexual or bisexual), and probably three or four in 10 know and support someone who is gay. I think he should represent every single person in the city.”

After Ford nonchalantly refused to commit to any Pride activities beyond a proclamation signed behind closed doors, he was caught off-guard by the resulting uproar.

His team scrambled to a “family values” narrative — the super-busy mayor was heading north for a few days to spend Canada Day with his clan. “My family comes first,” Ford told reporters. Added his mother Diane: “He just wants to spend time with his family.”

Despite the fact that Pride spans 10 days — and that Ford has a history of brow-raising statements about gays — the public comments on talk radio, blogs and news websites this week suggest his strategy has worked, somewhat.

The truth is that Toronto’s mayor is uncomfortable with the idea of being at a gay gathering, a source close to Ford told the Star. The mayor spurned advice to make a gesture in order to relieve the pressure, said the source, who would not speculate on the cause of Ford’s discomfort.

Full Article
Source: Toronto Star 

U.S. Expands Its Drone War Into Somalia

WASHINGTON — The clandestine American military campaign to combat Al Qaeda’s franchise in Yemen is expanding to fight the Islamist militancy in Somalia, as new evidence indicates that insurgents in the two countries are forging closer ties and possibly plotting attacks against the United States, American officials say.       

An American military drone aircraft attacked several Somalis in the militant group the Shabab late last month, the officials said, killing at least one of its midlevel operatives and wounding others.

The strike was carried out by the same Special Operations Command unit now battling militants in Yemen, and it represented an intensification of an American military campaign in a mostly lawless region where weak governments have allowed groups with links to Al Qaeda to flourish.

The Obama administration’s increased focus on Somalia comes as the White House has unveiled a new strategy to battle Al Qaeda in the post-Osama bin Laden era, and as some American military and intelligence officials view Qaeda affiliates in Yemen and Somalia as a greater threat to the United States than the group of operatives in Pakistan who have been barraged with hundreds of drone strikes directed by the Central Intelligence Agency in recent years.

The military drone strike in Somalia last month was the first American attack there since 2009, when helicopter-borne commandos killed Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, a senior leader of the group that carried out the 1998 attacks on the American Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Although it appears that no senior Somali militants were killed in last month’s drone strike, a Pentagon official said Friday that one of the militants who was wounded had been in contact with Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born radical cleric now hiding in Yemen. The news that the strike was carried out by an American drone was first reported in The Washington Post this week.

American military officials said there was new intelligence that militants in Yemen and Somalia were communicating more frequently about operations, training and tactics, but the Pentagon is wading into the chaos in Somalia with some trepidation. Many are still haunted by the 1993 “Black Hawk Down” debacle, in which 18 elite American troops were killed in Mogadishu, the Somali capital, battling fighters aligned with warlords. Senior officials have repeatedly said in private in the past year that the administration does not intend to send American troops to Somalia beyond quick raids.

For several years, the United States has largely been relying on proxy forces in Somalia, including African Union peacekeepers from Uganda and Burundi, to support Somalia’s fragile government. The Pentagon is sending nearly $45 million in military supplies, including night-vision equipment and four small unarmed drones, to Uganda and Burundi to help combat the rising terror threat in Somalia. During the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia in 2007, clandestine operatives from the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command initiated missions into Somalia from an airstrip in Ethiopia.

Even as threat warnings grow, American officials say that the Shabab militants are under increasing pressure on various fronts, and that now is the time to attack the group aggressively. But it is unclear whether American intelligence about Somalia — often sketchy and inconclusive — has improved in recent months.

Full Article
Source: New York Times 

Berkshire's Charles Munger: Housing Bubble Caused By 'Megalomania, Insanity, And Evil'

Charles Munger, the always-quotable vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, wasn’t mincing words on Friday.

“The bubble in America was caused by some combination of megalomania, insanity and evil in, I would say, investment banking, mortgage banking,” Munger said at a conference in Pasadena.

In assigning responsibility for the housing bubble that precipitated the financial-sector collapse of 2008, and ushered in a period of prolonged economic contraction, Munger also took issue with the accounting industry, calling it "contemptible" for its role in the debacle.

And he had particular scorn for Richard Fuld, the former chairman and CEO of Lehman Brothers.

“I would guess that Dick Fuld has not a single ounce of contrition wherever he sits today,” Munger said.

Munger was speaking at a “Morning with Charlie” event, held in lieu of the annual shareholder meeting of Wesco Financial, a Berkshire company that Munger had chaired.

Berkshire Hathaway recently acquired Wesco’s remaining stock, removing the company from public trading. Munger chose to make a public appearance anyway, though he said in April that the event would only be “for hard-core addicts.”

Munger is known for his blunt, often combative pronouncements. In April, he opined to a group of shareholders that Greece was in trouble because its citizens “don’t want to pay taxes or do much work.” In 2009, he called cap and trade “monstrously stupid.”

Around the same time, he said of Wall Street pay, “A man does not deserve huge amounts of pay for creating tiny spreads on huge amounts of money. Any idiot can do it. And, as a matter of fact, many idiots do do it.”

At Friday’s meeting, Munger endorsed Coca-Cola stock, calling it “one of my favorites” and an “easy choice” for investors. He praised Elizabeth Warren, President Obama’s appointee to oversee the Consumer Financial protection Bureau, according to Bloomberg.

He had a qualified compliment for former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, whom he called “a smart man” but one who “totally overdosed on Ayn Rand at a young age.”

And he gave a wry nod to his own fanbase. Noting that Friday’s meeting would be the last of its kind, Munger told the crowd, “You all need a new cult hero.”

Full Article
Source: Huffington 

Koch Industries Subsidiary Admits Illegal Campaign Contributions

WASHINGTON -- After admitting in June to making illegal campaign contributions, INVISTA, a foreign subsidiary of Koch Industries, finally paid the small $4,700 fine it owed to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) this week.

The case relates to $26,800 in campaign contributions the company made to candidates, political committees, and political party committees from 2005 to 2009. The recipients of the contributions have since paid back the contributions except for the Democratic Governor's Association, which received a $15,000 contribution in 2007.

INVISTA's contributions were disclosed to the FEC after lawyers for Koch Industries discovered the illegal contributions and relayed the information to the FEC for review. The FEC quickly reached an agreement with INVISTA to recoup the contributions from the recipients and to pay the $4,700 administrative fine to the FEC.

INVISTA is a textile fiber and resin company that was purchased by Koch Industries from the DuPont Company in 2004. While the company is based in Wichita, Kansas it is owned by a Luxembourg-based company, which is in turn owned by Koch Industries. Foreign nationals are prohibited from contributing to candidates for election at any level.

Source: Huffington 

Climate Change Skeptics Unite At Heartland Conference

WASHINGTON -- Prominent climate change skeptics gathered at the Heartland Institute's sixth international conference on climate change on Friday to take on the body of scientific evidence showing that human emissions are contributing to global warming.

Sen. Jim Inhofe, a famous climate change denier, was set to headline the event's kickoff on Thursday, but canceled when he came down with a cold. Instead the Oklahoma Republican, who has long called climate change a hoax, insisting "we're in a cold spell," sent a statement alleging that while President Obama may have scaled back his speechifying on energy and the environment, he has not given up trying to push forward a green agenda in creative ways.

"He understands that the green agenda is not popular but that doesn't mean he has given up trying to implement it,” Inhofe said in a written statement. "Take a good close look at the President's administration. With sky high unemployment and a weak economy, who does he ask to head the Department of Commerce? The founder of the Natural Resource Defense Council, John Bryson. That's right, a committed green activist who supported legislation that would have imposed huge costs on consumers and shipped American jobs overseas."

Heartland’s conference, held at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park hotel, featured presentations from scientists skeptical of climate change, including Patrick Michaels, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, who argued humans are either having a limited impact on climate change or no impact at all.

Michaels said that public figures are overestimating the extent to which climate change can be attributed to humans, which in turn is leading to costly, ineffective polices that will not help reverse the warming trend. (Michaels, a self-described "luke-warmer," had his research called into question earlier this year, when Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), ranking member on the House Energy and Commerce committee, asked fellow Republicans to investigate how much of his research funding was coming from the oil industry.)

But if there was only a tiny sliver of the scientific perspective on climate change in attendance, it wasn't for lack on an invitation. Heartland Institute communications director Jim Lakely said it's a “myth” that only skeptics are invited to the conference.

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Source: Huffington 

Governor Quinn Cancels 30,000 Public Employee Raises, Union Calls Plan "Illegal And Irresponsible"

In a move that has ignited the ire of labor groups statewide, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn announced on Friday the cancellation of pay raises for thousands of state employees that were due within the next year.

The cancellations specifically affect 14 state agencies, boards and commissions outlined in a memo sent by the state's Department of Central Management Services Friday. The document reads that though Quinn's "proposed budget to the General Assembly sought to fully fund all collective bargaining contracts," the budget ultimately approved by the state legislature does not leave room for cost of living adjustments, longevity enhancements or step increases. The canceled raises, reportedly, total some $77 million in savings for the state and impact approximately 30,000 employees.

"The fiscal year 2012 budget does not provide the money for these pay raises," Quinn's office explained in a statement reported by Capitol Fax. "If the state paid these increases, the impacted agencies would not be able to make payroll for the entire fiscal year, preventing them from continuing operations and providing core services to the people of Illinois."

In response, AFSCME Council 31 has vowed to take legal action against the governor. Henry Bayer, the union's executive director, called the governor's actions "illegal and irresponsible." AFSCME members were due a 2 percent raise July 1, an additional 1.25 percent January 1 and another 2 percent in February, AP reported.

"Governor Pat Quinn has trampled on the collective bargaining process and broken his contract with the men and women who do the real work of state government," Bayer wrote.

Further, Bayer compared the Democratic Illinois governor to Republican governors including Scott Walker (Wis.), John Kasich (Ohio) and Chris Christie (N.J.) who have taken controversial stances on collective bargaining rights for public employees in recent months.

"By choosing to simply ignore a legally binding agreement, Pat Quinn has sunk even lower [than them]," Bayer wrote. "Not only is Quinn's assault on public employee collective bargaining unprecedented in the four decades of state employee bargaining in Illinois, given his repeated criticism of Walker and others, it is utterly hypocritical … AFSCME will aggressively pursue every available legal recourse to ensure that the collective bargaining agreement is honored and employees are paid according to their contract."

Quinn's latest action is not the first to be criticized recently by labor groups. The governor also recently came under fire by some labor groups for pushing for the passage of Senate Bill 1556, a piece of legislation that would have reduced the number of unionized public employees in Illinois by over 3,000 in eliminating what the governor described as a "management vacuum" in cases where managers and those employees they oversee are unionized.

Of that bill, the Illinois Federation of Public Employees said it would "strip collective bargaining rights from thousands of public employees in Illinois."

While it was approved in the state House, it failed to garner enough support for success in the Senate but Quinn press secretary Annie Thompson indicated they would press on by "ask[ing] all of the legislative caucuses to discuss this issue and consider the consequences of inaction."

Thompson balked at any comparisons drawn between SB 1556 and the "budget repair bill" Wisconsin Governor Walker and Republican legislators of that state pushed through toward ultimately going into effect last week.

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Source: Huffington 

Michele Bachmann's History As A Foster Parent Remains Murky

WASHINGTON--Rep. Michele Bachmann mentions her stint as a foster mother at every opportunity, whether she's introducing herself at the recent debate in New Hampshire or speaking at the 2008 Republican National Convention. It's always been a bedrock part of the Bachmann brand.

In the last three months, at least 100 news stories have mentioned Bachmann's claim that she raised 23 foster children. But the GOP presidential hopeful has provided few details about her time as a foster mom; in fact, very little has actually been reported about that period in her life. Former Bachmann neighbors and church members, according to a recent New York Times story, recalled few sightings of those foster kids.

Actual details remain murky, and reports and accounts contradict her public statements. Bachmann has repeatedly said she took in a total of 23 foster children. But a 2001 story in The Minnesota Lawyer put the number of children at 20. A recent article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune quotes Bachmann as saying she raised as many as four foster children at one time. But Minnesota officials say she was only contracted to house three at a time.

And according to the head of the private company that licensed her as a foster parent, Bachmann never even hit that limit. "I would say there weren't any more than two kids at a time," said George Hendrickson, the CEO of the Professional Association of Treatment Homes (PATH).

Because Bachmann went through PATH, she did not work with state agencies at all. The Minnesota Department of Human Services says that Bachmann was licensed on Aug. 7, 1992. According to Hendrickson, the last foster child was placed in her home in 1998. The license was closed out in 2000, Hendrickson said.

Any records documenting foster placements have since been destroyed; records are kept for seven years before they are thrown out.

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Source: Huffington 

Bank Of America CEO Brian Moynihan Subpoenaed By New York Attorney General

NEW YORK -- New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is not backing off a civil fraud probe into whether Bank of America deliberately misled shareholders about the massive losses on Merrill Lynch's books before its 2008 purchase of the investment bank.

The NY AG, who took over from Andrew Cuomo this year, has subpoenaed Bank of America Corp. CEO Brian Moynihan and other executives of the Charlotte, N.C.-based bank seeking new depositions, The Wall Street Journal reported online late Friday, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter.

A spokeswoman for the New York AG's office declined to comment.

A Bank of America spokesman was not immediately able to be reached for comment. The bank has said that the charges are unfounded.

Source: Huffington 

Schools Out as British Teachers Strike Over Pension Cuts

They may not have been the largest crowd assembled in the streets of the capital, or the loudest demonstration in British history, but Thursday’s strike here by four public sector unions protesting government moves to cut state employees’ pensions was certainly the best behaved protest for its size. Which is fitting since three of the striking unions, the National Union of Teachers, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers and the University and College Union, represented much of the nation’s teachers. Support among union members was strong enough to shut down half the schools in England and Wales—the government admitted some 11,000 state schools had been affected by the strike—as well as airports, welfare offices, the driving license agency and museums staffed by the Public and Commercial Services Union, whose 200,000 members also walked out for the one-day strike. After marching to Trafalgar Square the strikers helped clean up their litter.

But the protestors still got poor marks for behavior from Ed Miliband, who like St. Peter thrice denied the strikers his support. After twice issuing statements refusing to support the strike on the grounds that negotiations between the unions and the government were still going on, the Labour Party leader put out a statement on his blog saying “I understand their anger about the way the government has acted. But this does not alter my view that today’s strikes are a mistake. It is a mistake to resort to disruption at a time when negotiations are still going on. And it is a mistake not just because of the inconvenience caused but also because I firmly believe it will not help to win the argument with the public.”

Miliband, who was only elected Labour leader thanks to strong union backing, also denounced the strike in a speech to the Local Government association, saying the strike was wrong “because of the effect on the people who rely upon these services.” However it is worth noting that none of the unions out on Thursday are formally affiliated with the Labour Party. So while many on the left were furious at Labour’s failure to back the strikers—when shadow business secretary John Denham called the strike a mistake on a BBC panel show he was booed by the audience—Miliband’s stand may have been a calculated gesture of independence.

But public sympathy appears to be with the strikers, despite the inconvenience. The government didn’t help its case when two of its ministers, arguing that public sector pensions had simply become unaffordable, seemed unaware of an official report showing that pension costs are actually projected to decline over the next few years thanks to changes made by New Labour. So far Miliband’s strategy seems to be to ride the waves of public discontent passively, like a surfer sitting on his board. But if the big public sector unions, who though supportive of Thursday’s action have so far remained on the sidelines, manage to coordinate their opposition and Miliband is still sitting on his board when that wave breaks then Labour will truly be washed-up.

Source: The Nation 

Languishing in Solitary, Pelican Bay Inmates Launch Hunger Strike

As Americans gear up to celebrate Independence Day, several dozen inmates languishing in solitary confinement at California's Pelican Bay State Prison are standing up for their rights the only way they can think of—by refusing to eat. The prisoners, who are being held in long-term or sometimes permanent isolation, launched a hunger strike Friday and have sworn to continue it until prison authorities improve conditions in Pelican Bay's special housing unit (SHU).

Built in 1989, Pelican Bay is the nation's first supermax prison built for that purpose, and remains one of its most notorious. About a third of its roughly 3,100 inmates live in the X-shaped cluster of buildings known as the SHU. NPR's Laura Sullivan, one of few reporters granted entry to Pelican Bay, described the unit in a 2006 report:
Everything is gray concrete: the bed, the walls, the unmovable stool. Everything except the combination stainless-steel sink and toilet. You can't move more than eight feet in one direction...The cell is one of eight in a long hallway. From inside, you can't see anyone or any of the other cells. This is where the inmate eats, sleeps and exists for 22 1/2 hours a day. He spends the other 1 1/2 hours alone in a small concrete yard...Twice a day, officers push plastic food trays through the small portals in the metal doors...
Those doors are solid metal, with little nickel-sized holes punched throughout. One inmate known as Wino is standing just behind the door of his cell. It's difficult to make eye contact, because you can only see one eye at a time. "The only contact that you have with individuals is what they call a pinky shake," he says, sticking his pinky through one of the little holes in the door. That's the only personal contact Wino has had in six years.
When conditions at Pelican Bay were challenged in a 1995 lawsuit, the judge in the case found that life in the SHU "may press the outer borders of what most humans can psychologically tolerate," while placing mentally ill or psychologically vulnerable people in such conditions "is the equivalent of putting an asthmatic in a place with little air to breathe." Yet since that time, the number of inmates in the SHU has grown, and their sentences have lengthened from months to years to decades. Hugo Pinell, a former associate of George Jackson who is considered by some a political prisoner, has been in Pelican Bay's SHU for more than 20 years.
Many residents of the SHU have been sent there on questionable grounds and have little hope of ever leaving. More than half of the men in solitary confinement in California are there because they have been "validated" as gang members and given indeterminate sentences. According to Corey Weinstein, a physician and prisoners' rights advocate, the "single way offered to earn their way out of SHU is to tell departmental gang investigators everything they know about gang membership and activities, including describing crimes they have committed. The state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) calls it debriefing. The prisoners call it 'snitch, parole, or die.' " Those, in other words, are the only ways out.

In April, prisoners in several corridors of the SHU announced their intention, on July 1, to "begin an indefinite hunger strike in order to draw attention to, and to peacefully protest, 25 years of torture via CDCR's arbitrary, illegal, and progressively more punitive policies and practices." The group of prisoners—which reform advocates say cuts across racial lines—issued five "core demands," none of them particularly radical.

The strikers are asking that "individual accountability" replace "group punishments," and they want an end to the debriefing program. They also called on the department to implement the recommendations of the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in Prisons, a bipartisan commission that issued a 2006 report on conditions in US prisons and jails. Among other things, it recommended that prisons make "segregation" from the general prison population "a last resort," "end conditions of isolation" within the segregation units, and avoid long-term solitary confinement. The strikers also want the CDCR to provide "adequate food" and "constructive programming and privileges for indefinite SHU status inmates"—including one phone call per week, longer visiting hours, access to exercise equipment, art supplies, wall calendars, and more TV channels.

The state, however, seems already to have dug in its heels. "It's appropriate for the CDCR to review the demands, but they're not going to concede under these types of tactics," spokeswoman Terry Thornton told California Watch. The prison will monitor their health, but "if an inmate decides he's not going to eat, we can't force him to eat."

Source: Mother Jones 

Corporations Have 'Captured' 88 Percent Of All Of Post-Recession Income Growth

Corporations have reaped in approximately 88 percent of the national income growth since the economic recovery began, states a report by Northeastern University, cited by The New York Times.

The report, entitled "The 'Jobless and Wageless Recovery' From the Great Recession of 2007-2009," outlines what has been the most corporate-friendly recovery in more than a generation. Worker's wages and salaries have only accounted for slightly more than one percent of all income growth.

"The lack of any net job growth in the current recovery combined with stagnant real hourly and weekly wages is responsible for this unique, devastating outcome," states the report.

What accounts for this, chief economist at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, Lynn Reaser, suggested to The Huffington Post in March, is that companies have been able to bring their production levels back to pre-recession levels without hiring. "We have now recovered all of the output lost in the recession, but we are still down by 7.5 million workers," she said.

In The New York Times, it was reported that equipment and software prices have fallen by 2.4 percent, while labor costs have risen by 6.7 percent. This, Barclay's economist Dean Maki told the Times, is giving businesses an incentive not to hire.

There is some data that suggests that the American people are sensing the nation's economic trouble. As of June 30th, Gallup's economic confidence of Americans index was pegged at -32, down from its Recovery high of -16 in February. A recent joint CBS News/New York Times poll also found that 39 percent of Americans believed the U.S. economy is in permanent decline.

Source: Huffington  

Kansas Abortion Law Blocked By Federal Judge

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- A federal judge has temporarily blocked Kansas from enforcing new rules for its abortion providers.

U.S. District Judge Carlos Murguia (Mer-GHEE'-uh) issued an order Friday after a hearing in a lawsuit against a new Kansas licensing law and regulations issued by the state health department. The law and regulations took effect Friday.

Murguia's order remains in effect until a trial in the lawsuit is settled.

The lawsuit was filed by two doctors who perform abortions at the Center for Women's Health in the Kansas City-area suburb of Overland Park. The center and another clinic, Aid for Women in Kansas City, haven't been licensed and couldn't legally continue to perform abortions.

The state's third provider, a Planned Parenthood clinic in Overland Park, received a license Thursday.

Source: Huffington 

Israel extends Gaza blockade to Greece, Canadian Boat to Gaza challenges political interference

Crete, Greece - In an attempt by local authories to confiscate the Canadian ship Tahrir's transit logs, it has been revealed that a Greek Ministerial order has been issued to prevent any ships from leaving ports in Greece if the destination is Gaza.

"Israel has in effect extended the illegal blockade of Gaza to Greek ports, using the Greece's economic difficulties to influence the government's position," says David Heap of the Tahrir organizing committee.

After overcoming numerous last minute hurdles, the Tahrir was boarded by local port police in Agios Nicolaos, Crete. The port authorities initially attempted to take the Tahrir's official transit logs (which are required for sailing). The delegates declined to hand the documents over and marched to the local harbour master to demand an explanation. When the authorities were offered photocopies instead of the original documents, the port authorities were no longer interested in the documents.

Efforts to stop Freedom Flotilla 2 - Stay Human from sailing have included diplomatic pressure and manipulation, economic blackmail, bureaucratic obstacles, baseless and slanderous allegations against the flotilla and the delegates, and sabotage of at least two vessels.

"The government of Israel, shamefully with the tacit support of the Harper government, is doing everything in its power to maintain the blockade. Yet we will persevere in our attempts until the blockade is lifted," says Irene McInnes of the Tahrir organizing committee.

"We remain absolutely clear that the Canadian Boat to Gaza has not been, is not, and has no intention of, breaking any laws. It is the blockade of Gaza that is illegal under international law. We have a legal and moral obligation to challenge the blockade, given the failure of the international community to act," says Dylan Penner of the organizing committee. "This is why we must continue our attempts to sail to Gaza: to challenge the illegal and immoral blockade and to equally challenge the Canadian federal government's support for it."

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Greece blocks Canadian boat in Gaza flotilla

A Canadian-organized ship carrying protesters bound for the blockaded Gaza Strip has been prevented from leaving a port in Greece.

Greek coast guards boarded the ship Friday and attempted to arrest Canadian Sandra Rush, a member of the organizing committee Canadian Boat to Gaza, for refusing to surrender the boat's registration papers, the protesters said.

Another vessel bound for Gaza carrying mainly U.S. activists made it three kilometres out to sea but was intercepted by the Greek coast guard and brought back to shore, as Greece announced it was banning vessels heading to Gaza from leaving Greek ports.

The Canadian ship, known as the Tahrir, is part of a flotilla of nine Greek and foreign-flagged vessels that have been planning to break Israel's sea blockade and deliver aid to the Palestinian territory.

Canadian organizers with the flotilla said they aren't breaking any laws and will continue attempts to sail to Gaza.

"It is the blockade of Gaza that is illegal under international law," organizer Dylan Penner said in a statement.

"We have a legal and moral obligation to challenge the blockade, given the failure of the international community to act."

U.S. ship sneaks away

The secretive attempt by the U.S. activists' ship, called the Audacity of Hope, to head out to sea ended in failure after authorities in inflatable speedboats raced after them when their vessel tried to sail without permission from the port of Perama, near the Greek capital, Athens.

"We shall overcome," the activists sang as security personnel watched from their boat just 10 metres away, according to updates protesters posted on the internet during a brief standoff.

Greek officials appealed to them to turn around, arguing that it was not safe to continue, but activists responded that it was not safe in port because of fears of sabotage of their vessels, organizers said.

On Thursday, an Irish ship, the MV Saoirse, said it had to abandon plans to set sail from the Turkish town of Gocek because of Israeli sabotage. Earlier this week, activists said the propeller of a Swedish ship in a Greek port was sabotaged. Israel has not commented on the reports.

Flotilla organizer Vangelis Pissias condemned the Greek ban on Friday and argued the government had no legal grounds to block private vessels that were heading to international waters from its ports.

"The efforts to sail will continue," he said.

Full Article
Source:CBC news 

Kenney’s office silent as deportation hangs over Mississauga family

The offices of Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and the Canada Border Services Agency won’t say if they will stay the deportation of a family that fears violence at the hands of a guerrilla organization in Colombia.

Mississauga residents Claudia Londono, her husband Juan Martinez, and sons Sebastian Martinez, 13 and Camilo Martinez, 4, are scheduled to be sent back to Colombia this weekend.

Sebastian’s mother believes the family will face retaliation from a guerrilla group known for the abduction and torture of prominent Colombian citizens called the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, best known by its Spanish acronym, FARC.

She worked as a prison psychologist in Colombia where she encouraged members to cut their ties with the organization.

Kenney’s office has referred previous requests for comment to Citizenship and Immigration Canada. A CIC spokesperson has said Kenney “does not have the authority” to stop a deportation under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. The last response to requests for comment was on Wednesday. The decision is up to the Canada Border Services Agency, she said.

The CBSA will not comment on the specific case, citing privacy rules, but said the agency takes the decision to deport people who have been ordered removed from the country very seriously.

NDP and Liberal critics have called on Kenney to stay the deportation and for his office to review the case but it has not resulted in a change in the family’s status.

On Friday New Democrat MP Don Davies, critic for Citizenship and Immigration continued to call for Kenney’s office to stop the deportation.

“I urge the Minister to personally review this case. The consequences of a wrong decision here could be fatal,” said Davies in an emailed statement.

He said “staying the deportation to properly review” the families pending application to stay in the country on humanitarian and compassionate grounds is “prudent and justified.”

Earlier in the week Davies said he had “serious questions about the decisions made in this case,” and said the idea a decision was made that the family didn’t face serious danger seemed “perverse to me.”

Liberal critic MP Kevin Lamoureux told the Star because there are two young children involved Kenney “needs to be aware of the file and be comfortable that the family’s (case) has been given due consideration,” before they are deported.

“This should not be something that takes weeks. This should be something that takes days, if not hours for (Kenney’s) office to review,” said Lamoureux on Wednesday

The family has made several attempts to obtain refugee status. They were granted a short-term deferral of their original deportation date but that extension has run out. They are awaiting the outcome of an attempt to stay on “humanitarian and compassionate grounds.”

Londono, her husband and two boys spent the first part of Canada Day enjoying a meal with friends and preparing to say their goodbyes. The bulk of their possessions have been packed and stored with a moving company to be shipped to Colombia.

They also received a call from New Democrat leader Jack Layton’s office to let them know a request to Public Safety Minister Vic Toews office to intervene in the deportation pending the outcome of their latest application was denied.

Layton’s office had also contacted Kenney’s office asking for a stay of deportation but were informed the Minister's office would not be stepping in, said a spokesperson for Layton.

Sebastian’s friends have mounted a social media campaign to keep their classmate in Canada by using the hashtag #savesebastian on Twitter. Messages about the teen and his family quickly spread across Canada.

Their story was also posted on microblogging site tumblr, a Facebook page called Save Sebastian and used to create an online family petition to send to Kenney.

By 5 p.m. on Friday the petition had almost 2,500 signatures. Friends and supporters have also created videos on YouTube, a classmate sharing her support and a photo montage.

Sebastian, 13, just graduated from Grade 8 at Sts. Martha and Mary Catholic School where he is a catcher on his school’s baseball team and competes in track and field.

In Canada his parents work as drivers for a company that provides assessments for medical insurance claims, he for a trucking company. They chose the location of their Mississauga apartment to give him a chance to attend the well regarded Catholic school.

The family entered the United States on a tourist visa in 1999 and crossed the border illegally into Canada to seek asylum in 2008.

Full Article
Source: Toronto Star