Democracy Gone Astray

Democracy, being a human construct, needs to be thought of as directionality rather than an object. As such, to understand it requires not so much a description of existing structures and/or other related phenomena but a declaration of intentionality.
This blog aims at creating labeled lists of published infringements of such intentionality, of points in time where democracy strays from its intended directionality. In addition to outright infringements, this blog also collects important contemporary information and/or discussions that impact our socio-political landscape.

All the posts here were published in the electronic media – main-stream as well as fringe, and maintain links to the original texts.

[NOTE: Due to changes I haven't caught on time in the blogging software, all of the 'Original Article' links were nullified between September 11, 2012 and December 11, 2012. My apologies.]

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Occupy Louisville Protestors Arrested After Clash With Police At Chase Bank In Kentucky

Five Occupy Louisville protestors were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct on Saturday after a clash with police at a Chase Bank branch in Kentucky.

According to reports, members of the Occupy movement were protesting in front of the bank located on Baxter Avenue.

Some protestors were allegedly blocking the doors, making it difficult for customers to enter the establishment. A group of demonstrators reportedly threatened to occupy the inside of the bank, and employees eventually called police to assist in the situation.

Officers arrived and told protestors it was fine to continue the demonstration but that members could not block the entrance to the bank, WHAS News reports.

Santorum: Separation Of Church And State 'Makes Me Want To Throw Up'

Rick Santorum on Sunday took on separation of church and state.

"I don't believe in an America where the separation of church and state are absolute," he told 'This Week' host George Stephanopoulos. "The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our say that people of faith have no role in the public square? You bet that makes me want to throw up."

The GOP candidate was responding to comments he made last October. He had said that he "almost threw up" after reading JFK's 1960 speech in which he declared his commitment to the separation of church and state.

Santorum also on Sunday told Meet The Press host David Gregory that separation of church and state was "not the founders' vision."

The GOP candidate has been doubling down on religious rhetoric in an effort to court evangelical voters ahead of Super Tuesday. Last week, he questioned Obama's spiritual beliefs.

"[Obama believes in] some phony ideal, some phony theology ... not a theology based on the Bible, a different theology," he said.

Original Article
Source: Huff
Author: Alana Horowitz

Canada revs up for fight over second tar sands oil pipeline

FORT ST. JAMES, B.C. — The prime minister is talking about being "held hostage" by U.S. interests. Radio ads blare, "Stand up to this foreign bully." A Twitter account tells of a "secret plan to target Canada: exposed!"

Could this be Canada? The cheerful northern neighbor, supplier of troops to unpleasant U.S.-led foreign conflicts, reliable trade partner, ally in holding terrorism back from North America's shores — not to mention the No. 1 supplier of America's oil?

Canada's recent push for the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline to carry oil from the tar sands of Alberta to the nation's West Coast, where it would be sent to China, has been marked by uncharacteristic defiance. And it first flared in the brouhaha over the bananas.

Responding to urgings from U.S. environmentalists, Ohio-based Chiquita Brands International announced in November that it would join a growing number of companies trying to avoid fuel derived from Canada's tar sands, whose production is blamed for accelerating climate change and leveling boreal forests.

More ridings were hit by alleged voter suppression: opposition

The robocall controversy appears to be broadening, with opposition parties claiming the number of ridings affected by voter-suppression calls in the last federal election is greater than first thought.

New Democrat MP Pat Martin says he is aware of at least 34 ridings that received automated phone calls, although his party lists only 29.

Meanwhile, Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae said his party is aware of 27 ridings, but he expects the number to rise by Monday, when the House of Commons resumes.

The opposition are accusing the Harper Conservatives of orchestrating a campaign of dirty tricks in the May 2 election, but the Conservatives have denied the charges.

Elections Canada and police are currently believed to be looking into reports that automated calls in as many as 18 ridings falsely advised voters that the location of their polling stations had changed.

Mr. Martin says he is firm on his number and has since heard of two more ridings, but was not yet adding them to his list.

Meanwhile, lawyers for RackNine Inc., an Edmonton-based automated dialling company that worked on the Conservative campaign, has sent a letter to Mr. Martin demanding an apology or face a defamation suit for comments he made about the company.

Mr. Martin says he has no intention of apologizing.

Original Article
Source: Globe
Author: The Canadian Press

BP Oil Spill: CEO Bob Dudley Says Company Ready For Lengthy Court Battle Over 2010 Gulf Spill

LONDON - BP chief executive Bob Dudley said in an interview published Sunday that the company is ready for a lengthy court battle over the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Dudley, who took control of BP in October 2010 after former chief executive Tony Hayward resigned amid criticism over the way he had handled the oil spill, told the Sunday Telegraph newspaper that BP can continue to function even if the court case that begins in New Orleans on Monday continues for years.

"We have to remember we are a business that invests in decade-long cycles," he said in an interview published Sunday. "For the vast majority of people now at BP, the company is back on its feet and it is starting to move forward," he said.

BP has set aside $40 billion to deal with fines and associated costs of the April 20, 2010, blowout of BP's deepwater Macondo well which killed 11 workers and injured 17. The burning drilling rig Deepwater Horizon toppled and sank to the Gulf floor, where it sits today.

Inside the working conditions of migrant workers

In light of the recent tragic incident involving the death of 10 migrant workers in Southern Ontario, I felt it was finally time to take the wraps off of a journal I kept during a two-week trip in early 2004 to investigate the conditions of undocumented Chinese migrant farm workers. I hope this can help shed light on the kinds of conditions faced every day by the people who tend, pick and process the food we eat.

This is the third in a series. See here for the first entry.

The families of the deceased and injured are very much in need of financial and logistical support. As such, a fund has been set up so that donations may be made to them. At the same time, a sustained, organized, well-informed effort is needed to prevent similar tragedies. Please consider supporting groups like Justice 4 Migrant Workers and joining migrant farm worker advocates in calling for greater accountability and compensation.

Six of us -- three men, three women -- are deposited at a greenhouse that is much smaller than the one where we are housed. It has a different name, too, but the owner is definitely related somehow. He later brags that his brother-in-law is a "big shot" with the family conglomerate that runs the larger greenhouse.

Canada's 'Junk' Jobs Market

A triple-A debt rating or not, a lack of quality job creation threatens the long-term viability of the Canadian economy.

Canada has so far escaped the wrath of debt-rating agencies now notorious for swinging their hammer (i.e. credit-rating downgrades) on economies facing high debt loads and political instability.

But suppose that instead of assessing an economy’s health by its ability to incur and pay back debt, we rated a nation’s ability to create and maintain quality work. (That is, arguably, a stronger measure of how a nation can manage its overall debt levels anyway.) How, then, would Canada fare?

Statistics Canada’s offering of year-end employment data brought bad news on this front. The last quarter of 2011 saw a net drop of 55,000 jobs, one sign that our economy is sputtering. Nearly all growth was in part-time work.

Floating city conceived as high-tech incubator

You’re a Canadian businesswoman, let us say, with a brilliant idea for a high-tech startup. All you need is a year in Silicon Valley – time to network, sell the concept, raise capital and gain liftoff.

Only one problem: You can visit, but you can’t stay. U.S. immigration officials won’t let you.

Enter Blueseed, an enterprise that is the brainchild of two immigrants to the United States, Max Marty from Cuba and Dario Mutabdzija from the former Yugoslavia. They hope to launch America’s first experiment in seasteading, the creation of permanent, politically autonomous floating cities.

Although skeptics consider the project impractical and the estimated cost of startup is at least $25-million, Blueseed’s basic plan to convert a cruise ship into a complex that will incubate high-tech innovation has attracted interest and money.

To avoid the reach of maritime law, the Blueseed boat would be parked in international waters, 22 kilometres from San Francisco and nearby Silicon Valley, terrestrial magnet for innovators and venture capitalists.

Oil prices could hit $150 a barrel if Israel attacks Iran

A jump in energy prices is jamming the slow-turning cogs of an economic recovery in the West, but that may be nothing compared to the economic shock an Israeli attack on Iran would cause.

Oil (CL-FT109.41-0.36-0.33%) rose to a 10-month high above $125 a barrel on Friday, prompting responses from policymakers around the world including U.S. President Barack Obama, watching U.S. gasoline prices follow crude to push towards $4 a gallon in an election year.

Europe may have more to fear as its fragile economic growth falters and Greece, Italy and Spain look for alternative sources to the crude they currently import from Iran, where an EU oil embargo, intended to make Iran abandon what the West fears are efforts to develop nuclear weapons, comes into force in June.

In euro terms, Brent crude rose to an all-time high of €93.60 this week, topping its 2008 record.

“The West’s determination to prevent Iran acquiring nuclear weapons is coming at a price – a price that might include a second global recession triggered by an oil shock,” said David Hufton from the oil brokerage PVM.

MPs should defeat Internet snooping bill, says poll

A majority of Canadians believe the federal government's Internet snooping bill should be defeated, according to an Angus Reid opinion poll released today.

The poll found 51 percent of Canadians believed the House of Commons should defeat Bill C-30, while 35 percent thought it should pass. The highest level of support for the bill is in B.C., where 40 percent believe it should pass and 48 percent want it defeated.

A majority of Canadians supported aspects of the bill which would allow courts to require electronic evidence to be kept and give police the ability to obtain warrants to get information about people's Internet use and location.

But there was opposition in the order of 60 percent to parts of the bill that would force internet providers to give police a "back door" to monitor communications and would require providers to provide identifying information to police and other agencies without a warrant.

Conducted Feb. 23 and 24, the company surveyed 1,011 randomly selected Canadian adults online. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percent, 19 times out of 20.

Original Article
Source: the tyee
Author: Andrew MacLeod

Outside In

A class in creative writing at BC's Matsqui Prison offers an inside view of Canadian prison reform.

On a frozen morning last November, I watched the sun rise over the razor wire topped perimeter fence at Matsqui Prison. A patrolling guard in his four-wheel drive stopped to ask me what I was doing. "I'm with the writers," I said, pointing to the cluster of people exhaling breath into the winter air. There was an automatic rifle on the seat next to him.

The night before, I hadn't been so sure I wanted to take part in this retreat. I sat at home and asked myself what had prompted me to volunteer for this two-day writers' workshop. I flipped through the collection of work we would be discussing during the weekend: The Insider Outsider Anthology, Writing Time, I had received in the mail earlier in the week. The insiders were the nine inmates at Matsqui and the outsiders were us -- 12 writers from the Greater Vancouver Area. Of the 12, I was the only newcomer.

The anthology included a collection of evocative poems in German with accompanying English translations, a witty piece of rhetoric on song construction, and free verse on topics such as chess, cats, spiders, solitude, and love. It was often hard to tell if the writer was an insider or an outsider. At times, the voice was identifiable. One piece I had already read caught hold of me again. The writer's name was Dillan.

Koch Brothers Fire Back At Obama For Campaign Attack

Charles and David Koch fired back at Obama after his campaign attacked them in an email earlier this week.

Philip Ellender, president of government and public affairs for Koch industries, posted an open letter to Obama campaign manager Jim Messina online Friday. The letter was a response to an attempt by the Obama campaign to tie Republican rival Mitt Romney to the Koch brothers.

Ellender called the Obama email "iresponsible and misleading" and said it was "surprising and disappointing that the President would allow" such behavior:

    This is not the first time that the President and his Administration have engaged in this sort of disturbing behavior. As far back as August, 2010, Austan Goolsbee, then the President’s chief economic advisor, made public comments concerning Koch’s tax status and falsely stated that the company did not pay income tax, which triggered a federal investigation into Mr. Goolsbee’s conduct that potentially implicated federal law against improper disclosure of taxpayer information. Last June, your colleagues sent fundraising letters disparaging us as “plotting oil men” bent on “misleading people” with “disinformation” in order to “smear” the President’s record. Those accusations were baseless and were made at the very same time the president was publicly calling for a more “civil conversation” in the country.

    It is understandable that the President and his campaign may be “tired of hearing” that many Americans would rather not see the president re-elected. However, the inference is that you would prefer that citizens who disagree with the President and his policies refrain from voicing their own viewpoint. Clearly, that’s not the way a free society should operate.

This isn't the first time the Koch brothers have taken action against Obama. In early February, the two made a pledge with about 250-300 other individuals to spend approximately $100 million to defeat Obama this November.
Original Article
Source: Huff
Author: Paige Lavender

Putin Protesters Form Human Chain Enveloping Central Moscow

MOSCOW — Thousands of protesters held hands to form a 16-kilometer (10-mile) human chain encircling central Moscow on Sunday to keep up the pressure on Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as he prepares to extend his rule for six more years.

Putin, who was Russia's president from 2000 to 2008, is running for a third, now six-year term in a March 4 election. He is expected to win easily against four Kremlin-approved challengers, but an unprecedented wave of protests has undermined his image as a strong leader who rules with broad public support.

Sunday's protest appeared to have drawn close to the 34,000 people that opposition activists estimated were needed to complete the chain along the Garden Ring, a wide road that makes a loop around the city center. Almost all of the people standing in the wet snow wore the white ribbons that have become a symbol of the peaceful anti-Putin protest movement.

Young Putin supporters also were out on sections of the Garden Ring on Sunday. Wearing heart-shaped red signs around their necks that said "Putin loves everyone," they handed out similar ribbons in imitation of the protesters. Some passers-by refused to take the pro-Putin ribbons, which had stripes of white, blue and red like the national flag.

Rick Santorum's Political and Biblical Mistake

Sen. Rick Santorum has made a serious mistake.

On Saturday, the presidential hopeful was addressing a group in Ohio when he made the unfortunate assertion that Obama's agenda is:

    not about you. It's not about your quality of life. It's not about your jobs. It's about some phony ideal. Some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible. A different theology.

The first reason this is a mistake is that Santorum has decided to make the presidential campaign about religious orthodoxy and introduced theology into politics in an aggressive way. His less than subtle message is that anyone who believes in the Bible, or even takes the Bible seriously, should be suspect of the president who is serving up 'false teachings' referencing Matthew 7:15 which reads: "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves."

Santorum's recent comments should be a major turn off to anyone who understands that while all politics are informed by values, religious and secular, we should be very wary when politicians begin to assert religious creedal tests into electoral politics.

Wyoming Doomsday Bill Advances In State House

Wyoming lawmakers pushed forward legislation to explore how the state would respond if the country fell into economic and political turmoil.

The so-called doomsday bill, passed in the Wyoming House on Friday, would create a special task force to study ways the state would handle such crises as a food shortage to a government shutdown. Some provisions that will be explored include Wyoming forming its own army and issuing its own currency.

The task force formed by the bill would include state lawmakers, the head of Wyoming's Department of Homeland Security and the state attorney general.

The bill must pass two more House votes before it reaches the Senate, according to the Casper Star-Tribune.

So far, no word if the task force will explore solutions for a Zombie Apocalypse, as the Center For Disease Control has done.

Original Article
Source: Huff
Author: Alana Horowitz

The Lost Party - The strangest primary season in memory reveals a GOP that’s tearing itself apart

On a biting, brittle mid-February morning 30 miles north of Detroit, Rick Santorum plants his flag in a patch of turf as politically fertile as exists in these United States. For three decades, Macomb County, Michigan, has been both a bellwether and a battleground, as its fabled Reagan Democrats first abandoned the party of Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, and Mike Dukakis, then gradually drifted back in support of Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and Barack Obama. Today in ­Macomb, the action is as much on the Republican as the Democratic side, with the county GOP riven by a split between mainstream and tea-party cadres. And yet in demographic terms, Macomb remains Macomb: overwhelmingly white and mostly non-college-­educated, heavily Catholic and staunchly socially conservative, economically anti-globalist and culturally anti-swell.

All of which is to say that when Santorum takes the podium to address a Michigan Faith & Freedom Coalition rally in Shelby Charter Township, the 1,500 souls he sees before him are his kind of people—and soon enough he is speaking their language. To explain how America has always differed from other nations, Santorum invokes the Almighty: “We believe … we are children of a loving God.” To elucidate the evils of Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, and cap-and-trade, he inveighs against liberal elites: “They want to control you, because like the kings of old, they believe they know better than you.” To highlight what’s at stake in 2012, he unfurls a grand (and entirely farkakte) historical flourish: “This decision will be starker than at any time since the election of 1860”—you know, the one featuring Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas on the eve of the Civil War.

Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric Is Anti-Latino

Let’s call a spade a spade. Opposition to immigration is not a concern rooted in personal economic concerns. Neither is it a concern having to do with state’s rights. Anti-immigrant sentiment isn’t even about immigrants as a whole. As rigorous social scientific research shows, opposition to immigration is closely linked to the negative racial animus toward one very specific group, Latinos.

Over the course of the GOP primary season, anti-immigrant rhetoric has been a stump speech staple of the candidates. The focus of Republican candidates is to keep new immigrants out and get those here to leave. The Republican primary has become a quien es más macho contest of who has the biggest anti-immigrant badge. The top anti-immigrant badge of honor goes to Herman Cain and his advocacy for an electrified border fence, while Rick Perry lost out by having aided Texas college students who happened to be undocumented.

The question is whether the GOP contenders would feel the same if the undocumented students in question were Irish or if the folks trying to get past the electrified fence were Canadians. Would Romney feel as strongly about self-deportation if the immigrants were French?

Scott Walker's Koch Connection Goes Bad

Billionaire campaign donor David Koch has rarely spoken in public about the central role he has played in the election of Scott Walker as governor of Wisconsin, the defense of Walker’s embattled governorship and, now, Walker’s desperate attempt to defeat the recall election that more than one million Wisconsinites have demanded.

Until now. And that has raised fundamental legal and political questions about the manipulation of Wisconsin politics by out-of-state billionaires.

It is no secret that Koch and his billionaire brother, Charles, have long been a Walker supporters. Their Koch Industries PAC was the second-highest donor to Walker’s 2010 campaign, donating $43,000. The PAC also gave $1 million to the Republican Governors Association, which streamed spending into Wisconsin on behalf of Walker’s election.

And the Americans for Prosperity groups the Kochs founded and financed certainly seemed to be active on Walker’s behalf.

But AFP and its foundation could not campaign openly for Walker or other candidates, as they are tax exempt organizations operating under laws that protect civic and educational charities.

Iran War Watch: New Senate Resolution a Step Toward War?

Are the United States and Iran on a collision course over the Middle Eastern country's controversial nuclear program? We'll be regularly posting the latest news on Iran-war fever—the intel, the media frenzy, and the rhetoric. 

Last week, Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), Robert Casey (D-PA), and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) introduced Senate Resolution 380, which emphatically rejects a containment policy towards Iran and promotes a more hardline stance on preventing the Islamic Republic from acquiring "nuclear weapons capability." The proposal also encourages increased diplomatic and economic pressure on Iran, and "urges the President to reaffirm the unacceptability of an Iran with nuclear-weapons capability..." If adopted, the bill could make military conflict more likely.

The non-binding resolution—which has been shopped around in the Senate since early February—has yet to win anything close to wide support. It does, however, have the backing of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which calls itself "America's Pro-Israel Lobby." (The group plans to make the resolution an "ask" in two weeks during its annual Capitol Hill-lobbying conference.)

Critics charge that the proposal's vague language—particularly the tricky definition of "nuclear weapons capability"—crosses the line between condemnation and straight-up warmongering.

Mining On The Moon: Canada's Role In Harvesting Gold, Fuel In The Next Space Race

MONTREAL - Canada could play a key role in a new international space race, with the next sprint to the moon gearing up as an extra-terrestrial gold rush.

Industry insiders will be watching closely this week as the heads of the world's five biggest space agencies get together in Quebec City, where the partners on the International Space Station will discuss more than just the future of the orbiting lab.

They will also address an idea gaining currency in business and scientific circles: that within human reach lies an unfathomable wealth of resources, some of them common on Earth and others so exotic that they could change the way we live.

Canada could figure prominently in any discussion about lunar exploration, with nearly one-quarter of the world's top mining companies headquartered here and this country also known for robotics like the famous Canadarm.

Several countries, including China, have expressed a desire to start mining the moon's resources. The mining industry is now waiting for the Canadian Space Agency to make its intentions known, while the agency awaits direction from the federal government.

Rising oil prices fuel fears for Canada as global economy sputters

The Canadian economy likely ended the year on a stronger note than was expected only a few months back and that could have analysts, who spent last year repeatedly downgrading their forecasts, start upgrading them after seeing Statistics Canada’s annual economic report card Friday.

“If 2011 indeed turns out to have ended on a more upbeat note than we foresaw when we released our mid-December quarterly forecast, we will be inclined to upgrade our Canadian forecast for the first half of 2012,” says Jacques Marcil, economist at TD Economics.

The optimism is despite soaring oil and gasoline prices, which could slow — if not derail — the global recovery.

TD, although more bullish than most, projects the economy expanded at an annual pace of 2.3 per cent in the final quarter. That’s slower than the 3.5 per cent spurt in the third quarter but much stronger than analysts projected.

A separate report Thursday is expected to show Canada’s balance of payments deficit eased in the final quarter of the year, and in 2011 to what BMO Capital Markets projects will be $48 billion from 2010’s record $50.9 billion.

Is an Israeli attack inevitable?

To listen to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and his "best friends" Stephen Harper and John Baird, one would think that the Israeli government has made up its mind about attacking Iran's nuclear facilities, and Canada has made up its mind to support it. After all, if Iran is definitely building a nuclear weapon, and if Iran would use that weapon once it got it, then what is there to talk about?

But Israel has not made up its mind about an attack. In fact, there is a rampant debate underway within official circles in Israel about the advisability of an attack, and not everyone there accepts the proposition that Iran poses an existential threat to Israel.

Last month I attended a small, closed-door conference on Iran in Israel, along with many senior Israeli officials and its leading experts on Iran. This was not the recent Herzeliya conference, which has become a forum for Israeli officials to make statements to the world press, but a meeting where people really debated the issue. I also had off-line talks with Israeli officials who are working on Iran.

While my overall sense is that the prospects for an Israeli attack have gone up over the past year, there remains an active debate over the wisdom of this move.

Israel signs deal to provide Azerbaijan with $1.6 billion in military equipment

JERUSALEM — Israeli defense officials on Sunday confirmed $1.6 billion in deals to sell drones as well as anti-aircraft and missile defense systems to Azerbaijan, bringing sophisticated Israeli technology to the doorstep of archenemy Iran.

The sales by state-run Israel Aerospace Industries come at a delicate time. Israel has been laboring hard to form diplomatic alliances in a region that seems to be growing increasingly hostile to the Jewish state.

Its most pressing concern is Iran’s nuclear program, and Israeli leaders have hinted broadly that they would be prepared to attack Iranian nuclear facilities if they see no other way to keep Tehran from building bombs.

Iran denies Israeli and Western claims it seeks to develop atomic weapons, and says its disputed nuclear program is designed to produce energy and medical isotopes.

In Jerusalem, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said Iran’s nuclear program will take center stage in his upcoming talks with U.S. and Canadian leaders. Netanyahu is to meet with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Ottawa on Friday and with President Barack Obama in Washington on Monday.

Speaking to the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday, Netanyahu said a U.N. nuclear agency report last week buttressed Israel’s warnings that Iran is trying to produce a nuclear bomb. The agency said Iran has rapidly ramped up production of higher-grade enriched uranium over the last few months.

Netanyahu said the report provided “another piece of incontrovertible evidence” that Iran is advancing rapidly with its nuclear program.

It was not clear whether the arms deal with Azerbaijan was connected to any potential Israeli plans to strike Iran. The Israeli defense officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not at liberty to discuss defense deals.

Danny Yatom, a former head of Israel’s Mossad spy agency, said the timing of the deal was likely coincidental. “Such a deal ... takes a long period of time to become ripe,” he told The Associated Press.

He said Israel would continue to sell arms to its friends. “If it will help us in challenging Iran, it is for the better,” he said.

Israel’s ties with Azerbaijan, a Muslim country that became independent with the disintegration of the Soviet Union, have grown as its once-strong strategic relationship with another Iranian neighbor, Turkey, has deteriorated, most sharply over Israel’s killing of nine Turks aboard a ship that sought to breach Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip in 2010.

For Israeli intelligence, there is also a possible added benefit from Azerbaijan: Its significant cross-border contacts and trade with Iran’s large ethnic Azeri community.

For that same reason, as Iran’s nuclear showdown with the West deepens, the Islamic Republic sees the Azeri frontier as a weak point, even though both countries are mostly Shiite Muslim.

Earlier this month, Iran’s foreign ministry accused Azerbaijan of allowing the Israeli spy agency Mossad to operate on its territory and providing a corridor for “terrorists” to kill members of Iranian nuclear scientists.

Azerbaijan dismissed the Iranian claims as “slanderous lies.” Israeli leaders have hinted at covert campaigns against Iran without directly admitting involvement.

Israel, meanwhile, recently claimed authorities foiled Iranian-sponsored attacks against Israeli targets in Azerbaijan. Such claims have precedents: In 2008, Azeri officials said they thwarted a plot to explode car bombs near the Israeli Embassy; two Lebanese men were later convicted in the bombing attempt. A year earlier, Azerbaijan convicted 15 people in connection with an alleged Iranian-linked spy network accused of passing intelligence on Western and Israeli activities.

Iran has denied Azerbaijan’s latest charges of plotting to kill Israelis, but a diplomatic rupture is unlikely. Azerbaijan is an important pathway for Iranian goods in the Caucasus region and both nations have signed accords among Caspian nations on energy, environmental and shipping policies.

Original Article
Source: washington post
Author: AP

Cops: Hacking shows need for cyber crime bill

Ontario police chiefs site compromised

TORONTO — A cyber attack on the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police’s website has only bolstered the organization’s support for the government’s controversial online surveillance bill, a spokesman said Saturday.

The association took down the site after it was hacked late Friday afternoon by people claiming to be linked to the group Anonymous, association spokesman Joe Couto said.

The identity of those responsible for the attack has not been confirmed, but activists allied to the loose-knit Anonymous movement had threatened to target federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews and others over the Harper government’s surveillance bill.

The chiefs had supported the legislation. "What this does is demonstrate quite clearly to Canadians the type of cyber crimes perpetuated every day, Couto said Saturday.

"The citizens of this province and this country are asking us to address cyber crimes and we need tools for that, he said.

Robocalls highlight lack of safeguards on info in hands of political parties

OTTAWA - They are naughty-or-nice lists so detailed they rival anything Santa could compile.

Except the voter information data collected by political parties is just like St. Nick's — secret.

An investigation launched into misleading and harassing automatic phone calls made during the last federal election highlights the hijinks parties can get up to using the data they collect on voters.

The investigation was launched because of complaints to Elections Canada.

But beyond making the complaint, the people who find themselves on the end of puzzling political phone calls have little recourse except to hang up the phone.

Political parties are exempt from the do-not-call list regime and unlike private businesses or government agencies who collect volumes of information on citizens, they aren't subject to privacy laws either.

That means there are few restraints on how they can use the personal data they gather.

Chris Christie's Gay Marriage Veto: We're Going to Override It

New Jersey nearly made it to the finish line. Unfortunately, a governor driven by national ambition derailed the fight for equality and fairness. But Governor Christie's veto only delayed the day and time when we finally establish marriage equality in the Garden State -- because it is going to happen in New Jersey, and we are going to override his veto.

Two weeks ago, the New Jersey State Senate and Assembly passed legislation that would establish true equality in the way we treat same-sex couples. It would officially recognize same-sex couple unions for what they are: marriages. Along the way, we encountered the usual hysteria that pops up anytime this issue is mentioned. We heard the same old claims, all of which are based either on fear, hatred, or simple misunderstanding. We heard the ridiculous statements about this opening up a Pandora's Box that would allow people to marry their dogs. We heard all the inane observations from those who in no way, shape, or form would have been impacted by this legislation.

In the end, my colleagues proudly stood up and rejected those arguments. They stood with those whose only request is to be treated like everyone else. It was an enormous accomplishment, particularly in the Senate, where just two years ago a similar bill failed by a vote of 14 in favor vs. 20 against (it required 21 votes in favor to pass). At the time, I abstained from voting, unfortunately -- a decision I immediately regretted.

The Sun On Sunday Launches With Pledge Of 'Trust And Decency'

The Sun on Sunday launched today with a pledge of "trust" and "decency".

Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch personally supervised the final stages of production of the new title which promised readers it would remain "fearless, outspoken, mischievous and fun".

The newspaper claimed it would hold all journalists to account and said it had appointed a readers' champion to deal with errors and feedback from the public.

In an editorial, the newspaper also commented on the arrests of 10 current and former employees over alleged corrupt payments to public officials, saying they were "innocent until proven guilty".

It said that the closure of its sister paper the News of the World, which ceased publication last July at the height of the hacking scandal, was a "sobering experience".

In an editorial, titled: A new Sun rises today, it said: "As we launch the seven day Sun, we want to strengthen that connection (with the readers) with a new independent Sun Readers' Champion to accept feedback and correct significant errors.

Canada-Europe Trade Deal ‘Designed To Enhance Power' Of Business, CAW Says

With free trade negotiations between Canada and the European Union well underway, Canada’s largest private sector union is deepening its opposition to an agreement it says will cost the economy tens of thousands of jobs, raise the costs of prescription drugs and mark the end of “Buy Canadian” policies in the public sector.

The skilled trades division of the Canadian Auto Workers union on Thursday approved a resolution to step up efforts to limit the reach of the Canadian-European Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA).

Maintaining that CETA would have “a huge negative impact” on the ability of governments to favour Canadian-made products by granting the EU “full access to procurement,” the skilled trades division of the CAW pledged to work with municipalities across Canada to request “a permanent exemption” from the agreement.

“We will mobilize skilled trades members to protect the powers of the municipalities, hospitals, school boards, utilities and other sub-federal agencies to use public procurement, services and investment as tools to create jobs, protect the environment, and support local development,” the resolution asserts.

Alberta doctors continue to bill province for treating homosexuality as a mental disorder akin to pedophilia

EDMONTON — Alberta doctors continue to bill the province for treating homosexuality as a mental disorder akin to bestiality and pedophilia, despite assurances from the former health minister in 2010 that the “incorrect and unacceptable classification” would be removed immediately.

“In December 2010, the minister of health agreed . . . that doctors’ diagnostic billing codes listing sexual orientation under mental illness was unacceptable,” Liberal Laurie Blakeman said in the provincial legislature this week.

“But those billing codes are in use in exactly the same place and say the same things today.”

In 2010, the last year for which figures are available, doctors billed the province for treating homosexuality as a mental disorder five times.

The province has known about the outdated classification for more than a decade and the government first promised to change it in 1998.

Harper personally approved $22,000 hospitality tab for visiting European bureaucrats

Prime Minister Stephen Harper personally approved a $21,865 hospitality tab for visiting European bureaucrats last fall even as the government was preaching fiscal restraint.

Newly disclosed documents show the three-day meeting featured a welcome reception at the National Gallery of Canada, two lunches, and a formal dinner at Rideau Hall – all of them featuring free wine.

The final tab for the Oct. 18-20 event was almost $112,000, including travel, hotels, musical entertainment and $2,250 in gifts for delegates.

Visitors included a six-person delegation from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development secretariat in Paris, who joined Mr. Harper and Canadian public servants to discuss how to manage major government cuts in spending.

The so-called OECD Centres of Government meeting has rotated among various member countries since 1993, and for the first time it was Canada’s turn. Wayne Wouters, clerk of the Privy Council and Canada’s highest-ranking public servant, was host.

Mayor Rob Ford, a crippled general laid bare

If the rules allowed it, Toronto city councillors would have an unassailable case to cite Mayor Rob Ford for contempt of council. For example:

The mayor killed Transit City without council approval. He then signed a private agreement with the province that exposes the city to as much as $100 million in liabilities and refused to let council vote on it — even though the agreement says he must.

When council reinstated the elements of Transit City, Mayor Ford dismissed the vote as “irrelevant.” And to back up the stunning declaration, the mayor fired the head of the TTC for advocating for the council position.

In essence, the mayor fired the TTC’s chief general manager, Gary Webster, for agreeing with city council.

If that isn’t contempt of city council, what is?

The raging debate on subways versus light rail raises the question: Is city council the supreme authority? Or does the mayor, the only politician elected city-wide, have the right to trump council’s wishes?

Operation VicTory: Anonymous Gives Public Safety Minister Vic Toews Deadline For Bill C-30

In a new video, hacker group Anonymous says they're giving Vic Toews seven days before they reveal a new scandal about the Public Safety Minister.

"Anonymous has warned you this is only beginning," says the video. "Over the past several days, we have been inundated with messages exposing all manner of political wrongdoings and personal scandals, some of which extend to the very highest levels of your government."

"There is a very real possibility that after the revelation of this incident, Mr. Toews, that public outrage will not be necessary for you to find yourself without a job."

Conservatives suppress democracy: RoboGate, dangerous words and a scarier worldview

“Let's not talk about statistics. Let's talk about danger” -- public safety minister Vic Toews

Once again, Canadians are up in arms about the latest scandal exposed about our government in Ottawa. This time, there is glaring evidence to suggest election fraud targeting dozens -- maybe more -- of the swing ridings across the country in last year's election. It could become, as the NDP's Pat Martin suggested, “the largest electoral fraud in Canadian history.”

But, as I argued in the Vancouver Observer this week -- Online spying, "foreign radicals" and faux patriotism: Conservatives bare draconian teeth -- we need to look at the larger picture if we're going to succeed in stopping the government's anti-democratic agenda.

Thanks to an excellent election post-mortem by Matt Peters and Ryan Boldt on last year, we know that the Conservative Party won by a very narrow margin in dozens of ridings, in some cases beating out NDP and Liberal candidates by only hundreds of votes (some within dozens).

Canada entering a ‘Nixonian moment’ after alleged voter suppression: Rae

The opposition politicians were out in force Saturday fanning the flames created by the election robocall scandal, while the Conservatives offered up their own victim of dirty tricks, an MP who won his seat in a landslide.

Peterborough MP Dean Del Mastro, who is Prime Minister Stephen Harper's parliamentary secretary, issued a statement Saturday saying his supporters were targeted by deceitful callers in the lead-up to the May election.

“My own campaign in Peterborough was the victim of dirty tricks, with Conservative supporters harassed by late-night abusive calls, and our party condemns these acts,” Mr. Del Mastro, who trounced his opponents by nearly 15,000 votes, said in a brief statement.

Both interim NDP leader Nycole Turmel and interim Liberal leader Bob Rae raised the controversy while campaigning in the upcoming by-election in the riding of Toronto-Danforth. They vowed to keep the heat on the governing Conservatives.

Ms. Turmel said the scandal has eroded Canadians' faith in the electoral process and a thorough RCMP probe is necessary to restore credibility in the system.

‘No doubt’ dirty tricks affected election results, says Bob Rae

An “elaborate web of underhanded vote suppression tactics” could have meant the difference between Liberals winning and losing a number of races in the 2011 federal election, Bob Rae said Saturday.

The interim Liberal leader made the comments in Toronto as he campaigned for the upcoming Toronto-Danforth byelection, announcing his party had heard complaints of “dirty tricks” — including harassing phone calls “on the scale of ballot box stuffing” — used at 27 ridings, some in hotly contested Southern Ontario ridings.

“We are entering into a kind of Nixonian moment in our political culture, where all kinds of dirty tricks seem to be possible,” Rae said, alluding to tactics used by Republicans under former U.S. president Richard Nixon in the early ‘70s.

    Editorial: Harper can’t dodge blame for Tories’ ‘robocall’ scandal

In Etobicoke Centre, among the 27 ridings identified by Rae, allegations of vote suppression and electoral fraud compelled Liberal candidate Borys Wrzesnewskyj in June to file a request for investigation to the Ontario Superior Court, a hearing that begins in April.
Wrzesnewskyj, who lost the riding to Conservative candidate Ted Opitz by just 26 votes, told the Star his office received “really disturbing” reports of vote suppression at two of his strongest poll locations, one of which he alleges was temporarily shut down by a Conservative staffer. Ukrainian and female Somali supporters were especially targeted, he said.

“That should never happen in Canada,” he said. “I cannot accept the undermining of our democratic process.”

A Conservative official could not be reached for comment on Wrzesnewskyj’s accusations on Saturday evening.

Rae added that in addition to harassing phone calls, his party had also heard reports of “aggressive people acting on behalf of the Conservative party outside of polling locations misleading voters, often seniors or new Canadians.” He’d also heard claims that votes had been cast by non-residents of the riding.

Revelations of election fraud arose Thursday, when news broke that Elections Canada and police were probing reports of automated calls, or “robo-calls,” in 18 ridings that falsely advised voters that their polling station location had changed.

An investigation by PostMedia News and the Ottawa Citizen also revealed that voters in 14 ridings received live telephone calls from people falsely claiming they were Liberal representatives.

On Thursday night, Michael Sona, a Conservative aide to Mississauga-Brampton South MP Eve Adams, offered his resignation amid the damning allegations facing Conservative staffers.

Last spring Sona acted as communications director for a Conservative candidate in Guelph, where there were reports of Liberal supporters receiving the phony information about poll locations. However it’s not clear whether he acknowledged any role in the so-called “dirty tricks.”

While denying the Conservative party played any dirty tricks, Prime Minister Stephen Harper left open the possibility of an individual party supporter acting without any party direction.

But Rae, said they did not believe “a lone 23-year-old staffer” was capable of organizing a scheme that involved perhaps millions of phone calls.

Interim NDP leader Nycole Turmel, also on the campaign trail in Jack Layton’s former riding, agreed.

“We don’t believe one person did it alone — too many ridings are affected by this,” Turmel said Saturday.

Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro, Harper’s parliamentary secretary, added his voice to the outcry against “dirty tricks” Saturday, claiming his campaign in Peterborough was also a victim in the last federal election and that his supporters were harassed by late night abusive calls.

“Our party condemns these acts,” Del Mastro said in a brief statement, adding Conservatives were “calling on anyone with any information about harassing calls or calls giving inaccurate poll information to come clean immediately and hand it over to Elections Canada.

Rae issued a similar plea specifically to Conservatives who he says benefitted from the tactics.

“If they don’t come forward with what they know then they are complicit with electoral fraud,” he said in a statement released after his news conference.

He requested that an emergency debate on the matter be held once the Commons resumes Monday

With files from The Canadian Press

27 ridings where Liberals allege there were ‘dirty tricks’

On Saturday, interim Liberal leader Bob Rae announced the Liberals received reports of false or misleading phone calls during the 2011 General Election in 27 ridings. He said new reports and information continue to be received by the party. Below are the ridings, 23 of which are in Ontario.

1. Sydney-Victoria (N.S.)

2. Egmont (P.E.I.)

3. Eglinton-Lawrence (Ont.)

4. Etobicoke Centre (Ont.)

5. Guelph (Ont.)

6. Cambridge (Ont.)

7. Hamilton East-Stoney Creek (Ont.)

8. Haldimand-Norfolk (Ont.)

9. Kitchener-Conestoga (Ont.)

10. Kitchener-Waterloo (Ont.)

11. London North Centre (Ont.)

12. London West (Ont.)

13. Mississauga East-Cooksville (Ont.)

14. Niagara Falls (Ont.)

15. Oakville (Ont.)

16. Ottawa Orleans (Ont.)

17. Ottawa West-Nepean (Ont.)

18. Parkdale-High Park (Ont.)

19. Perth-Wellington (Ont.)

20. Simcoe-Grey (Ont.)

21. St. Catharines (Ont.)

22. St. Paul's (Ont.)

23. Sudbury (Ont.)

24. Wellington-Halton Hills (Ont.)

25. Willowdale (Ont.)

26. Saint Boniface (Man.)

27. Winnipeg South Centre (Man.)

Original Article
Source: Star
Author: Wendy Gillis