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.]

Monday, February 06, 2012

Protests, facts and bedfellows: Northern Gateway Pipeline actions, science and money

They expected 2,000 to attend and, according to police reports, 2,000 people demonstrated their opposition to the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline and shut down the main street of the small northern city of Prince Rupert, B.C. When 15 per cent of the 13,000 who live in any city are marching on the street, it's significant. Also significant is that CBC reported only 600. The lesson? Never trust the media to count your crowd.

CBC also reported that First Nations leaders are worried about their relationship with Ottawa as a result of their opposition to the pipeline.

Dallas Smith, the president of the Nanwakolas Council, said that even though he is not from the territory that will be directly affected by the pipeline, he's been working in support of the concerns of his fellow First Nations.

"I think the opposition is based on the risk," Smith said. "But there's more at hand, there's a relationship that needs to be built with the federal government right now and this is going to be really tricky to manoeuvre around, making sure that the whole relationship doesn't get caught up in this issue."

"We're really concerned... about the ripple effect of this project and what it's going to do to our already non-existent relationship with the federal government," Smith said, later clarifying that the relationship is not really "non-existent" but is definitely "not as genuine" as the First Nations relationship with the B.C. government. [Video link here.]

How could anyone possibly have a "genuine" relationship with the HarperCon government, especially when said government hides Environment Canada documents about the impact of the tar sands on local communities, economies and environments until it suits them?

The latest document singles out the oilsands sector as the main obstacle in Canada's efforts to reduce heat-trapping greenhouse gases that warm the atmosphere and cause climate change. "The oilsands are Canada's fastest growing source of GHGs," said the document.

It estimated that the industry's annual greenhouse gas emissions would rise by nearly 900 per cent from 1990 to 2020. By the end of that period, the oilsands -- with an estimated annual footprint of 90 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent gases in 2020 — would exceed the carbon footprint of all cars and SUVs on Canadian roads from 2008, according to the Environment Canada document.

There is no doubt in The Regina Mom's mind that this is why 60 scientists at Environment Canada were fired by the HarperCon government last month. Harperites don't need pesky facts getting in the way of their agenda!

Sixty scientists with Environment Canada received notice that their jobs are "surplus" as of Jan. 11, confirming Minister Peter Kent's announcement last August that 776 department positions would meet the chopping block due to the Conservative government's belt-tightening.

Though the department is under "strict orders" not to reveal what work the surplus scientists are doing, the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) -- the union representing them -- said the 60 employees include "senior engineers, environmental compliance officers, biologists, climatologists and others" responsible for reporting on pollution, monitoring water quality and climate research.

We can be certain that those currently running the government of Canada would rather not believe the facts when it comes to climate change. They'd much rather believe the pseudo-science of paid deniers over the real science of professional scientists. And they'll cherry-pick data on an as-needed basis, thank you very much. Things like this graph, clearly showing the upward curve of global temperature changes over the past 130 years, just don't work with their plan to expand the tar sands.

Pressure from those radical environmental groups with their radical agendas -- you know the type -- those using fact-based research -- now seem to have forced the hand of evangeliCons and their buddies in the big-ass oil industry. The HarperCons have announced, for the second time in as many years, that they are going to monitor the effects of the tar sands. At least, it appears that they will. As TRM mentioned last week, Halifax MP Megan Leslie dismissed it as a PR stunt.

"The announcement was a public relations stunt," says Leslie. "The Alberta Environmental Monitoring Panel said any monitoring that's done has to be arm's-length; it has to be separate from government and we heard the environment minister say today it's still going to be government run."

But that Alberta Environmental Monitoring Panel consisted of independent experts in the field -- you know, real scientists. So, a government-run monitoring system would be better for the HarperCons. It would easily allow for the aforementioned cherry-picking. And it's what the industry likes, too! TRM supposes it's in their best interests to like it, given the $1 billion in tax cuts, subsidies and incentives it receives from government. [Note 1: This links to a large PDF; See p. 18 for the detailed list. Note 2: The data is based on 2002 numbers; it's unlikely subsidies et al have decreased during the tenures of oil-friendly governments of the intervening decade.]

And so, as the HarperCon Prime Minister heads to China to visit with his old buddy David Emerson who's there working out more ways to sell out our country to the China Investment Corporation and Sinopec and who knows who else, the PM would certainly like to believe he's quelled the voices of the so-called radicals. TRM has kept quiet for a couple of days, yes, but she's nowhere near finished with making noise about Canada's dirty oil!

Original Article
Author: Bernadette Wagner  

What's Left Out of Black History Month Celebrations

Last week marked the beginning of Black History Month. This year, we have twenty-nine days during which we will celebrate the many contributions of African-Americans to our nation’s history. This is a month when we make heroes of people who overcame real, systemic and often legal oppression. We lift up, in President Obama’s official proclamation, “a story of resilience and perseverance” to inspire and educate the public about a part of this nation’s history that wasn’t told a generation ago.

But in all of the celebration of a selective highlight reel of history, too often we overlook the reality of our present and how far we have yet to go to realize a better future where we all have enough to thrive—not just survive.

In his last book, Where Do We Go From Here, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, “A society that has done something special against the Negro for hundreds of years must now do something special for him.” I don’t think Black History Month is what he had in mind.

He was probably taking a cold, hard look at our nation’s history and thinking of the terrible oppression and injustice that black people endured—first under slavery, and then under legally sanctioned segregation in the South and informal segregation everywhere else. The sad fact is that the vast majority of our nation’s history (from the Declaration of Independence right up until the legislative victories of the civil rights movement) constitutes that “something special against the Negro” that King mentioned. That long history of discrimination has a direct impact on the black community today.

The poor pay the price for Obama’s politics

Some issues fade; others fester. The Obama administration’s contraceptive mandate for religious charities, hospitals and universities is the festering kind.

The initial reaction concerned the rights of institutions. Catholic organizations naturally resent being forced to buy health insurance that covers sterilization, contraceptives and drugs that can end a pregnancy soon after conception. The Obama administration seems to have calculated that, since contraceptives are popular and the Catholic Church is not, the outcry would be isolated.

But religious liberty is also popular, given the Constitution and all that. Even those who have no objection to contraception — the category in which I have repeatedly placed myself — can be offended when arrogant government officials compel religious institutions to violate the dictates of their consciences. Religious liberty that applies only to doctrines and practices of which we approve means nothing.

In this case, however, the main harm Barack Obama has done is not to institutions. It is to the people they serve.

The Commons: When photo ops go wrong

The Scene. “Louder!” called a voice, possibly from the Conservative side of the House.

Peter Julian, already speaking at a certain volume, attempted to oblige, punctuating his question with exclamation points.

“When(!) is the government going to show leadership? When is it going to work on a jobs plan so that Canadians(!) can get back to work?

The subject here was the recent closure of Electro-Motive Diesel in London, Ontario—a closure notable not only for the 450 individuals it put out of work, but because the plant was once selected as an ideal scene to demonstrate the Prime Minister’s economic stewardship. And so a silly picture of Mr. Harper pretending to conduct a train is now a symbol of some kind. And so Mr. Julian was yelling this afternoon in the general direction of the Finance Minister.

Rising to respond, Jim Flaherty began in a low grumble. “Mr. Speaker, we remain focused, of course, on jobs and economic growth,” he reported.

The Finance Minister built then to a dull roar that culminated in him shaking his glasses (which he held in his hand) at Mr. Julian and scolding that the NDP critic had demonstrated “an irresponsible attitude … that looks only at tomorrow morning and not down the road.”

Senate Passes FAA Bill With Anti-Union Measure

WASHINGTON -- The Senate passed a Federal Aviation Administration bill on Monday that includes an anti-union measure bitterly opposed by labor groups.

The bill, which modernizes America's air traffic control system and funds the FAA through 2014, was fought over for four years, leading to a partial shutdown of the FAA last summer because of anti-union measures added by the Republican-controlled House.

It passed 75 to 20, with a majority of Democrats backing it.

Among the controversial provisions were changes to labor law for rail and airline workers -- backed by the airline industry -- that would count anyone who did not vote in an election for a union as voting against it, making it much more difficult to certify attempts to organize new unions.

That measure was stripped in a conference committee to work out differences between the Senate and House versions of the bill, only to be replaced by another that raises the threshold for seeking a union from requiring 35 percent of workers' signatures to requiring half.

Unions mounted a last minute push against the measure Monday, including sending out a letter signed by 19 labor groups hammering Democrats for giving into the House.

Ex-Lehman Brothers Trader: Only On Wall Street Could You 'Get Paid So Much For Doing So Little'

The fallout from the financial crisis has already changed the way much of America views Wall Street. It may also be changing the way the financial industry views itself.

After years of huge paychecks and bonuses, financial industry workers are seeing their compensation capped and cut thanks to anxiety surrounding the global economy and oncoming regulations. But when a salary or bonus can serve as evidence of an accomplishment, it's disappearance can also amount to an erosion of self-worth.

"There's no other industry where you could get paid so much for doing so little," an ex-trader for Lehman Brothers told New York Magazine as part of a piece about the changing dynamics of Wall Street.

Though the former Lehman trader may be one of the first Wall Street workers to express that sentiment in print, he's echoing the views of others. The head of Britain's top financial watchdog has said that what takes place on Wall Street is largely a "socially useless activity," according to a 2010 New Yorker report.

Harper China Trip: Aboriginals Ask PM's Hosts To Raise Canadian Human Rights Issues

Aboriginals from British Columbia have asked China's president to quiz Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Canada's human rights record during his visit to the Asian country.

The Yinka Dene Alliance, a group of five First Nations that represent several thousand people in north-central B.C., has sent open letters to Chinese President Hu Jintao and to the Chinese media.

"We are writing to you to request that you raise our human rights concerns with Canada's prime minister, Stephen Harper," says the letter to Hu.

"From previous reports we know that Prime Minister Harper always challenges your country on the human rights record."

Sing Tao, Hong Kong's second-largest newspaper with offices across Canada, confirmed it will be covering the story through its Vancouver bureau. The letter to Hu has been sent to his office as well as to the Chinese embassy in Ottawa.

Harper left Monday for a four-day trip to China. Travelling with him is a healthy selection of executives from Canada's energy sector.

China has been increasingly involved with oil and gas development in Canada, investing in the oilsands and making commitments for the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline.

Attawapiskat-Bound Homes Delayed

Modular homes en route to the northern Ontario First Nations community of Attawapiskat have been delayed because their lots are not yet ready, CBC News has learned.

The homes were supposed to be on the first trucks that left Sunday night when the 300-kilometre winter road opened to heavy trucks. But six of the first eight homes sent north have been parked in Moosonee and the drivers have been reassigned.

It's not clear when the homes will be sent, but CBC News has been told there's concern about the ability to get them in place within the next few weeks.

Recently the Attawapiskat First Nation did not win its injunction against the third party manager and a court has ruled that the review regarding the quashing of the appointment will be put off until the spring.

Additionally the court determined that money must be released to prepare the lots and get the houses in place.

Original Article
Source: Huff 
Author: cbc 

Canada’s overhaul of copyright law could take on a SOPA flavour

The battle over the Stop Online Piracy Act in the United States may have concluded with millions of Internet users successfully protesting against the bill, but many Canadians are buzzing about the possibility that some of its provisions could make their way into a copyright bill currently before the House of Commons.

For months, the public focus on the bill has centered on its restrictive digital lock provisions, which provide legal protection for technical protections found on DVDs, electronic books, and other digital content. Dozens of organizations - including businesses, the Retail Council of Canada, creator groups, consumer groups, education and library associations, as well as representatives of the visually impaired — have argued the government’s approach is overly restrictive and will upset the traditional copyright balance. They note the restrictive rules do not penalize pirates, but rather Canadian consumers and businesses.

Yet behind-the-scenes, the same lobby groups that promoted SOPA in the U.S. have been pushing for drastic changes to the Canadian bill would make it even more restrictive by limiting new consumer rights, expanding potential liability, and importing provisions similar to those found in SOPA.

For example, the music industry has asked the government to insert language similar to that found in SOPA on blocking access to websites, demanding new provisions that would “permit a court to make an order blocking a pirate site such as The Pirate Bay to protect the Canadian marketplace from foreign pirate sites.” Section 102 of SOPA also envisioned the blocking of websites.

CRTC delays CBC licence renewal until after budget

Canada's broadcast regulator has agreed to postpone Canadian Broadcasting Corp.'s licence renewal application until after a federal budget that is expected to reduce its funding.

The broadcaster's English and French-language services are due for review by the CRTC, but the CBC said with cuts likely in an upcoming Federal budget it would be a bad time to outline its plans for the future.

The CBC receives about $1.1-billion in federal funding. Federal departments are expected to face cuts of at least 5 per cent in the upcoming budget as the Tories seek to cut costs, and it's unlikely the broadcaster would be exempt.

In a letter to the CRTC, the broadcaster's chief regulatory officer said it needs months to understand the implications of any budget cuts.

Its renewal hearings were scheduled for June.

“The corporation anticipates that this narrow window will not be sufficient to allow it to reflect on and operationalise its plans give that its budget is expected to be announced in late February or March,” wrote Steven Guiton. “The corporation respectfully submits that more time is needed to establish its future operating budget prior to imposing licence conditions.”

The CRTC agreed, saying “it would be inappropriate to set a hearing date for the renewal of CBC's licences until the CBC has had an opportunity to establish its future operating budget.”

The hearing has been postponed “until further notice.”

Original Article
Source: Globe 
Author: steve ladurantaye 

Harper in China: Team Canada without the label

OTTAWA—Prime Minister Stephen Harper will take a page out of the Jean Chrétien political playbook when he heads to China Monday.

There will be no Team Canada banner or jackets in sight.

No travelling circus of premiers and corporate Canada aboard the military Airbus carrying the prime minister and his entourage to Beijing, Guangzhou and Chongqing.

But the way it is shaping up, Stephen Harper’s second official visit to China to boost political and trade ties amounts to a Team Canada expedition without the bells and whistles.

Canadian business leaders who want a stronger political engagement with Asia — and with China in particular — will be there in force.

A delegation of 10 Canadian business and academic leaders will be on the flight with Harper, the Prime Minister’s Office says.

But many more are travelling separately. In all, 40 are under the PM’s wing, but more than 100 are expected to hear Harper speak to a Canada-China business audience in the southern manufacturing centre of Guangzhou.?

Harper finally takes some risks

Among Stephen Harper’s defining political traits, his standout skill has long been a knack for presenting himself as a pragmatist who would never overreach. In opposition, Harper succeeded in softening the image of his restored Conservative party to squelch fears he might be cooking up a sweeping right-wing overhaul of the federal government. He won the 2006 election with a platform of narrowly defined policies, like trimming the GST and paying parents a monthly $100-per-kid bonus. As a minority Prime Minister, he had to draft policies unthreatening enough to attract sufficient opposition votes to pass. But now, as he begins his first full calendar year with a House majority, Harper’s customary caution has evaporated. “In the months to come,” he declared in Davos, Switzerland, last week, “our government will undertake major transformations to position Canada for growth over the next generation.”

Major transformations? Plural? And this from a Prime Minister who, only days earlier, had sounded much his old self, pleading for a “practical, incremental” approach, rather than bold measures, for First Nations. It was a different Harper at the World Economic Forum, touting decisive fixes on daunting issues. He zeroed in on at least four big files, though offering frustratingly few details. On pensions, he vowed to make underfunded parts of the system sustainable “for the next generation.” On immigration, he promised “significant reform” to match newcomers to labour force needs. On exports, he pledged both to finalize new trade deals and to end regulatory delays on oil and mining ventures. On industry, he committed his government to finally tackling the perennial problem of lagging Canadian business innovation.

This ambitious agenda was scarcely hinted at in the Prime Minister’s re-election platform just last spring. Looking over his Davos list, it’s not hard to see why Conservative strategists might have deemed some of these ideas too risky for the campaign trail. Sure enough, soon after Harper’s speech, the formidable Canadian Association of Retired Persons served notice of its intention to fight any future curtailing of the Old Age Security or Guaranteed Income Supplement programs, even though the Tories stressed the coming cuts won’t affect seniors already collecting benefits. Harper’s plan to streamline environmental assessments for pipelines and other resource megaprojects is also bound to meet with angry opposition, and shifting the emphasis on immigration to workers with more in-demand skills also risks raising concerns among some of the Tories’ hard-won ethnic community supporters.

Pentagon boss has harsh words for F-35 program and process

Frank Kendall, head of weapons acquisition and development for the Department of Defense, apparently had some choice words this morning about the Pentagon's 2001 (and subsequent decisions) to buy F-35s long before the aircraft was close to being developed and tested.

In a post on Aviation Week's Ares blog, Kendall is quoted as saying the concurrent development and acquisition plan for the F-35 was "acquisition malpractice."

Kendall's comments are in line with an early December interview with Vice Admiral David Venlet, the program's top executive, in which he too was critical of the way the program was managed, a decision truthfully made well before the F-35 contract was awarded to Lockheed in 2001 and not subsequently deviated from. The results have been costly.

The program, Kendall said, had started with "the optimistic prediction that we were good enough at modeling and simulation that we would not find problems in flight test."

"That was wrong, and now we are paying for that," Kendall added. 

Kendall -- who has now been nominated to the post of undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, and who faces confirmation hearings in a couple of months -- acknowledged that "I am going to make headlines" for the comment, in response to a question from Amy Butler. 

Read more here:
Original Article
Source: star-telegram  
Author: Bob Cox  

Fantino took $5,900 helicopter “demonstration” flight between Ottawa and Petawawa

Remember all the hot fuss last year about Defence Minister Peter MacKay taking a Canadian Forces search-and-rescue helicopter back from a fishing holiday in Atlantic Canada the Maritimes?

At the height of the fury, the Liberal research bureau tabled an order paper question for all ministerial flights aboard all government aircraft — including helicopters, not just the Challenger jet flight logs to which we’ve grown accustomed to lavishing with taxpayer outrage.

The response from the Department of National Defence, tabled Friday and posted below, reveals that MacKay took other helio flights around the same time. All on government business, of course.

But the first item on the list is also interesting: July 17, 2011, and new associate defence minister Julian Fantino travelled aboard a Griffon helicopter between Ottawa and the Canadian Forces Base in Petawawa, Ontario.

Why Black History Month should be called African Liberation Month

We are now in February and for Africans in North America it is a significant month. It is usually observed as Black History Month.

It is taken as an opportunity to acknowledge African people's struggles, achievements and commemorate significant moments in the fight against white supremacy, capitalism, sexism and other forms of oppression.

Some of us use this month to reflect and rededicate ourselves to the revolutionary or radical African political tradition.

In the spirit of collective self-criticism, are we at the point where Black History Month is due for a name change and focus?

Names are quite important to resistance. It was no accident that the enslaved Africans who were taken across the Sahara Desert ended up with Arab names and those who went by way of the Atlantic Ocean had European names imposed on them.

Denying a people their name is a classic method of colonization and cultural imperialism. It is used to weaken collective consciousness, which is critical to building a resistance culture.

Harper rejects calls to pull ambassador from Syria

The official Opposition wants Canada's ambassador recalled from Syria, but the government says he will stay in the besieged country to blast President Bashar Assad for his attacks on domestic dissenters.

NDP foreign affairs critic Helene Laverdiere urged the government to recall the envoy because she said it would send a strong message to Mr. Assad, who has waged a bloody 11-month crackdown on dissent in his country that has left thousands dead.

A Syrian government military offensive against people in the city of Homs has entered its third straight day.

The Obama administration closed the U.S. embassy in Damascus on Monday and recalled all diplomatic staff. Britain recalled its ambassador to Syria and expressed its disgust over the situation.

“It's not a question of cutting diplomatic ties completely,” Ms, Laverdiere said Monday. “Our position does not go as far as that of the United States.”

B.C. aboriginals ask China to raise human-rights issues with Harper on PM's visit

Aboriginals from British Columbia have asked China's president to quiz Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Canada's human rights record during his visit to the Asian country.

The Yinka Dene Alliance, a group of five First Nations that represent several thousand people in north-central B.C., has sent open letters to Chinese President Hu Jintao and to the Chinese media.

“We are writing to you to request that you raise our human rights concerns with Canada's prime minister, Stephen Harper,” says the letter to Mr. Hu.

“From previous reports we know that Prime Minister Harper always challenges your country on the human rights record.”

Sing Tao, Hong Kong's second-largest newspaper with offices across Canada, confirmed it will be covering the story through its Vancouver bureau. The letter to Mr. Hu has been sent to his office as well as to the Chinese embassy in Ottawa.

Mr. Harper left Monday for a four-day trip to China. Travelling with him is a healthy selection of executives from Canada's energy sector.

China has been increasingly involved with oil and gas development in Canada, investing in the oil sands and making commitments for the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline.

But the Alliance wants China to think again.

The letter to Mr. Hu details a long list of issues from the number of missing and murdered aboriginal women to natives being mistreated by police to the outsized number of First Nations peoples in prison. It also says the Harper government is promoting resource development without aboriginal support.

“Open dialogue around human rights is a very positive way to create change and we hope that you hear our side of the story before this meeting (with Harper) occurs,” says the letter to Mr. Hu.

The letter to Chinese media focuses on the Alliance's concerns about the Gateway pipeline, which would ship bitumen from the oil sands to the West Coast across land claimed by the bands.

“An oil spill on the coast would destroy sources of seafood and fish, like crabs, for thousands of people,” it says. “It could destroy the extremely rare spirit bear — a bear with white fur that is as beautiful as the Chinese panda bear.”

Chief Larry Nooski of the Nadleh Whut'en First Nation, one of the signatories, acknowledges that it's usually Canada bringing human rights concerns to China, not the other way around. Maybe bringing Canada's problems to China's attention will get some action, he said.

“In terms of tit for tat, this will give (the Chinese) ammunition and put some pressure on Canada. We wanted (Hu) to know that First Nations are not being treated fairly in Canada in terms of their aboriginal rights.”

He doesn't apologize for bringing dirty Canadian linen to a Chinese laundry.

“I don't see it as embarrassing. I see it as bringing up the facts of life as we see it as First Nations.”

Fellow signatory Chief Jackie Thomas of the Saik'uz First Nation was similarly forthright.

“I'm sorry we're going to be an embarrassment to this country, but we have to let the facts and truth be known.”

She said the Alliance has previously contacted the governments of Japan and South Korea. It has met with the U.S. ambassador and members of the European Parliament.

Original Article
Source: Globe 
Author: Bob Weber 

Harper in China: Stephen Harper visit to Beijing will be competing with crisis in Syria, Iran

ANCHORAGE, ALASKA—Prime Minister Stephen Harper has a difficult diplomatic dance to do as he arrives in China late Tuesday on a crucial trade and political outreach mission.

The shadow of international concerns over President Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria and his unpredictable Iranian ally loom large as Harper arrives for four days of meetings with current and future Chinese leaders.

The closure of the American embassy in Damascus and China’s move with Russia to quash a UN Security Council resolution on Assad’s bloody crackdown in Syria were a blunt reminder that China is a much bigger player on the world stage, and raised questions about whether Canada can make its voice heard.

As Harper headed to Beijing, the Chinese leadership issued a stern defence of its decision at the United Nations, saying its veto was ultimately aimed at avoiding more civilian casualties and creating political stability in the region.

China says actions of the Security Council should promote political dialogue, and maintain peace and stability in the Middle East “rather than complicate the issue.

Frustrated with Washington on trade and energy, Harper has declared it is “a national priority” to diversify energy oil and gas exports to Asian markets, particularly China, which has already invested heavily to the tune of $15 billion in Canada’s oilsands.

The Brass Ring - A multibillionaire’s relentless quest for global influence

Last October, Sheldon Adelson, the gaming multibillionaire, accompanied a group of Republican donors to the White House to meet with George W. Bush. They wanted to talk to the President about Israel. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was organizing a major conference in the United States, in an effort to re-start the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and her initiative had provoked consternation among many rightward-leaning American Jews and their Christian evangelical allies. Most had seen Bush as a reliable friend of Israel, and one who had not pressured Israel to pursue the peace process. Adelson, who is seventy-four, owns two of Las Vegas’s giant casino resorts, the Venetian and the Palazzo, and is the third-richest person in the United States, according to Forbes. He is fiercely opposed to a two-state solution; and he had contributed so generously to Bush’s reëlection campaign that he qualified as a Bush Pioneer. A short, rotund man, with sparse reddish hair and a pale countenance that colors when he is angered, Adelson protested to Bush that Rice was thinking of her legacy, not the President’s, and that she would ruin him if she continued to pursue this disastrous course. Then, as Adelson later told an acquaintance, Bush put one arm around his shoulder and another around that of his wife, Miriam, who was born in Israel, and said to her, “You tell your Prime Minister that I need to know what’s right for your people—because at the end of the day it’s going to be my policy, not Condi’s. But I can’t be more Catholic than the Pope.” (The White House denies this account.)

Congressional earmarks sometimes used to fund projects near lawmakers' properties

AU.S. senator from Alabama directed more than $100 million in federal earmarks to renovate downtown Tuscaloosa near his own commercial office building. A congressman from Georgia secured $6.3 million in taxpayer funds to replenish the beach about 900 feet from his island vacation cottage. A representative from Michigan earmarked $486,000 to add a bike lane to a bridge within walking distance of her home.

Thirty-three members of Congress have steered more than $300 million in earmarks and other spending provisions to dozens of public projects that are next to or within about two miles of the lawmakers’ own property, according to a Washington Post investigation.

Under the ethics rules Congress has written for itself, this is both legal and undisclosed.

The Post analyzed public records on the holdings of all 535 members and compared them with earmarks members had sought for pet projects, most of them since 2008. The process uncovered appropriations for work in close proximity to commercial and residential real estate owned by the lawmakers or their family members. The review also found 16 lawmakers who sent tax dollars to companies, colleges or community programs where their spouses, children or parents work as salaried employees or serve on boards.

Deconstructing the unionbot frame

When Electro-Motive/Caterpillar locked out workers at its London, Ont. plant on January 1, telling them to take a 50 per cent pay cut or they would close shop, so began 2012, the year the middle-class Canadian job came under heavy fire.

No one eliminates decent paying work and replaces it with low-wage jobs without a supportive narrative to smooth the way. The frame in place today focuses on powerful "union leaders" -- villanized as "union bosses," "the oppressors ... responsible for having forced labour to be exported."

The newspapers, who long ago replaced labour reporters with business reporters, warn of the "co-ordinated attack on unions" and note that the union movement is getting "militant." Throughout the mainstream media, the common narrative reveals that "union-busting" is accepted as legitimate activity because "unions have too much power."

Essentially, the history books will reveal the narrative of 2012 as the year of the unionbot. It reads like a science fiction plot: an immutable, greedy beast that bears no human resemblance to actual workers invades Planet Earth and therefore has to slayed like a dragon.

The history books will describe how multinational corporations such as Caterpillar conscripted governments to serve with them on the battlefront, to dismantle the unionbot.

Alice Wong’s China delegation

So who follows the Prime Minister to China anyway? There’s a selection of backbenchers, a handful of cabinet ministers, and about 40 business and community leaders whose names were given to us by the Prime Minister’s Office. Let’s have a look.

Nine people are listed as belonging to the “PM’s Delegation.” These include Bombardier CEO Pierre Beaudoin, David Schellenberg of Cascade Aerospace, Patrick Lamarre of engineering giant SNC, Lowell Jackson of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, University of Western Ontario Western University Canada president Amit Chakma, and Duncan Dee of Air Canada.

Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver is listed with an 11-person delegation including senior executives from Shell, Enbridge, Syncrude, Eldorado Gold and Cameco, a uranium mining company.

There are 13 people in Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz’s delegation, including representatives of the cattle, pork, wheat, grain, pulse (mmmm lentils; one day I’ll bore you with the amazing story of Canada’s bean and pulse industry’s exports to India) and rendering sectors.

Also on the trip is Minister of State for Seniors Alice Wong, the first Chinese-Canadian cabinet minister. Her delegation list is 10 names long. They include John Chang of Lulu Island Winery; Ming-Tat Cheung, chairman of the Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Toronto; and the Rev. Dominic Tse, Senior Pastor at the North York Chinese Community Church, and President of the Jubilee Centre for Christian Social Action.

Harper China delegation includes oil, banking executives

Canadian oil and business executives are well-represented in the delegation travelling to China with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, with oil exports expected to be high on the government's agenda.

A delegation assigned to Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver includes eight mining or oil and gas companies.

Harper's own delegation includes a wider business focus, with top executives from Air Canada, SNC Lavalin and Bombardier, Manulife and Scotiabank.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz will also visit the country.

The delegation left early Monday afternoon and will be in China from Feb. 8 to 11.

China's total investment in Canada used to add up to millions of dollars, but since 2009 has increased to up to $20 billion.

It has come with a shift in this country from relying solely on the United States as the only buyer of Canadian oil and gas — something Harper emphasized repeatedly when U.S. President Barack Obama delayed a decision and then denied a permit to TransCanada for its Keystone XL pipeline. The pipeline would have sent oil from Alberta through the U.S. to the coast of Texas.

Tory MP wants human rights for unborn children

OTTAWA—A Conservative MP is defying his party’s leadership with a move to rewrite Canadian laws to extend human rights to unborn children.

Kitchener MP Stephen Woodworth is taking aim at a section of the Criminal Code that defines a child as a human being only when it can breathe on its own and is severed from the umbilical cord. He says the law was first drafted in Britain in the 1700s but is based on “limited medical knowledge” that needs to be updated.

“Don’t accept any law that says some human beings are not human beings. Nothing justifies it,” he told reporters Monday.

Woodworth wants a special committee to review medical evidence about when a child can be considered a human being separate from the mother. He also wants that committee of seven Tory MPs, four New Democrats and one Liberal to examine the legal impact of denying full human rights to an unborn child.

It will be debated in March, then again in June, followed by a vote of the House of Commons.

But even as he was speaking Monday morning, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson sent out an emailed statement saying that while the government had no power to influence motions from individual MPs, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has promised not to re-open the debate on abortion.

U.S. Accused of Using Drones to Target Rescue Workers and Funerals in Pakistan

The CIA’s drone campaign targeting suspected militants in Pakistan has killed dozens of civilians who had gone to rescue victims or were attending funerals. So concludes a new report by the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism. It found that since President Obama took office three years ago, as many as 535 civilians have been killed, including more than 60 children. The investigation also revealed that at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims. More than 20 civilians have also been attacked in deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners. We speak to Chris Woods, award-winning reporter with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. "We noted that there were repeated reports at the time, contemporaneous reports in publications like New York Times, news agencies like Reuters, by CNN, that there were these strikes on rescuers, that there were reports that there had been an initial strike and then, some minutes later, as people had come forward to help and pull out the dead and injured, that drones had returned to the scene and had attacked rescuers," Woods says. "We’ve been able to name just over 50 civilians that we understand have been killed in those attacks. In total, we think that more than 75 civilians have been killed, specifically in these attacks on rescuers and on mourners, on funeral-goers."

Source: Democracy Now! 
Author: -- 

Bob McDonnell: Republican Governors, Not Obama, Deserve Credit For Rising Economy

WASHINGTON -- Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell said Sunday that Republican governors deserve credit for the improving economy.

"I'm glad the economy is starting to recover, but I think it's because of what Republican governors are doing in their states, not because of the president," McDonnell said on CNN's "State of the Union with Candy Crowley."

McDonnell did not elaborate on what the governors have done. But he said Republican governors are in charge of more states with positive economic conditions. "Eleven out of the top 15 states in America that are ranked by CNBC as top places to do business are Republican states," he said. "Seven out of the 10 states that have had the biggest drop in unemployment are states run by Republican governors."

The national unemployment rate fell to 8.3 percent in January, the fifth consecutive month of decline and the 16th consecutive month the economy added jobs. But, as McDonnell noted, it's also the 36th straight month with the unemployment rate above 8 percent.

Karen Handel, Susan G. Komen's Anti-Abortion VP, Drove Decision To Defund Planned Parenthood

WASHINGTON -- Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the nation's leading anti-breast-cancer charity, has insisted that its since-reversed decision to pull funding from Planned Parenthood arose from a routine change in criteria for grant eligibility that had nothing to do with abortion politics.

But a Komen insider told HuffPost on Sunday that Karen Handel, Komen's staunchly anti-abortion vice president for public policy, was the main force behind the decision to defund Planned Parenthood and the attempt to make that decision look nonpolitical.

"Karen Handel was the prime instigator of this effort, and she herself personally came up with investigation criteria," the source, who requested anonymity for professional reasons, told HuffPost. "She said, 'If we just say it's about investigations, we can defund Planned Parenthood and no one can blame us for being political.'"

Emails between Komen leadership on the day the Planned Parenthood decision was announced, which were reviewed by HuffPost under the condition they not be published, confirm the source's description of Handel's sole "authority" in crafting and implementing the Planned Parenthood policy.

What Is at the Root of the Israel-Iran Confrontation?

Since we seem to be moving (once again) toward some sort of confrontation with Iran, I thought it would be worthwhile to revisit one of the main reasons the world is sliding toward war. I'm opposed to an Israeli strike on Iran; I'm also opposed to an American strike on Iran. Military bombardments could lead to consequences we haven't yet fully thought through. And  I believe there is still time for the U.S., working in concert with its allies, to bring about a change in Iranian behavior. I also believe that President Obama is serious when he says that all options are on the table. But I'm also opposed to the idea that we should give up and move toward a policy of containing Iran. I don't think containment would work, for reasons I outlined here.

One of the problems with the anti-attack crowd is that it downplays the threat Iran poses, particularly to Israel, but also to the U.S., to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and to Iran's non-Jewish neighbors as well.

But since the worldwide conversation has turned again toward the alleged imminence of an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, I asked Adam Chandler, the Goldblog Deputy-Editor-for-Studying-Iranian Anti-Semitism-So-I-Don't-Have-To, to put together a bit of documentary proof about why the Israeli leadership might find Iran's leaders, and their intentions, to be so worrying.

The Frog of War

Darnell lives deep in the basement of a life sciences building at the University of California-Berkeley, in a plastic tub on a row of stainless steel shelves. He is an African clawed frog, Xenopus laevis, sometimes called the lab rat of amphibians. Like most of his species, he's hardy and long-lived, an adept swimmer, a poor crawler, and a voracious eater. He's a good breeder, too, having produced both children and grandchildren. There is, however, one unusual thing about Darnell.

He's female.

Genetically, Darnell is male. But after being raised in water contaminated with the herbicide atrazine at a level of 2.5 parts per billion—slightly less than what's allowed in our drinking water—he developed a female body, inside and out. He is also the mother of his children, having successfully mated with other males and spawned clutches of eggs. Recently he was moved to an atrazine-free tank and has turned lanky, losing the plump, pincushion look of a female frog. But last March, when UC-Berkeley integrative biology professor Tyrone B. Hayes opened him up to take a look, Darnell's insides were still female. "He still has ovaries, but there's no eggs in them," Hayes told me the next day as we stood watching the frog, who swam over and inspected us soberly, then turned and flopped away.

Stephen Harper China Trip: Energy Top Of Agenda As PM Brings Energy Executives

OTTAWA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper heads to China today, and in addition to a political entourage, he's bringing along a who's-who of Canada's energy sector.

Harper is travelling with the presidents of several oil and gas companies, including those involved in major pipeline projects.

One of those projects — the Northern Gateway — is considered key to helping Canada export more oil to China.

But it's not just the energy business fuelling Harper's four-day trip to the Middle Kingdom.

He's also bringing along leadership from the agricultural, transportation and education sectors, hoping to beef up Canada-China relations in those fields.

While on his three-city tour, Harper will also meet with current and future Chinese political leaders to set the stage for a long-term relationship between the two countries.

Original Article
Source: Huff 
Author: Canadian Press 

Trans Pacific trade deal at what price?

On Tuesday, as Stephen Harper arrives in China, a delegation from Japan begins talks in Washington that could affect Canada’s trading future far more than anything that gets signed in Beijing.

The Japanese badly want to join the Trans Pacific Partnership, an ambitious set of trade negotiations between the United States and eight other Pacific nations that have gone far farther, and faster, than most observers expected. Australian Trade Minister Craig Emerson said last week that he expects to see “something substantial – not a finalized agreement, but substantial – by around July.”

That doesn’t leave much time for the Japanese to get in, or for Canada, either. This country is also eager to join the TPP.

But membership has its costs, and some may not be aware how high those costs could be.

All nine member countries within the TPP talks — the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Peru, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore and Brunei — must agree before any country can join the talks at this late stage. The Japanese are in Washington to secure the Obama administration’s support, but the Americans are demanding a very high price.

They want Tokyo to scrap regulations that keep American cars out of the Japanese market. They want the Japanese to eliminate their prohibitive tariffs on rice and other agricultural imports. Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Wendy Cutler has declared that her country will tolerate no exceptions if Japan wants America’s support for entry into the TPP. The Japanese, desperate to revive their flagging manufacturing sector, appear willing to agree.

Double-whammy: federal civil servants worried about jobs, afraid to speak out

Unions and opposition MPs are crunching the numbers and connecting the dots, and they’re coming up with a bleak forecast of the pain facing the public service in the 2012 budget.

The newest numbers indicate that as many as 50,000 public service jobs could be cut due to the federal government’s strategic and operating review. The estimate is the preliminary result of a study by the Canadian Association of Professional Employees, and is based on government information and Statistics Canada data, according to union president Claude Poirier. The full results are expected in the next two weeks.

It comes on the heels of a study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives that indicates that job losses to the federal civil service could be at least 25,000.

“It’s obviously bordering on the draconian,” said Liberal MP Ralph Goodale (Wascana, Sask.), said of the upcoming cuts.

The Conservative government, through the strategic and operating review is looking for ways to find $4-billion in savings through cuts to 67 departments’ $80-billion operating budget.

But Treasury Board President Tony Clement (Parry Sound-Muskoka, Ont.) recently said that the cuts could be up to $8-billion this year.

Canada’s wealth-sharing plan is unconstitutional, study says

Canada’s national wealth-sharing scheme violates the Constitution with a half-baked equalization formula that shortchanges provinces like Ontario, a major new study has found.

In a 41-page paper to be released Monday by the Mowat Centre for Policy Innovation at the University of Toronto, equalization expert Peter Gusen said the status quo is unconstitutional.

And that costs Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick billions of dollars annually that go instead to Quebec, Manitoba and Prince Edward Island.

“If equalization continues to ignore differences in expenditure need it will not be treating provinces fairly and it will not be fulfilling its constitutional mandate,” writes Gusen.

When dispensing equalization payouts from the taxpayer-funded $15.4 billion pool, Ottawa doesn’t take into account that wages and cost-of-living expenses are higher in Ontario and B.C. than in much of the country.

“Provinces … differ in their ability ‘to provide reasonably comparable levels of public services’ because they have to spend different amounts to offer similar services; in other words, because they have different expenditure needs,” he writes, quoting Section 36.2 of the Constitution Act.

Government should seize Caterpillar assets

OTTAWA – “The decision announced today that US Caterpillar Corporation will close its Electro-Motive plant in London instead of negotiating with the Canadian Autoworkers Union requires an immediate response from the Canadian and Ontario governments.” That statement from Dave Coles, President of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP).

 “This decision is a slap in the face to Canada which gave Electro-Motive tax breaks to protect jobs,” continues Coles.

 “It’s an act of corporate aggression against Canada and we should retaliate with an immediate tariff against Caterpillar products imported to Canada.  The Ontario and federal governments should take the same action in this situation as former Premier Danny Williams did at AbiitiBowater in Newfoundland – they should seize the Caterpillar assets in London and ensure that all community and worker obligations are fully met.

 “Why do we have governments, if not to protect Canadians against this kind of corporate agression?

 “There will be a strong labour response to Caterpillar's aggression against Canada.  CEP is prepared to throw its full support behind any actions that the CAW and central labour bodies take to achieve justice for these workers,” concludes Coles.

 CEP is the largest union in several key sectors of the Canadian economy, including forestry, energy, communications and media.

Original Article
Source: CEP 
Author: --  

Canadians need to voice their opposition to the Harper government

With all respect to the many readers who have urged me to dedicate this column to rebutting John Baird's rebuttal to last week's column, I must decline.

We have other urgent issues to confront with no further stalling. Incrementally, stealthily, furtively, Stephen Harper is moving Canada towards the conservative dystopia he has always cherished, even if he has taken exquisite care never to campaign on it. As Maclean's columnist Paul Wells summed up the Harper strategy a couple of years ago, "Changing a society one small step at a time." This is not a man for a Full Monty.

"Conservative values are Canadian values and the Conservative Party is Canada's party," the PM declared, flushed with the thrill of majority government. Yet according to the most recent polls, only 32 per cent of the Canadian public now supports his government. He won his majority last May with just under 40 per cent of the vote. So he has already lost close to one-quarter of that support. Yet though he lacks the approval of the large majority of Canadians, Mr. Harper functions virtually without constraint.

Whatever vocal opposition exists outside the paper tiger of Parliament does so in small bites, in isolated silos, through indignant tweets, letters to the editor and op-ed pieces in newspapers. This is known as militant Canadian activism. It's the Canadian equivalent of the Jon Stewart strategy. While conservatives use every vile trick in the book to undermine American democracy, Mr. Stewart pokes fun at them on cable TV. He gets the laughs, they get the country. Here too.

Hill Dispatches: Keeping good jobs in Canada

Caterpillar has picked up and left town.

Goodbye London, Ontario.

Hello Muncie, Indiana.

The lesson for the National Post's Andrew Coyne is that the Canadian Autoworkers, the union that represented the locomotive manufacturer's workers, did not play its cards right.

The draconian reduction in hourly pay rates that the employer offered may have been nasty medicine, Coyne wrote, but having rejected that, the workers now have nothing at all.

For the Toronto Star's Tom Walkom, the lesson is that there is an expanding war against unions in North America. It started in the U.S. south but is now spreading to places such as Indiana and Ontario.

The Harper government is becoming more than an active cheerleader in the anti-union movement. It is taking on the role of enabler -- witness its interference in the Air Canada dispute, and newly enunciated policy that the federal government can intervene in private sector labour disputes when the "interests of the Canadian economy" are at stake.

A visit with Mumia Abu-Jamal in General Population

Heidi Boghosian and I just returned from a very moving visit with Mumia. We visited on Thursday, February 2. This was Mumia's second contact visit in over 30 years, since his transfer to General Population last Friday, Jan 27. His first contact visit was with his wife, Wadiya, on Monday, January 30.

Unlike our previous visits to Death Row at SCI Greene and to solitary confinement at SCI Mahanoy, our visit yesterday took place in a large visitor's area, amidst numerous circles of families and spouses who were visiting other inmates. Compared to the intense and focused conversations we had had with Mumia in a small, isolated visiting cell on Death Row, behind sterile plexiglass, this exchange was more relaxed and informal and more unpredictably interactive with the people around us... it was more human. There were so many scenes of affection around us, of children jumping on top of and pulling at their fathers, of entire families talking intimately around small tables, of couples sitting and quietly holding each other, and of girlfriends and wives stealing a forbidden kiss from the men they were there to visit (kisses are only allowed at the start and at the end of visits). These scenes were touching and beautiful, and markedly different from the images of prisoners presented to us by those in power. Our collective work could benefit greatly from these humane, intimate images.

Ottawa looks abroad for OAS pension solutions

The Conservative government is looking abroad to find the best way to phase in a higher qualifying age for Old Age Security.

Human Resources Minister Diane Finley argued Sunday that Canada is one of the only countries in the 34-member Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development that isn’t already raising their retirement age.

Ms. Finley was asked directly on CTV’s Question Period whether the government’s plans would see Canadians having to wait until age 67 – rather than the current 65 – in order to qualify for Old Age Security.

“That’s one option. But let’s look at it. It used to be people were expected to have a life expectancy [of] between 68 and 71. Now it’s 81, and they’re still expecting to retire at the same age,” Ms. Finley said. “Almost all of the other countries in the OECD have already moved in this direction. The U.S. started doing this a little close to 20 years ago.”

Ms. Finley, 54, continued the government’s practice of offering hints at the government’s pension reform plans without specifically spelling out when the change would take effect or what it will involve.

“What I’m saying is that in terms of implementing it, we’re not going to tell people that they have to adapt within two years to a dramatically different model. … We’re going to make sure that people my age and younger have time to adjust their retirement plans,” she said.

Caterpillar likes to play hardball -- so let’s play hardball

Recession-ravaged London, Ont., needn’t lose its status as one of the world’s leading locomotive manufacturing centres.

Yes, that is the plan revealed Friday by U.S.-based Caterpillar Inc., owner of London’s 90-year-old Electro-Motive Diesel Inc. (EMD). Caterpillar has abruptly shut down the firm just 18 months after buying it. Cat is poised to ship EMD’s specialized equipment and technology — intellectual property developed in London over several generations — to low-wage jurisdictions outside Canada.

Naturally, Caterpillar presents this outrage as a fait accompli.

Already there are calls for a government inquiry to determine how such industrial rape can be prevented in future. A good idea. But we also should and can quash Cat’s plans for EMD.

When it paid a bargain $820 million for EMD in 2010, Caterpillar appeared to be getting a mere factory. What it actually got its hands on is one of the global industry’s few major locomotive manufacturers. (EMD’s sole major North American rival is General Electric Co.) EMD is richly endowed with made-in-Canada technology and boasts the largest customer base in the world.

At every turn in this humbling saga for Canada, Caterpillar has acted in bad faith.

It stretches credulity to imagine that Caterpillar acquired EMD less than two years ago with no thought of ending locomotive manufacturing in Canada.

Occupy College: Roosevelt University Offers 'Occupy Everywhere' Course

CHICAGO -- A Chicago college is offering a class on the Occupy movement.

Thirty-two undergraduate students are enrolled at Roosevelt University's "Occupy Everywhere" class. It's a three-credit political science course that looks at the movement that started last summer near New York City's Wall Street and spread nationwide.

Leaders from the Chicago movement may present guest lectures.

Professor Jeff Edwards studies social movements. He says the Occupy movement has been unfolding before students and the class is a good opportunity for them. He says they are reading a range of analysis on the movement concerned with corporate greed and the division of wealth.

Original Article
Source: Huff 
Author: AP 

In Afghan War, Officer Becomes a Whistle-Blower

WASHINGTON — On his second yearlong deployment to Afghanistan, Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis traveled 9,000 miles, patrolled with American troops in eight provinces and returned in October of last year with a fervent conviction that the war was going disastrously and that senior military leaders had not leveled with the American public.       

Since enlisting in the Army in 1985, he said, he had repeatedly seen top commanders falsely dress up a dismal situation. But this time, he would not let it rest. So he consulted with his pastor at McLean Bible Church in Virginia, where he sings in the choir. He watched his favorite movie, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” one more time, drawing inspiration from Jimmy Stewart’s role as the extraordinary ordinary man who takes on a corrupt establishment.

And then, late last month, Colonel Davis, 48, began an unusual one-man campaign of military truth-telling. He wrote two reports, one unclassified and the other classified, summarizing his observations on the candor gap with respect to Afghanistan. He briefed four members of Congress and a dozen staff members, spoke with a reporter for The New York Times, sent his reports to the Defense Department’s inspector general — and only then informed his chain of command that he had done so.
“How many more men must die in support of a mission that is not succeeding?“ Colonel Davis asks in an article summarizing his views titled “Truth, Lies and Afghanistan: How Military Leaders Have Let Us Down.” It was published online Sunday in The Armed Forces Journal, the nation’s oldest independent periodical on military affairs. “No one expects our leaders to always have a successful plan,” he says in the article. “But we do expect — and the men who do the living, fighting and dying deserve — to have our leaders tell us the truth about what’s going on.”

Rick Santorum Opines On Susan G. Komen Foundation's Planned Parenthood Decision

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum sounded off on the Susan G. Komen for the Cure decision to cut off funds to Planned Parenthood for breast exams, which it reversed in part Friday.

"I don't believe breast cancer research is advanced by funding an organization that does abortions where you've seen ties to cancer and abortions," said a hoarse Santorum on "Fox News Sunday." In fact, a 2007 study published by the Archives of Internal Medicine studying 105,716 women found no link between breast cancer and abortions. Abortion services account for about three percent of Planned Parenthood's activities, while cancer screening and prevention accounts for 16 percent.

"So I don't think it's a particularly healthy way of contributing money to further the cause of breast cancer, but that's for private organizations like Susan G. Komen to make that decision," continued Santorum.

The Huffington Post's Laura Bassett noted that Komen apologized, repeated that it would continue to fund existing grants and make Planned Parenthood eligible for future grants. Komen did not, however, promise to renew Planned Parenthood grants.

Santorum also criticized a recent Obama administration rule requiring religiously affiliated employers -- but not churches and other places of worship -- to provide contraception under their health plans without charge.

"This is the problem when government tells you that they can give you things. They can take it away, but even worse they can tell you how you're going to exercise this new right that they've given you consistent with their values instead of the values guaranteed in our Constitution," he said.

The former Pennsylvania senator finished last in Saturday's caucuses in Nevada.

Original Article
Source: Huff 
Author: Luke Johnson 

Electro-Motive Closure: London Mark's Work Wearhouse Stores Clothing Pulls Caterpillar Boots In Protest

LONDON, Ont. - A national casual clothing chain has pulled Caterpillar boots from its London, Ont., stores after the heavy-equipment giant shut down a local locomotive plant.

Mark's Work Wearhouse says it is showing support for hundreds of workers who lost their jobs at the Electro-Motive.

The retailer announced the move on its Facebook page Saturday, a day after U.S-based Caterpillar revealed its plans to close the plant following a labour dispute.

The company had asked its 450 employees to take a 50 per cent pay cut to help keep Electro-Motive going.

The CAW union members rejected the proposal, prompting the company to lock them out Jan. 1.

Caterpillar subsidiary Progress Rail Services said the cost structure at the London plant was unsustainable, even though Caterpillar last week reported a 58 per cent increase in its quarterly earnings with a record profit of nearly $5 billion.

Original Article
Source: Huff 
Author: canadian press 

Clothing chain pulls Caterpillar boots to protest closure of London, Ont., plant

LONDON, Ont. - A national casual clothing chain has pulled Caterpillar boots from its London, Ont., stores after the heavy-equipment giant shut down a local locomotive plant.

Mark's Work Wearhouse says it is showing support for hundreds of workers who lost their jobs at the Electro-Motive.

The retailer announced the move on its Facebook page Saturday, a day after U.S-based Caterpillar revealed its plans to close the plant following a labour dispute.

The company had asked its 450 employees to take a 50 per cent pay cut to help keep Electro-Motive going.

The CAW union members rejected the proposal, prompting the company to lock them out Jan. 1.

Caterpillar subsidiary Progress Rail Services said the cost structure at the London plant was unsustainable, even though Caterpillar last week reported a 58 per cent increase in its quarterly earnings with a record profit of nearly $5 billion.

Original Article
Source: winnipeg free press 
Author: The Canadian Press 

Ottawa outsources the attack on the middle class

As it hauls its billions in profits south of the border, Caterpillar executives should make a detour and stop in Ottawa to drop off the money they owe Canadian taxpayers.

Failing that, the Conservative government should be waiting for them at the border demanding the tax break and handout cash looted from the federal treasury.

But since both scenarios are highly fanciful, it is time for an end to the scattershot, no-strings-attached tax breaks being tossed from Stephen Harper’s government to large multinationals that are using it to drive down the standard of living in this country.

Friday’s closing of the Electro-Motive Diesel plant is simply the most egregious example of taxpayers’ funds being used to try to bust unions or ship jobs out of the country.

It has been tried by U.S. Steel in Hamilton, which shut down a plant and locked out workers until it finally won a litany of concessions from battered workers.

When it sought Canadian approval to buy Stelco, it promised to maintain average employment at 3,100 and to produce a minimum amount of steel there for three years.

Instead, within the year of winning Ottawa’s okay, U.S. Steel began a series of layoffs, shutdowns and lockouts so blatantly counter to its agreement with the Conservative government, Ottawa took it to court.

DND being ripped off by contractors, union alleges

Taxpayers are on the hook for shoddy construction work at Defence Department buildings and are being overcharged by private contractors providing services at military installations across the country, a new report to be presented Tuesday to a Commons committee alleges.

Photos taken for the report show crumbling foundations and sloping floors on new buildings, while invoices raise questions about whether Defence Construction Canada, a Crown Corporation that oversees construction work for DND, is being overcharged by contractors.

The report will be presented to the House of Commons defence committee on Tuesday by the Union of National Defence Employees, which represents DND construction engineering staff.

The report includes invoices, engineering reports and photographs to build its case.

One photo shows a pipe at the pool complex at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa attached to the ceiling by a rope. Another shows a heating system in a building at the same base, disabled because of mistakes caused by a company hired by DCC.

“We uncovered just a fraction of what we think is going on at all DND sites across the country,” said John MacLennan, the union’s national president. “We don’t know how much it is costing taxpayers but we’re asking for an audit to be done.”

MacLennan said the union repeatedly warned senior department officials about the ongoing problems but nothing was done. Instead, the department’s union workers have been repeatedly called in to fix the problems caused by private contractors, he added.

War and Peace: Illusions of partnership at Conservative-First Nations gathering

War and Peace -- those were the two symbols that kept popping into my mind as I watched the Canada-First Nations Gathering in Ottawa on January 24, 2012. My father always told me to pay careful attention to my surroundings and that even the smallest of signs could be an indication of the real threat behind someone's words or actions. He was always curious about people, how their minds worked and how their actions often betrayed their real intentions. He felt it was important for me to always keep that in the back of my mind.

So, when I watched what was called the "Crown-First Nation Gathering" but was really a meeting between Harper, a few Conservative Cabinet Ministers, and too many bureaucrats on one side, and a very limited number of First Nation Chiefs on the other -- I knew my father was right. Liberal and NDP MPs were not allowed to attend, but instead had to sit in the media room where I was watching the events. Thus, unless someone has anointed Prime Minister Harper King of Canada, this was far from a "Crown" First Nation gathering -- but instead was a Conservative meeting with the AFN and selected Chiefs.

True to my father's advice, I decided that I would pay attention to all aspects of this "gathering". The first thing is how the meeting came about. The promise of this meeting had been made several times by the Harper Conservatives as part of their election campaigns. This promised meeting was not born of any interest in building partnerships between the Crown and First Nations, but was born instead of political aspirations, self-interest and self-promotion. Even once Harper was elected, many years went by and no meeting. It was not until the horrific conditions in Attawapiskat were highlighted by the media and Harper could not easily deflect the attention that the Conservatives were shamed into finally setting a date for his "election promise" meeting.

The Dangers of Science Illiteracy

In an open society, where leaders base their decisions on the best available evidence, there is no reason to muzzle scientists, or anyone else.

Kids ask questions. Sometimes adults feel inadequate if they don’t have ready answers. But when I became a teacher, I learned quickly that there’s nothing wrong with saying, “I don’'t know.” Teaching children how to learn is more useful than feeding them facts.

Many parents, though, believe they must appear infallible in the eyes of their children. A U.K. survey found that some moms and dads fear questions such as, “Why is the sky blue?” and, “Why is the moon out during the day?” Math and science queries were the biggest stumpers.

Researchers questioned more than 2,000 parents before The Big Bang U.K. Young Scientists and Engineers Fair. Many respondents admitted to “furtive researching to save face before answering their child.”

There’s no need for that. My area of training as a scientist is genetics. It’s a huge subject and I don’'t always know everything going on outside my field. I try to keep up by reading journals like Scientific American. People shouldn’'t feel that saying “I don’'t know” is admitting weakness. The important thing is to look for answers.

What could be better than using a puzzling question as an opportunity to teach your children how to conduct and analyze research, think critically about information, and gain new understanding? You even get to learn along with your kids. In our computer age, it’s not even as time-consuming as it once was – although there’s a lot to be said for direct observation, poring over an encyclopedia, or visiting the library.