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, April 01, 2012

Diagnosing the Republican Brain

We all know that many American conservatives have issues with Charles Darwin, and the theory of evolution. But Albert Einstein, and the theory of relativity?

If you're surprised, allow me to introduce Conservapedia, the right-wing answer to Wikipedia and ground zero for all that is scientifically and factually inaccurate, for political reasons, on the Internet.

Claiming over 285 million page views since its 2006 inception, Conservapedia is the creation of Andrew Schlafly, a lawyer, engineer, homeschooler, and one of six children of Phyllis Schlafly, the anti-feminist and anti-abortion rights activist who successfully battled the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s. In his mother's heyday, conservative activists were establishing vast mailing lists and newsletters, and rallying the troops. Her son learned that they also had to marshal "truth" to their side, now achieved not through the mail but the Web.

So when Schafly realized that Wikipedia was using BCE ("Before Common Era") rather than BC ("Before Christ") to date historical events, he'd had enough. He decided to create his own contrary fact repository, declaring, "It's impossible for an encyclopedia to be neutral." Conservapedia definitely isn't neutral about science. Its 37,000 plus pages of content include items attacking evolution and global warming, wrongly claiming (contrary to psychological consensus) that homosexuality is a choice and tied to mental disorders, and incorrectly asserting (contrary to medical consensus) that abortion causes breast cancer.

Foxconn Pay: Chairman Pledges To Keep Raising Worker Salaries

BOAO, China April 1 (Reuters) - Foxconn Technology Group will keep on increasing worker salaries in China and cutting the hours of work, Chairman Terry Gou said on Sunday, after it came under fire for poor working conditions for employees making Apple iPhones and iPads.

As part of its efforts to relieve the pressure on its existing factories in Chinese cities such as Shenzhen and Chengdu, Gou said Foxconn would be building high-tech manufacturing facilities in Hainan, as well as expanding operations in Brazil.

"We are saying now in the company, 'you work fewer hours, but get more pay'," Gou told Reuters at the 2012 Boao Forum for Asia in China's Hainan island province. "We won't stop here and will continue to increase salaries."

"Salaries in Brazil are even higher but we will continue with our investments there. We've just entered a deal with Hainan Airlines and they will eventually be our way of connecting our supply chain (from China to Brazil)."

The 61-year-old Taiwanese tycoon said Foxconn would lift workers' overall salaries as some employees at its sprawling factories in Shenzhen had complained that they would not make enough money if hours were reduced.

Public has a right to know how money is spent

It took seven long years of pressing the issue, but city hall has finally released documentation that The Gazette had been seeking on the financing of the FINA World Aquatics Championships that Montreal hosted in the summer of 2005.

The documentation, running to thousands of pages, shows at once why civic authorities struggled so mightily to keep it out of the newspaper’s hands – and thus away from the public eye – and why such information should, as a rule, be readily made available upon request.

FINA is the Fédération internationale de natation, the international governing body for aquatic sports, including swimming, diving and water polo. The body came close to scrubbing the Montreal event altogether when indications of financial irregularities came to light six months before it was scheduled to take place.

However, the mayor successfully lobbied the group to keep Montreal in the picture with a promise to absorb any deficit the event might incur. As it was, the event itself was a success, attracting 1,900 competitors from 145 countries. According to the mayor, it contributed $72 million into the province’s economy.

Nevertheless, when the last participant had towelled off and the last bill was toted up, Montreal taxpayers were left holding the bag for a $4.77-million deficit that the event’s organizers had rung up. It was indeed a tidy sum that would have filled in a lot of potholes and cleared away a lot of snow.

Flaherty smiles toward natural resources as environmentalists feel pinch

OTTAWA — The Harper government's budget Thursday tossed roses to Western Canada's natural resource-based economy and lobbed a political grenade at the environmental movement.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced a long-promised blueprint to streamline the environmental review process, and also proposed changes to Employment Insurance, the immigration system, and aboriginal education designed to increase the labour supply to booming sectors, such as B.C.'s burgeoning natural gas industry and Alberta's potent oilsands sector.

A starkly different message was sent to environmental groups that are waging an intense battle against the oilsands sector and especially Calgary-based Enbridge's proposal to build a pipeline to Kitimat, B.C.

The budget commits $8 million over the next two years to help the Canadian Revenue Agency target registered charities that the government believes are too overtly political.

The money will be used to "improve transparency by requiring charities to provide more information on their political activities, including the extent to which these are funded by foreign sources," according to budget documents.

Internet voting carries risk as show by NDP experience

The recent New Democratic Party convention in Toronto may have done more than just select Thomas Mulcair as the party’s new leader. It may have also buried the prospect of online voting in Canada for the foreseeable future.

While Internet-based voting supporters have consistently maintained that the technology is safe and secure, the NDP’s experience — in which a denial of service attack resulted in long delays and inaccessible websites — demonstrates that turning to Internet voting in an election involving millions of voters would be irresponsible and risky.

As voter turnout has steadily declined in recent years, Elections Canada has focused on increasing participation by studying Internet-based voting alternatives. The appeal of online voting is obvious. Canadians bank online, take education courses online, watch movies online, share their life experiences through social networks online, and access government information and services online. Given the integral role the Internet plays in our daily lives, why not vote online as well?

The NDP experience provides a compelling answer.

Democracy depends upon a fair, accurate, and transparent electoral process with independent verification of the results. Conventional voting may typically require heading down to the polling station, but doing so accomplishes many of these goals. Private polling stations enable citizens to cast their votes anonymously, election day scrutineers provide oversight, and paper-based ballots can be recounted if needed.

Aung Suu Kyi heading to Burmese parliament

Aung San Suu Kyi's party says she has won a seat in Burma's parliament in today's landmark byelections, setting the stage for the pro-democracy icon to hold public office for the first time.

The victory, if confirmed, would mark a major milestone in the Southeast Asian country, where the military has ruled almost exclusively for a half-century and where the government is now seeking legitimacy and a lifting of Western sanctions.

The victory claim was displayed on a digital signboard above the opposition National League for Democracy's headquarters in Burma's main city, Rangoon.

Earlier, the party said in unofficial figures that Suu Kyi was ahead with 65 per cent of the vote in 82 of her constituency's 129 polling stations.

Sunday's byelections, to fill a few dozen vacant seats in the country's legislature, followed months of surprising reforms by a nominally civilian government that does not relish ceding ground to Suu Kyi. But the leaders of Burma, also known as Myanmar, are making a push to appear more democratic in order to emerge from decades of international isolation that have crippled the economy.

Trayvon’s killing echoes an uglier time in America

With its quaint cobblestone streets and painstaking efforts to preserve the remnants of its 19th-century start, this central Florida city offers a sharp contrast to the endless freeways and big-box stores that have paved over “history” in most of Orlando’s rambling suburbs.

That past has not always been glorious. Whites in Sanford once ran Jackie Robinson out of town rather than watch him train here with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Now, the killing of Trayvon Martin has turned Sanford into a crucible of racial anger, rippling across the United States and defying the nation’s first black President to make good on his almost forgotten promise of post-racial reconciliation.

The volatile alchemy that provoked such national outrage over the death of an innocent black teen in a hoodie has many elements. They include Sanford’s seemingly Keystone cops, Florida’s permissive guns laws and the state’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” legislation that its critics call a licence to kill.

Yet, none of those ingredients alone might have produced the distemper that has gripped black America had Trayvon’s shooting not occurred amid pent up racial tension worsened by a recession that inflicted its pain unequally according to colour.

OAS change pushes savings burden back to Canadians

The federal budget carried through on the Prime Minister’s musings months-ago in Davos by proposing important changes to the Old Age Security program. What do these changes to OAS mean, are they really necessary, and who will bear the burden?

The Old Age Security program currently pays benefits of $540 a month to qualifying Canadians age 65 and older. In addition, the Guaranteed Income Supplement pays up to $732 per month more, for those who have lower income. In total, the government will spend about $41-billion on these pension programs – and that bill is growing at more than $2-billion a year.

On Thursday, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced two big changes to OAS. The first is to extend the age of eligibility for benefits from age 65 to 67. This won’t take effect until 2023 and is being phased-in over six years, so anyone currently older than 54 will see no change. It is interesting to note that the United States legislated similar changes in the 1980s – but they are phasing in their eligibility age increase over a period of 25 years, from 2002 to 2027.

Millions of dollars pledged by 70 countries to aid Syria's activists

A coalition of at least 70 countries pledged several million dollars a month Sunday and communications equipment for Syrian rebels and opposition activists, signaling deeper involvement in the conflict amid a growing belief that diplomacy and sanctions alone can't end the regime's repression.

The shift by the U.S. and its Western and Arab allies toward seeking to sway the military balance in Syria, where heavily armed regime forces outmatch rebels, carries regional risks because the crisis there increasingly resembles a proxy conflict that could exacerbate sectarian tensions.

It comes after a year of failed diplomacy that seems close to running its course with a troubled peace plan led by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.

Indeed, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other participants in a meeting on Syria, held in Istanbul, uniformly expressed concern that Mr. Annan's plan might backfire, speculating that President Bashar al-Assad would try to manipulate it so as to prolong his hold on power.

Ms. Clinton said she was waiting for Mr. Annan's report to the UN Security Council on Monday on the status of his peace plan.

Italy’s failure to launch: Country’s youth face high unemployment

FRASCATI, ITALY—In this hilltop town famous for white wine and grand villas, Federico De Maria declares himself an unfortunate member of a blighted cohort.

“They call us mammonis,” says De Maria, 28, using the Italian slang for mamma’s boys, who live with parents well past the age when it seems reasonable. “But I don’t want to live at home. I would have left a long time ago if I had a job.”

It’s not for lack of trying.

De Maria graduated with a university degree in biology last May. When he couldn’t find work in his field, he tried for pretty much anything, from national park ranger to hotel doorman. Two weeks of supervising kids at a summer camp and one day washing dishes in a restaurant was all he landed.

He then spent the equivalent of $175 on a month-long course to be a guide for a major museum in Rome. When he learned the company would not help pay for benefits, including pension and health insurance, he decided the $265 a month he would be left with wasn’t worth the commute to Rome, 20 kilometres north.

“I applied to be an apprentice pizza maker, but they wanted three years’ experience,” says De Maria. “I said to them, ‘If I had three years’ experience, I’d already be a pizza maker.’

No Sign of Oyster Recovery Two Years After BP Oil Spill

With the second anniversary of the BP oil spill fast approaching, attention is once again returning to the damaged Gulf environment, especially to its greatly diminished oyster production.

The worst man-made environmental disaster in U.S. history put 200 million gallons of oil and two million gallons of toxic dispersants into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico with the April 20, 2010 explosion of BP's Deepwater Horizon drilling platform and uncontrolled oil spill it caused.

The Gulf oyster supply is going through a second very limited season with demand not reaching anywhere near pre-BP oil spill levels.

In recent days, plaintiff attorneys on behalf of thousands of Gulf residents and businesses reached settlements with BP's defense team expected to total around $7.8 billion. That's in addition to $6.5 billion paid to about 200,000 individuals and businesses that went with BP's out-of-court fund.

BP, however, has not yet had to pay a dime in compensation for its impact on the Gulf ecosystem. The federal government could pursue both criminal environmental penalties and separate civil action against BP, which together might hit $60 billion.

Government plans increased email and social network surveillance

Ministers are to introduce a new law allowing police and security services to extend their monitoring of the public's email and social media communications, the Home Office has confirmed.

It is expected that the new system will allow security officials to scrutinise who is talking to whom and exactly when the conversations are taking plac, but not the content of messages.

Labour tried to introduce a similar system using a central database tracking all phone, text, email and internet use but that was ditched in 2009. It followed concerns raised by internet service providers and mobile phone operators over the project's feasibility, and anxieties over who would foot the bill.

The coalition's proposals are likely to be introduced in the Queen's speech on 9 May and will centre on internet service providers gathering the information and allowing government intelligence operatives to scrutinise it.

"It is vital that police and security services are able to obtain communications data in certain circumstances to investigate serious crime and terrorism and to protect the public," said a Home Office spokesman, who said the plans would be brought forward "as soon as parliamentary time allows".

Defence budget is 'solid,' MacKay says

Defence Minister Peter MacKay was suffering from a bout of double pneumonia last Thursday when Canada's military budget was chopped by more than one billion dollars by the Harper government.

But with the help of a third round of antibiotics, the defence minister sounded unexpectedly cheerful and upbeat when reached by telephone before visiting Halifax's Irving Shipyard, where some new warships for the Royal Canadian Navy are to be built.

Some have looked at the defence cuts as a case of the glass being half-empty and a sign that the Harper government was backing away from its fairly robust stance on security and defence spending. MacKay's perspective was that the glass was half-full and would rise again.

"The budget at National Defence is solid and I expect it will continue to grow year-byyear," after the cuts, the minister said, explaining that an annual escalator clause of two per cent, written into the Canada First Defence Strategy of 2008, remained in place. Although the overall defence budget was being cut by about 5.5 per cent, "Why that clause is important is that it sees our budget rise in the coming years," he said. "It is still in effect, absolutely ... I believe defence is on very solid footing."

No core capabilities of the armed forces had been cut as result of Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's austerity budget, MacKay said, adding that "it is on the civilian side of the shop where this is going to be felt, first and foremost."

Harper budget skewers ‘demographics’ who elected him

Of the many things that Budget 2012 will be remembered for, the assault on Canadian seniors must surely rank as Number One.

The importance of the change to Old Age Security (OAS) cannot be overstated.

The Stephen Harper regime has decided — without an election mandate, and without any consultation whatsoever — to fundamentally remake the way in which Canadians approach their retirement years.

It’s breathtakingly brave, or breathtakingly stupid, depending on your political affiliation: Harper’s Conservatives have chosen to deny Canadians access to old age benefits until age 67 — and not age 65, as they have been paying for, and expecting, for a half-century.

It is, fundamentally, a reordering of the social contract between citizens and government. It is an undeniably historic move. And all that remains to be seen is whether Canadian senior citizens, and those approaching retirement years, will let Harper get away with it.

From the start, the way in which the Conservatives have handled the communications around the OAS cut has been outrageously — and uncharacteristically — bad. At the annual Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January, Harper stunned even partisan Conservatives with an announcement that he was considering a rollback in OAS benefits.

The Harper government missed the chance to make meaningful cuts

Seriously: Out of a $276-billion budget, the Conservatives found only $5 billion in cuts? And only over three years?

That’s like someone who weighs 276 pounds saying they’re going to lose five pounds. Over three years.

Except even that’s not true. Because three years from now, the government’s own budget document says it’s going to be spending

$297 billion.

That’s not cutting. That’s expanding. That’s not leaner. That’s 7.4% fatter.

The Conservatives are spending 7.4% more over the next three years. But even that’s not the worst of it. They’re going to be wringing 17.6% more taxes out of Canadians in the next three years.

Will you be getting a 17.6% raise over the next three years? Maybe. Will your company grow its revenues 17.6%? Could be. That would be called an economic boom.

It’s possible. If America doesn’t hit a double-dip recession. If Europe doesn’t collapse in a domino effect from the bankruptcy of Greece.

Trayvon Martin Shooting: Voice Experts Claim Teen's Cries, Not Zimmerman's, Can Be Heard On 911 Call

Before George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin on February 26, a 911 call recorded the voice of someone screaming. Whether that person was Martin or Zimmerman -- who police say claimed he was attacked by Martin before the fatal incident -- has been an open question since the calls were released by the Sanford, Florida police department. (WARNING: Above audio is disturbing.)

The Orlando Sentinel consulted two voice experts to try to settle the debate, and both came to the same conclusion: The cries could not have come from George Zimmerman.

One expert, Tom Owen, used voice identification software to rule out Zimmerman as the source. From the Sentinel:

    "I took all of the screams and put those together, and cut out everything else," Owen says.

    The software compared that audio to Zimmerman's voice. It returned a 48 percent match. Owen said to reach a positive match with audio of this quality, he'd expect higher than 90 percent.

    "As a result of that, you can say with reasonable scientific certainty that it's not Zimmerman," Owen says, stressing that he cannot confirm the voice as Trayvon's, because he didn't have a sample of the teen's voice to compare.

Another analyst came to a similar conclusion using different technology.

The voice analysis is the latest piece of information to cast doubt on the narrative, advanced by Zimmerman and his family, that the Neighborhood Watch volunteer was attacked by 17-year-old Travyon Martin. A police video this week showed no blood or bruises on Zimmerman in the aftermath of the incident, while Martin's funeral director said he saw no signs of a struggle on the teen's body.

Original Article
Source: Huff
Author: ---

AARP: Social Security Should Not Be Part Of Deficit Discussion

WASHINGTON -- AARP, the most powerful lobby for senior citizens, is committed to keeping Social Security out of any deficit debate going on in Washington, a top official told The Huffington Post.

Three progressive organizations -- Social Security Works, Credo Action and the blog -- launched campaigns aimed at pressuring AARP to stand up for Social Security after HuffPost reported that the elderly lobby was planning to host a high-level "salon-style conversation" with deficit hawks and advocates of cutting Social Security. Tens of thousands -- including thousands of AARP members -- signed petitions urging AARP not to support benefit cuts.

The organization went ahead with the salon at the end of March, hosted by AARP CEO Barry Rand. Along with deficit experts, the salon also included defenders of Social Security.

After the salon, AARP's top lobbyist, Nancy LeaMond, said that the group was committed to defending Social Security from those who see it as a way to close the deficit.

"We've spent the better part of last year, when the focus was exclusively on the deficit, saying that Social Security should not be part of that discussion and we worked very hard on that and we're happy at the end of the day that we were able to keep it out of that debate," she said.

Waking Up to the End of the World as We Know It

Damn, just when we were just starting to have fun we find out our version of the world won't exist for our kids. Don't take my word. That's what four MIT researchers wrote in a presentation to the Club of Rome in 1972. It was later published as a book, The Limits of Growth.

What authors Meadows, Meadows, Randers and Behrens did was run one of the first computer models on exponential consumption of natural resources, which is now the standard way of calculating the longevity of resource reserves. The pegging of peak oil came from the same sort of projections.

I confess that I caught a major infection of Peak Oil Fever a few years ago. It was one of the reasons our family decided to stay on the East Coast. We wanted to explore a more sustainable way of living that might include relocalizing the economy, reskilling the local people, and retooling ourselves to prepare for a drastic reduction of cheap fossil fuel.

So I scoured through everything I could find on the Internet. (There's a lot.) I learned that there's enough energy in a single gallon of gas to do the work of one man working 8-hour-days for two weeks. I learned the world uses 80 million barrels of oil a day, and that the U.S. alone uses a quarter of that. And I learned OPEC and others have been lying to the international public, overestimating the size of their reserves.

It occurred to me that a post-fossil fuel sustainability demonstration project might be a good idea. And why not create one out here, on the sleepy East Coast of Canada? In an odd bit of circumstance I ended up in a meeting with Frank McKenna, former provincial premier, former Canadian ambassador to the U.S., VP of TD Bank, etc., and chatted about the idea.

Budget restraint strains McGuinty’s love affair with labour

The political pas de deux between big labour and Premier Dalton McGuinty goes way back:

You help us at election time. We’ll help you at negotiation time.

You scratch our back. We’ll watch yours.

Even in hard times, labour could count on a soft touch from the governing Liberals. Back in his 2010 budget, despite strong deficit pressures, Finance Minister Dwight Duncan ruled out legislated freezes for public sector unions — opting instead for voluntary restraint.

Now, with money running out, the jig is up. And a belated Liberal backflip carries big political risks.

In his new spring budget, Duncan has undone two years of government policy by threatening what he once vowed to avoid: Legislation forcing public servants to accept the pay freezes they have long resisted.

Balancing the budget is always a political high wire act in the three-ring circus that is minority government. But if the Liberals want to tame the deficit, they must restrain workers while pacifying the New Democrats who hold the balance of power.

Robocall rally issues demands

TORONTO - More than 200 peopled rallied at Toronto's city hall on Saturday demanding a new election and a public inquiry into the robocall scandal that followed the last federal election.

Millions of automated calls were made to voters which protesters claim gave misleading voting day information.

The protesters are calling for several things to happen:

"We want an immediate suspension of Parliament and a new, untainted election completely free of fraud and voter suppression; A completely open and independent Royal Commission beginning within a reasonable amount of time - no more than three months from the date of Elections Canada's address to Parliament on March 29th; as well as a criminal investigation up to and including the Prime Minister's Office. And complete accountability, including the involvement of jail time," organizer John Allen said.

Natalie Spinney said she is sick of what the government gets away with.

"I'm here because I hope to get the information out that the government is lying to people. There is a lot of things people don't know. They need to be watched," Spinney said.

Ontario government misses opportunity to increase revenues from mining

With an overwhelming emphasis on reducing expenditures, this week's Ontario budget misses an important opportunity to increase provincial revenues from the mining sector. When compared with other Canadian jurisdictions, Ontario has the lowest corporate tax rate for mining and recoups the lowest share of the value of mineral production. The Drummond Report recommended removing the "Resource Credit" that lowers the corporate tax rates and reviewing the Ontario Mining Tax. Today's budget does neither, giving up hundreds of millions of dollars in potential revenue.

The Ontario Mining Tax is a royalty payable to Ontario on the profits of mining that is meant to compensate the province for the extraction and sale of publicly owned non-renewable resources. The tax rate is 10 per cent of profits but "remote" mines only pay half of that and also qualify for a 10 year tax holiday. The total revenue generated from the mining tax in 2010 was $82 million (Entrans 2011) on mineral production worth $5.58 billion (NRCan 2011) or 1.5 per cent of the total value of production. The province also has a diamond royalty but the one operating diamond mine, Victor's DeBeers Diamond mine has not yet had to pay it. Nor has DeBeers ever paid corporate taxes in Ontario (see DeBeers' Reports to Society).

If Ontario were to reform its Mining Tax to recoup on average a modest five per cent of the gross value of mineral production, there would be an increase in $200 million a year based on 2010 production. With the increased prices for gold and other minerals mined in Ontario, the actual revenues could be considerably higher. Not enough to erase the deficit but not exactly chump change and enough to keep a few schools open.

Occupy Toronto hold rally for arrested, injured protesters

Occupy Toronto protesters held a rally Saturday afternoon denouncing the arrests of five of the group's members.

Four of the Occupy Toronto protesters appeared in court today after they were arrested during a clash with police on University Avenue Friday night.

Police have said that was the second time they had asked the protesters to remove their tents and gear. When they did not comply police said they had to forcibly remove them.

The two men and two women are facing a number of charges including: obstructing a peace officer, possession of marijuana and assault with intent to resist arrest.

A fifth was arrested in the evening after dozens of people rallied outside a police station demanding the release of the four.

Some protesters said they would be at City Hall Saturday to show support for those arrested.

Several dozen people staged a brief protest outside Toronto police 52 division demanding the release of the four.

Thousands demand ‘Justice for Trayvon’ in Florida protest

Thousands joined a march Saturday through the Florida town where 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by a neighbourhood watch volunteer, vowing to continue protesting until an arrest is made.

Protesters carried signs, chanted “Justice for Trayvon,” and clutched the hands of their children while they walked to the Sanford Police Department from a local high school that served black students during the segregation era. The march was organized by the NAACP was one of several taking place over the weekend.

“We live in the middle of an American paradox,” Rev. Al Sharpton told the crowd. “We can put a black man in the White House but we cannot walk a black child through a gated neighbourhood. We are not selling out, bowing out or backing down until there is justice for Trayvon.”

Mr. Martin was shot to death by 28-year-old George Zimmerman on Feb. 26 as he walked from a convenience store back to his father's fiancée's home in a gated community outside Orlando. The case has stirred a national conversation about race and the laws of self-defense. Mr. Martin, a black teenager from Miami, was unarmed when he was shot by Mr. Zimmerman, whose father is white and mother is Hispanic. Mr. Zimmerman told police the teen attacked him before he shot in self-defense.

Rev. Sharpton and other civil rights leaders, including Rev. Jesse Jackson, spoke during a two-hour rally following the half-mile march.

General Motors Decides Climate Change Is Real, Pulls Support From Heartland Institute

After getting called out by an environmental group, General Motors has pulled support from the Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based nonprofit well-known for attacking the science behind global warming and climate change.

The automaker told the Heartland Institute last week that it won't be making further donations, spokesman Greg Martin said. At a speech earlier this month, GM CEO Dan Akerson said his company is running its business under the assumption that climate change is real.

"We applaud GM's decision and the message it sends -- that it is no longer acceptable for corporations to promote the denial of climate change and that support for an organization like Heartland is not in line with GM's values," said Daniel Souweine, campaign director for Forecast the Facts, a group that urges meteorologists to talk more openly about climate change.

Internal documents leaked in February showed that the General Motors Foundation -- which the automaker runs separately from its business -- donated to the institute $15,000 in 2010 and again in 2011, with another $15,000 expected to be gifted this year.

Heartland, which identifies itself as a free-market think tank, has questioned the ideas on global warming through its newsletters, web site and associated scientists. Last year, the tagline for its annual conference on the subject was "Global Warming: Was It Ever Really a Crisis?"