Democracy Gone Astray

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Federal cuts to health groups hurt marginalized women, say critics

The recent federal budget cuts will take a toll on the health of women across Canada, say the leaders of a number of women's health organizations who've recently had their funding slashed.

Last Monday, the British Columbia Centre of Excellence for Women's Health (BCCEWH), along with five other Canadian women's health organizations that focus on research and communication around women's health were informed that they will lose their federal funding as of March 31, 2013.

The programs produce research that ensures policy-makers are better able to apply a gender and sex analysis to their work.

Nancy Poole, a director at the BCCEWH says her organization's research helps marginalized women in particular by supporting service providers, policy-makers and health-system planners in developing policies that affect the health of women with substance use problems and women marginalized by poverty or violence.

"One of the biggest contributions that we've made is to really help system planners and government overall bring a gendered lens to all policies and practices within government."

Kent outraged by “misquote” – says scientists are “spreading the good news” about federal policies

OTTAWA-Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent is outraged about quotes taken from his own remarks about government efforts to control the free speech of scientists in his department.

After being taken to task by NDP deputy leader Megan Leslie for his remarks, describing the government’s policies as an “established practice,” Kent suggested the quote was taken out of context.

“That is an outrageous misquote I think it is fair to say,” Kent said Tuesday in the House of Commons.

One day earlier, he told the Commons: “It is established practice to coordinate media availability. In fact, many of our younger scientists seek advice from our departmental communications staff.”

He also suggested that the government was controlling interviews given by its scientists because it didn’t like questions raised by the media.

“Where we run into problems is when journalists try to lead scientists away from science and into policy matters,” Kent said on Monday.

Canada Fisheries Act Changes Could Harm Fish Habitat: Ecologists

OTTAWA - Canadian conservationists say the federal government could dramatically weaken protections for fish habitats in lakes, streams and waterways across the country with proposed changes to the Fisheries Act.

Jeffery Young, a biologist with the David Suzuki Foundation in Vancouver, said the changes announced by Ottawa on Tuesday could add modest protections to bodies of water where there are established fisheries.

But he fears the revisions would narrow the definition of a fish habitat and strip away measures that now protect marine ecosystems that don't support active fisheries.

"It will result in reduced protection of streams, lakes and wetlands across Canada, particularly in areas that are more remote," he said, adding that he has yet to see details of the changes.

"The Fisheries Act is important to protect freshwater ecosystems, not just for the benefit of fisheries, but for the benefit of people and water quality."

Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield announced the proposals Tuesday, saying they will identify and manage threats to the commercial, recreational and aboriginal fisheries, but his statement didn't elaborate on what those might be.

Mexican refugee claimant murdered after deportation

When Veronica Castro was in a Canadian detention centre awaiting imminent deportation back to Mexico, she wrote a letter to a friend saying she feared the worst: "I will really need your prayers."

She had been struggling to stay in Canada since her refugee claim, based on domestic abuse and fear of returning to her family home, was denied a year earlier.

The odds had been against Castro from the start, as claims from Mexico have a high rejection rate — 82.9 per cent in 2011. And critics argue the Harper government's Bill C-31, designed to speed up the refugee claim process, will make it even more difficult for refugees from Mexico to stay in Canada.

For Castro, her letter to her friend now seems prescient.

She wrote that her deportation was a matter of "life or death … I'm shaking and terrified every time I think about my deportation. I am really scared."

Thirty-three days after being deported back to Mexico, on Jan. 12, 2012, Castro was murdered.

She was 41 years old.

Al-Qaeda switching tactics, CSIS warns

As many as 60 Canadians have journeyed abroad to train as al-Qaeda terrorists, this country’s spy chief revealed as he sounded a warning over the group’s shift to a much harder to detect “lone-wolf” style of attack.

Richard Fadden, director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, also acknowledged Monday that al-Qaeda’s switch to a sole-actor approach to inflicting damage is presenting a problem for Western anti-terrorist agencies.

“This really makes things very complicated for us,” he told a Senate committee.

He said this lone-wolf approach tends to attract individuals driven by ideology as well as “serious personal problems,” a combination that makes them more unpredictable.

Mr. Fadden was speaking in favour of a new Harper government bill that aims to thwart budding Canadian terrorists who wish to visit foreign training camps. The legislation, S-7, would make it a federal crime to leave, or try to leave, Canada for the purpose of committing terrorism.

“There has … been an alarming number of Canadians who have travelled, are planning, or have expressed a desire to engage in terrorist activities,” the CSIS director told senators.

Tories take aim at Cullen

OTTAWA  — The Conservatives are taking aim at the NDP’s newly unveiled shadow cabinet and it seems Nathan Cullen — a vocal opponent to Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline who won many over with his charismatic personality during the leadership race —  is first on the hit list.

Here’s what the Tories are saying about the party’s new House Leader in a statement dubbed “get to know Mr. Mulcair’s NDP shadow cabinet.”

    Mr. Mulcair chose to promote activists who have lobbied against Canada’s ability to develop and sell its own resources . . .

    “For example, Mr. Mulcair appointed Nathan Cullen as House Leader. During the recent leadership race, Mr. Cullen repeatedly called on the government to restrict natural resource development and he strongly opposes the Conservative government’s plan to streamline the review process for major economic projects.

    “These reforms will ensure that projects get a timely, fair hearing without unnecessary delays driven by foreign-funded special interests. Governments around the world are seeing the need to improve the approvals process to ensure that projects are not unreasonably delayed or blocked.

Robocalls: Up to 50,000 voters received deceptive calls: pollster

OTTAWA—The Council of Canadians released polling data Tuesday that it claimed shows a “sophisticated, orchestrated” vote suppression effort in last spring’s federal election on behalf of the Conservative Party of Canada.

The group commissioned the polling firm EKOS Research Associates to survey ridings across Canada and to compare those where there were many calls that allegedly harassed or falsely directed people to the wrong voting station to ridings were there were no such reports.

Frank Graves, president of EKOS Research, said there appeared to be robo-calling “activity” across the country, but he compared 106 ridings where there were no reports of suspicious activity to seven ridings where there was a lot.

He said in those seven ridings — all won by Conservative candidates — his data show about 10 to 15 per cent of voters or about 30,000 to 50,000 people received deliberately misleading calls aimed at suppressing non-Conservative votes. The percentage of people who identified as non-Conservative voters rose sharply, up to 90 per cent, he said.

Graves said about 1.5 per cent of the voters targeted said they did not cast a vote as a result of the calls.

How a female athlete's body became a battleground for gender assumptions (again)

For those of you who follow women's basketball, you will have already heard of Brittney Griner. Though only 21 she has been making waves the past few years, most recently having received Associate Press' Player of the Year and the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four. Like many elite level athletes, Griner possesses some unusual physical traits (think swimmer Micheal Phelps with his wingspan as long as 26 monarch butterflies lined up in a row… or more simply, 6'7"). Standing 6'8" tall, Griner wears a men's U.S. size 17 shoes.

The use of the word "unusual" over "unnatural" is an important distinction and kind of the crux of what this blog post will be about. I recently read The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi. It's a young adult historical fiction novel about a upper-class white girl who finds herself as the only female passenger on a voyage across the Atlantic in the 1800s. As she transitions into a competent member of the crew the antagonist Captain Jaggery attempts to squander any solidarity she builds with the other crew members. In a particularly memorable scene Jaggery accuses Charlotte of a crime using an argument about her "unnaturalness":

"Doing her part like we all was," the captain echoed in a mocking tone. "Mr. Barlow, you are not young. In all your years have you ever seen, ever heard of a girl who took up crew's work?"
"No sir, I never did."
"So, then, is it not unusual?"
"I suppose."
"You suppose. Might you say, unnatural?"
"That's not fair!" I cried out. "Unusual and unnatural are not the same!"

Hill Dispatches: 'Never Again!' (except for the 'Gypsies')

The Prime Minister spoke eloquently at a Holocaust Memorial event at the Canadian War Museum, on Monday.

He talked about the "sheer scale of the Holocaust," about how remembering the Holocaust was a "cause of great importance to our country," and about how "anti-Semitism is a disease" -- a disease that turns into more generalized "hatred" and becomes a "threat to us all."

He told his audience,which included Jewish survivors of the concentration camps and descendants of "righteous Gentiles" who had risked all to save Jewish lives, that some of those same threats engendered by the Holocaust "exist today" and vowed that we in Canada must learn the lessons of the Holocaust.

We must, the Prime Minister said, "defend the vulnerable and confront evil."

For the Roma, a different mesage

It is cruelly ironic that at almost the exact moment the Prime Minister was uttering those moving and well-chosen words his Immigration Minister was giving the back of his hand to another group descended from victims and survivors of the Holocaust -- the "Gypsies," or Roma.

As the Prime Minister was vowing "Never Again," Kenney was telling the National Post that Roma refugees currently coming to Canada from "liberal, democratic" countries such as Hungary are all bogus, and only interested in generous Canadian welfare.

Pentagon sets up new spy agency to eavesdrop on a changing world

The Pentagon is to create a new spy service to focus on global strategic threats and the challenges posed by countries including Iran, North Korea and China. The move will bring to 17 the total number of intelligence organisations in the US.

The Defense Clandestine Service is supposed to work closely with its counterpart in the CIA, the National Clandestine Service, recruiting spies from the ranks of the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and deploying them globally to boost the flow of intelligence on perceived long-term threats to US national interests.

US military news website Insidedefense said the defence department had asked Congress for authority for spies to work undercover posing as businessmen when conducting covert operations abroad.

The move by the defence secretary, Leon Panetta, emerged in briefings to US journalists.

"You have to do global coverage," a senior defence official said, according to the Los Angeles Times. The new service would seek to "make sure officers are in the right locations to pursue those requirements", the Washington Post quoted the official as saying.

CPAC round-table: First Nations in Canada: Is there a way forward?

Last week in Winnipeg, Maclean’s and CPAC hosted a round-table conversation entitled, “First Nations in Canada: Is there a way forward?” In this wide-ranging discussion about one of the country’s most pressing national issues, Maclean’s columnist Paul Wells and Ottawa bureau chief John Geddes were joined by Shawn Atleo, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Manny Jules, chairman of the First Nations Tax Commission, and Charlene Lafreniere, a city councillor in Thompson, Man., and co-chair of the Urban Aboriginal Strategy initiative. The discussion was moderated by CPAC’s Peter Van Dusen. The following is an edited excerpt.

Paul Wells: It’s been a complex year on the Aboriginal affairs file. It began just before the New Year with the revelations of the desperate situation in Attawapiskat. Along came the surprising news of the Crown-First Nations gathering and of Stephen Harper allowing himself for the first time I can remember to be outnumbered by people who might not agree with him on everything in front of TV cameras.

Cuts threaten Canada's satellite eye on the Arctic

A majority of Canadians see Arctic sovereignty as the country's top foreign-policy priority, according to a recent poll by Ekos Research for the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs.

Yet, Canada's ability to effectively monitor and manage its interests in the Arctic appears to be in jeopardy in the face of funding cuts by the federal government and conflicting spending priorities at the Canadian Space Agency.

The project in question is the Radar-sat Constellation Mission, a set of three Earth observation satellites, originally intended for launch into space in 2014 and 2015. The purpose of the radar-based satellites, as out-lined by the federal government when it launched the program in 2005, is to support Canadian sovereignty and security through coastal surveillance by satellite in all weather conditions. In particular, the satellites would be able to detect activity in the Far North and in Canada's coastal waters. If a satellite spotted an anomaly, a vessel or plane could then be dispatched to the area.

The project offers a comprehensive and cost-efficient way to monitor virtually everything going on in the Arc-tic, and many other areas besides. With it, Canada could monitor ice for navigation in the St. Lawrence, the Great Lakes and in coastal waters - particularly in the rapidly expanding Northwest Passage. We could also support disaster management, including detecting oil spills and forest fires, monitoring floods and providing information on the evolution of disaster areas.

F-35 Canada: Opposition MPs Win Victory Over Upcoming Testimony From Auditor General

OTTAWA - Opposition parties had to arm-twist the Conservative government into allowing auditor general Michael Ferguson to be the first witness to comment on his own report at public hearings into the F-35.

The initial refusal of government MPs on the all-party committee to follow this long-standing practice prompted an unusual outburst from MP David Christopherson, the NDP chair, who virtually threatened to quit if the custom was ignored.

Conservative members proposed deputy ministers and officials from four departments be the first witnesses. The public hearings will examine the auditor general's findings that National Defence and Public Works withheld the true cost of the stealth fighter and short-circuited the government's procurement rules.

Christopherson said a failure to hear from Ferguson at the outset of the hearings would result in a manipulation of the process. He pointed out that the government pulled a similar move when the same committee was trying to examine the auditor general's report into G-8 spending.

"This trend is dangerous in terms of the critical importance of (parliamentary) oversight," he told the committee.

Oil industry the big winner in Alberta election

For once the outcome of an Alberta election was completely unpredictable.

Right up until the end the two leading contenders — Alison Redford’s PCs and Danielle Smith’s Wildrose party — were locked in a bitter battle for control of government.

But one outcome was entirely predictable.

No matter which party won there would be no sudden changes when it came to oil sands development and all the risks and rewards that go with it, not just for Alberta but for the rest of Canada. The oil sands and energy policy in general were simply not on the election agenda.

Party leaders barely mentioned the oil sands; it wasn’t a big issue in the news media; at the public forums I attended not one person questioned candidates about oil sands policy. Official oil industry voices were noticeably silent for the entire campaign.

The oil sands didn’t even come up during the only televised leaders’ debate. It was as if the whole province went into denial about its addiction and no one cared enough to organize an intervention.

Stephen Harper's push for pipelines likely to backfire

Is the Conservative government deliberately trying to manufacture dissent against proposed pipelines to bring Alberta oil to the B.C. coast?

It’s hard to imagine another explanation for the heavy-handed way Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver are trying to bulldoze opposition to the two proposals now on the table to transport bitumen from Alberta’s oilsands to markets offshore.

What started as a verbal barrage this year is now being backed up by legal tools that will give the federal government the final word on whether Enbridge’s $5.5-billion Northern Gateway pipeline and marine terminal and the proposed $5-billion twinning of the Kinder Morgan pipeline to Vancouver will go ahead, regardless of what the National Energy Board decides.

Harper has made it clear he considers a connection to the Asian market a crucial part of Canada’s economic future. He quite reasonably believes it is vital for Alberta producers to gain access to more than just the U.S. market, where, coincidentally there is now a glut of crude, driving down the price being paid for Canadian exports.

Tories try to stall auditor’s testimony on costly F-35 purchase

Trying to buck tradition, Conservative MPs on the House of Commons public accounts committee attempted Tuesday to delay testimony by the Auditor-General on the bungled process to purchase new fighter jets.

However, committee chair David Christopherson expressed his outrage at the tactic, threatening to quit his position if the Conservatives used their majority to avoid hearing from the federal spending watchdog at the launch of the hearings.

“This will not continue with me in the chair,” the NDP MP said. “This is wrong.”

The Conservatives on the committee relented and allowed their motion to be amended to include the testimony of Auditor-General Michael Ferguson on Thursday, and other witnesses next week.

The public accounts committee is tasked with studying reports by the Auditor-General and offering oversight of government spending by ensuring departments follow up on the watchdog’s findings. The committee is traditionally less partisan than other parliamentary bodies, with an opposition MP in the chair.

Lyudmila Putina, Vladimir Putin's Wife, Missing From The Public Eye

Russia's Prime Minister and soon-to-be President (again) Vladimir Putin has captured international headlines of late.

His 54-year-old wife Lyudmila, however, has been conspicuously absent from the public eye and the Russian rumor mill has been quick to offer explanations.

Could she be pregnant? Pushed aside as Putin courts bombshell spy Anna Chapman? Or rather for rhythmic gymnast Alina Kabayeva?

The Moscow Post, which The Moscow Times calls "one of the fiefdoms of the massive online empire run directly by the presidential administration" reports that Lyudmila is rumored to be pregnant for a third time and is currently under observation in a Munich hospital.

The Daily Mail goes as far as to suggest that Putin may have kindled a romance with Russian bombshell Anna Chapman, who was sent back to Russia from the United States as part of a spy swap in 2010. After all, a business associate of Chapman's told Capital New York that the beauty once took a ride in Putin's private submarine.

Ann Romney Talks Motherhood, 'Emotionally Draining' Campaign

Ann Romney is still talking about the job requirements of stay-at-home moms. At a Republican fundraiser in Connecticut Monday night, Romney described her life as a mom, a job she says her husband would constantly remind her was "more important than his."

"I know what it’s like to wake up early in the morning and get them off to school; I know what it’s like to be up in the middle of the night when they are sick; and I know what it’s like to struggle and to have those concerns that all mothers have," she said, according to ABC News.

Romney acknowledged that some women have to both work outside the home and raise their children, according to Politico.

“My hats off to the men in this room too that are raising kids — I love that, and I love the fact that there are also women out there that don’t have a choice and they must go to work and they still have to raise the kids,” Romney said. “Thank goodness that we value those people too. And sometimes life isn’t easy for any of us.”

Super PAC Transparency: Mysterious Gifts To Romney Campaign Draw Scrutiny

WASHINGTON — A once-mysterious $400,000 check written to a "super" political action committee supporting Mitt Romney's presidential campaign rekindled a nagging question this election season: Just how much disclosure is enough to satisfy transparency?

The Florida husband and wife behind the contribution were identified Monday as the beneficiaries of an investment fund and are among Romney's top Florida fundraisers. But up until then, the donation to the Restore Our Future super PAC – which reported the contribution from an unknown Florida firm called SeaSpray Partners LLC – left more questions than answers.

Inquiries about the donation intensified over the weekend after a Florida man who owned a similarly named company in Palm Beach told news organizations he never donated to the pro-Romney group. It turned out that Restore Our Future listed the wrong address for the actual SeaSpray donor.

The super PAC at first declined to disclose more about the mystery donors, but as the controversy grew, the committee on Monday acknowledged the Florida couple's role. Restore amended its federal filings Tuesday, naming the Florida couple as the two donors.

Cost Of An Appendix Removal Could Be As Much As A House

CHICAGO - What do hospitals charge to remove an appendix? The startling answer is that it could be the same as the price of a refrigerator — or a house.

It's a common, straightforward operation, so you might expect charges to be similar no matter where the surgery takes place. Yet a California study found huge disparities in patients' bills — $1,500 to $180,000, with an average of $33,000.

The researchers and other experts say the results aren't unique to California and illustrate a broken system.

"There's no method to the madness," said lead author Dr. Renee Hsia, an emergency room physician and researcher at the University of California, San Francisco. "There's no system at all to determine what is a rational price for this condition or this procedure."

The disparities are partly explained by differences among patients and where they were treated. For example, some had more costly procedures, including multiple imaging scans, or longer hospital stays. A very small number were treated without surgery, though most had appendectomies. Some were sicker and needed more intensive care.

But the researchers could find no explanation for about one-third of the cost differences.

Trebs Oil Field: Thousands Of Tons Of Oil Spill From Russian Field Developed By Lukoil And Bashneft

MOSCOW (AP) — Up to 2,000 tons of oil have spilled from a major field in northern Russia after workers struggled to contain the leak for two days, officials said.

The accident happened at the Trebs oil field in the Nenets Autonomous District on Friday following work on an exploratory well. The oil had been gushing for nearly two days before the workers finally capped the well Sunday morning, Emergency Ministry officials said.

Vladimir Bezumov, chief of the Russian Environmental Agency in the area, said the weekend spill could have produced between 800 and 2,000 tons and contaminated at least 8,000 square meters (86,100 square. feet) of land. Another 6,000 square meters (64,600 square. feet) of land are believed to have been slightly damaged.

Bezumov said it was too early to speak of the causes of the accident, but he said it was likely a combination of technical issues and human error.

The oil field is developed by a joint venture between Russia's largest private company Lukoil and another Russian oil major Bashneft. It holds some 153 million tons of oil.

Russian environmental officials will be preparing a lawsuit against the oil companies after the clean-up is over, Bezumov said.

The area around the oil field is largely unpopulated but the oil spill has damaged pastures used by local reindeer herdsmen.

Russia has not seen major oil spills for years. But maintenance of pipelines in old fields is poor, and oil leaks from rusty pipes and poorly sealed wells daily, experts say. An AP investigation last year showed that at least 1 percent of Russia's annual oil production, or 5 million tons, is spilled into the environment every year.

Original Article
Source: Huff
Author: --

Can Reddit Vote Down a Congressman?

When Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) introduced the Stop Online Piracy Act last winter, members of the online community Reddit sprang into action. They called their congressmen, spammed Twitter, and did what they do best: hatched memes. It worked; SOPA, which would have given courts the power to shut down websites that featured copyrighted material, was tabled amid protests that the legislation, backed by the entertainment industry, would curb internet freedom. But SOPA's retreat was just temporary; these online activists wanted to ensure it wouldn't come back.

The result was Test PAC, the first political action committee of, for, and by Reddit, a social news site and sounding board with tens of millions of users worldwide. Political activism is hardly a novel concept for Redditors—prior to SOPA, they'd come up with the idea for the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear in 2010—but this was something new. Launched in January, Test PAC's first mission is simple: Unseat Lamar Smith. Its leaders have purchased a billboard in San Antonio and are using the site to mobilize activists on the ground in central Texas; Test PAC's first television ad is in the can, waiting for the funds to air it. But as the state's May 29 Republican primary approaches, Test PAC faces a unique set of challenges: an uncertain field of challengers, a funding shortfall, and the lingering question of whether it's even possible to crowd-source a PAC.

"War is the Enemy of the Poor": Cornel West and Tavis Smiley on Poverty, MLK, Election 2012

In part two of our interview with Tavis Smiley and Prof. Cornel West, they discuss growing up in working-class households. "I saw so much poverty growing up," says Smiley, who lived with 13 family members in a three-bedroom trailer and learned that even when he was not optimistic, he could be hopeful. "Hope needs help," Smiley notes. West recalls how he worked with the Black Panthers to organize a general strike while growing up in Sacramento, California, in order to push for African-American studies programs in local high schools. Looking at current events, Smiley and West cite Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s comment that "war is the enemy of the poor." They compare the amount of money spent on the war in Iraq, and the 2012 presidential campaign, to funding for programs that assist the one in two Americans who are now poor. Click here to see part one of this interview.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

The War on Women: Sex-Trafficking Edition

Last December, at a contentious hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, a group consisting almost entirely of men weighed in on women's health care. Millions of federal dollars were at stake. Two Obama officials were facing an inquisition. Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.)—who wasn't even a member of the committee but was invited by chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) to speak—was red-faced and practically shouting as he delivered his opening remarks: "The Obama administration's bias against Catholics is an affront to religious freedom and a threat to all people," he inveighed.

Smith's attack was rooted in a now-familiar dispute—the escalating war between conservatives and the Obama administration over reproductive health. But there was a special wrinkle: Smith was concerned with foreigners forced into prostitution in the United States—and the right of the Catholic Church to refuse to provide them with access to birth control and abortion.

Thanks to legislation authored by Smith, the federal government spends millions of dollars each year to help human trafficking victims recover. Since 2006 virtually all of the money has gone to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, the church's leadership in Washington. But in September the Obama administration declined to renew the contract. It wanted to ensure that victimized women had access to full reproductive health care, and the bishops had forbidden the grant money to be used for services they deemed immoral.

RCMP Sexual Harassment Hearings Expansion Tabled By Federal Liberals

OTTAWA - The federal Liberals want to give victims of sexual harassment at the RCMP a public venue to air their grievances.

MP Judy Sgro used the appearance of Commissioner Bob Paulson before the House of Commons committee on the status of women to table a motion that would, if passed, allow for further witnesses and hearings into allegations that have rocked the force.

A decision on whether to proceed was put off until Wednesday.

Sgro said the invitation to speak would be open to all women who believe they've been harassed, not just those taking part in a class-action lawsuit that was filed last month.

"I can say by talking to many, many very committed women in the RCMP, who very much want their careers to continue, but most importantly require changes to be made," she said.

"My intent today, and I hope the intent of our committee, is to help that along by providing an opportunity for some of these individuals. I think it's imperative we provide that opportunity for women in a non-confrontational way to be able to come to the committee and speak to us about some of those issues."

Allegations of widespread sexual harassment within the national police force surfaced last November.

On Copyright, Politicians Just Don't Understand

If elected representatives can't be trusted to legislate fair copyright laws, then it falls to the public to show them the error of their ways.

Widespread protests in support of a free internet began in 2000, in response to the shutdown of Napster, a music-focused file-sharing service that was accused of copyright infringement. Since that time, such protests have been growing – and growing significantly – with every iteration.

Each new wave of protest against clueless politicians who give our freedoms of speech to corporate sponsors completely eclipses the previous one, and this year, PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act), SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act), and ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Act) prompted the biggest demonstrations yet, as North Americans and Europeans stood up for their digital rights.

With every new wave, more people become aware of the real issues at hand – that the battle is over our fundamental civil liberties and not over some dinosaur industry’s imaginary right to profit.

I’m already looking forward to the next protest, which will be bigger than the Jan. 18 SOPA/PIPA blackout. In its wake, copyright-industry lobbyists will walk about confused, wondering what has happened.

And let there be no doubt – following the next big protest, there will be new misguided attempts at legislation, and equally powerful responses from the citizenry.

Smith blames controversial remarks, strategic voting for Alberta loss

Danielle Smith, Alberta’s new Opposition Leader, believes two factors kept her upstart Wildrose Party from forming Alberta’s next government -- controversial comments by two of her candidates and strategic voting.

As the four-week provincial election campaign drew to a close, Wildrose candidates Allan Hunsperger and Ron Leech, both pastors, caused a stir with statements that critics called intolerant. Mr. Leech told a radio station he had an advantage in his Calgary riding because he is white. Edmonton’s Mr. Hunsperger, in a year-old blog posting, said gays will spend eternity in a “lake of fire, hell.”

Ms. Smith admits this hurt her party.

“We took some hits in the last week of the campaign that caused people to question whether or not we were ready to form government,” she said after her concession speech in High River, a city south of Calgary. “They decided we weren’t. They decided that we needed a little bit more time.”

While only two candidates were involved, the rookie leader said their words hindered the rest of Wildrose’s slate.

“There were a couple of comments from candidates that caused people to pause and worry about what our other candidates might be like.”

Alberta election: PCs steamroll past Wildrose Party

HIGH RIVER, ALTA.—The Progressive Conservatives steamrolled past the Wildrose Party to win a majority term in Alberta, defying what all polls had said leading up to election night.

Premier Alison Redford won a victory Monday evening in an election that even die-hard Conservatives believed was going to be a loss. She had predicted, at best, a minority government. The biggest loser of the evening was Danielle Smith, leader of the Wildrose.

“We found out change might take a little longer than we thought,” Smith said in her concession speech.

“I acknowledge we wanted to do better . . . Am I disappointed? Yeah. Am I discouraged? Not a chance,” she said, adding “the growth of Wildrose has been nothing short of remarkable.”

Heading into the campaign, Smith was leading in polls — as she had been since the beginning. But at a muted Wildrose Party headquarters in High River, Alta., strategists huddled and blamed the loss on NDP and Liberal supporters who were wooed by the PCs.

“That’s so disappointing. We were so certain there was going to be a change in goverment,” said Wildrose supporter Jeff Engel, who had voted earlier in the day for Smith, confident that she would be the next premier. “The vote got split. That must have been what happened. It’s too bad.”

Governor Rick Scott Vetoes Funds For Rape Crisis Centers During Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) shocked the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence this week when he vetoed $1.5 million in funding for 30 rape crisis centers in the middle of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. State lawmakers allotted the money to offset an increase in need and a lack of sufficient funding for victim services.

A spokesperson for Scott said he vetoed that particular line item in the state budget because the state already funds sexual violence programs, and nobody was able to make it clear to him why rape crisis centers needed the new funding.

"Governor Scott approved funding for many projects that have statewide impact and do not duplicate programs already funded by the state," Lane Wright, Scott's press secretary, told HuffPost. "This new funding of $1.5 million would have been duplicative, since, as a state, we already fund sexual violence programs. There was no information suggesting any needs in this area weren’t already being met. The state already provides about $6.5 million for rape prevention and sexual assault services. That is in addition to the funds available for domestic violence programs -- $29 million to be specific. Many victims of sexual violence seek refuge at domestic violence shelters."

Jennifer Dritt, the executive director of the Florida Council, said she was "stunned" and "confused" by Scott's move and that she questions his reasoning for slashing the funds.

Death on the Border: Shocking Video Shows Mexican Immigrant Beaten and Tased by Border Patrol Agents

A new PBS documentary exposes the tasing and beating death of a Mexican immigrant by U.S. border agents in California, and has renewed scrutiny of what critics call a culture of impunity. In May 2010, 32-year-old Anastasio Hernández Rojas was caught trying to enter the United States from Mexico near San Diego. He had previously lived in the United States for 25 years and was the father of five U.S.-born children. But instead of deportation, Hernández Rojas’ detention ended in his death. A number of border officers were seen beating him, before one tasered him at least five times. He died shortly afterward. The agents say they confronted Hernández Rojas because he became hostile and resisted arrest. But previously undisclosed videos recorded by eyewitnesses on their cell phones show a different story. “All eyewitnesses that we spoke to basically tell the same story of a man hogtied and handcuffed behind his back, not resisting, being beaten repeatedly — by batons, by kicks, by punches, by the use of a taser — for almost 30 minutes until he died,” says reporter John Carlos Frey, whose exposé aired in a national television special last Friday night, as part of a joint investigation by the PBS broadcast, "Need to Know," and the Investigative Fund of the Nation Institute. We also speak with Hernández Rojas’ widow, María Puga. “My husband was tortured; he was severely beaten, and they’ve destroyed an entire family,” says Puga, speaking through a Spanish-English translator. “All we want is justice, and we need your help to get that justice.”

Source: Democracy Now!
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Northern Plains Oil Boom Raises Concerns About Spiking Crime

GLASGOW, Mont. - Booming oil production across a wide expanse of the U.S.-Canada border has prompted law enforcement officials in both countries to brace themselves for a spike in crimes ranging from drug trafficking and gun offences to prostitution.

Officials say up to 30,000 workers could descend on the Bakken oil fields of Montana, North Dakota and southern Saskatchewan in the next few years. The rural region is emerging as one of the top oil producing areas of North America.

The recent kidnapping and brutal murder of Montana-based teacher Sherry Arnold has drawn more attention to the changes brought on by the rapid pace of drilling.

Federal prosecutors are holding a two-day retreat beginning Monday for police, border agents and other law enforcement to craft a common strategy to deal with rising crime.

"The population flux will naturally bring increased criminal activity to the area," said U.S. Attorney Michael Cotter. "It is imperative that our law enforcement establish open lines of communication between each other to ensure they are as responsive as possible."

In eastern Montana, drug crimes are up 172 per cent. Assaults in Dickinson, N.D., have climbed 300 per cent. And in once-sleepy Plentywood, Mont., there have been three gun crimes in the past few months — a prospect previously unheard of in the tiny community tucked against the Canada border.

Bill C-31: Tories' Human Smuggling Reforms Could Land More Asylum Seekers In Canada's Jails

At the whim of the public safety minister, refugee claimants could face incarceration in provincial jails for one year without review under a major overhaul of Canada’s immigration system.

The provisions are contained in Bill C-31, which the Tories laud as a crackdown on queue jumpers and illegal smugglers who exploit Canada’s generous social safety net.

Critics warn of the potential for “draconian” breaches of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and a dramatic change to Canada’s tradition of offering sanctuary to the persecuted of the world.

Under the bill, the public safety minister will have the power to designate refugees who arrive in Canada as a group as an "irregular arrival." The designation is intended for those suspected of arriving through human smuggling operations. Asylum seekers who arrive on their own will be treated differently.

Irregular arrivals will be incarcerated without review for up to a year and be banned from both applying for permanent residency and sponsoring family members for five years.

While they wait for their cases to be heard, many will end up in provincial jails, which are used as overflow when the Canada Border Services Agency maxes out the 369 beds it maintains in three immigration holding centres in Toronto, Laval and Richmond, B.C.

The Commons: The government remains unapologetic

The Scene. “Mr. Speaker, we do not apologize for the fact that Canada is following its laws and policies on procurement in securing replacements for the aging CF-18s,” Chris Alexander declared this afternoon of the F-35 mess.

It is unclear who demanded the Harper government apologize for following proper procurement policy. For that matter, it is unclear who has accused the Harper government of actually following proper procurement policy.

Indeed, the question here, from the NDP’s Jack Harris, the brusque Newf now back on the defence file, was something else entirely. “When,” Mr. Harris asked, “will the government stop making excuses for deceiving Canadians?”

Mr. Alexander’s response to this was to refuse to apologize. Twice.

“There will be an independent review of the costs. The funding envelope is frozen. A new secretariat is being established. We are going to continue to identify opportunities to participate in an important developmental program,” he explained. “We are going to provide annual updates to Parliament, continue to evaluate options and the Treasury Board Secretariat will review the sustainment costs of the F-35 to ensure full compliance with the procurement policies of this government. We make no apologies for any of that.”

Quebec headed for independence, Ignatieff tells U.K. broadcaster

OTTAWA — Former Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff says Quebec "eventually" will become an independent country and that a victory for Scottish separatists in an expected 2014 referendum will launch a new effort by Quebec nationalists to fulfil their sovereignist dream.

Ignatieff, an author and academic who left the Liberal leadership after his party was badly beaten in the 2011 election, made the comments in an interview being broadcast Monday on BBC Scotland.

He also said Quebec and the rest of Canada have little to say to each other and that the two already are "almost" separate countries.

Ignatieff told BBC Scotland that devolution of central powers, whether from London to Edinburgh or from Ottawa to Quebec City, likely will be only temporary.

"It's a kind of way station. You stop there for a while, but I think the logic eventually is independence — full independence," Ignatieff said in an interview in his home last month.

Asked by interviewer Glenn Campbell if he was referring to Quebec as well as Scotland, Ignatieff replied: "I think eventually that's where it goes."

Criminalizing refugees: The case against Bill C-31

Introduced under another signature defensive title, the Conservatives' Bill C-31: "Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act", combines exclusionary refugee measures from Bill C-4 (“Protecting Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada’s Immigration System”) and Bill C-11 (“Balanced Refugee Reform Act”). Both C-4 and -11 were previously proposed but rejected by opposition while the Conservatives were a minority in Parliament.

Now with their full majority power, the Harper government is bringing in even harsher measures through Bill C-31, which was announced in February. Should the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney, succeed in his goal to push this bill through by June, refugee claimants will be further invalidated, criminalized and endangered. The burden of the bill’s impact will fall on women, queer- and trans-identifying individuals and their families, and those fleeing from "safe" countries that are Canada's trade partners.

Impossibly short time frame for refugees

Under Bill C-31, refugee hearings will be expedited drastically to an impossibly short time frame of 15 days, slashed from 2-3 months under Bill C-11. Within just 15 days of arrival, refugees will have to navigate the impossible maze of finding shelter, legal counsel and interpretive services, and prepare to deliver their personal stories of hardship, loss, trauma and violence before an Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) member at their first hearing, all in an unfamiliar environment and language.

Conservative government won't buy 14 additional F-35s anticipated for fleet attrition

PARLIAMENT HILL—The government has ruled out an additional round of F-35 fighter jets that one expert says would have added a minimum of $1-billion to the $9-billion purchase price the government has been citing in the controversy over the plan to acquire the stealth warplanes.

Auditor General Michael Ferguson disclosed the Department of National Defence expected that because of aircraft attrition it would have to later acquire an additional 14 F-35s, on top of an initial purchase of 65 planes, in a scathing report to Parliament earlier this month.

Former National Defence procurement official Alan Williams, a vocal critic of the way the government has handled the acquisition, told The Hill Times last week National Defence was being “deceitful” by not including the cost of the 14 additional F-35s the department anticipated because of fleet attrition when it reported to Parliament on the program last year and insisting on treating the cost as part of a separate project.

Mr. Williams estimates the extra 14 jets would have added $1.1-billion to the purchase price alone for Canada, and at least $2-billion to $16.4-billion in lifetime cost for sustainment and operating costs Mr. Ferguson disclosed. Mr. Williams' cost estimates for Canada are based on a schedule of estimated costs the U.S. Department of Defense recently submitted to Congress. The Armed Services Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives provided The Hill Times with a copy of that report last week.

India's Aadhaar ID project turns nation's poor into economic players

Here in the small village of Ambalavayal, in southern India, in a large dim room beside the local school, about 30 villagers sit patiently on benches.

Young mothers in bright saris with babies on their shoulders. Old men with the dust of the fields on their clothes and coarse work-worn hands.

At rough wooden tables, a jumble of cables connect laptops to fingerprinting machines and eye scanners, and one by one the villagers step forward to be fingerprinted, scanned and photographed.

By being catalogued this way — which would be fiercely resisted by people in the privacy-conscious West — each villager is becoming a part of what has been called the biggest social project on the planet.

The project itself is called Aadhaar, which means foundation, and it has the potential, its proponents believe, to transform India and shift economic power from the hands of the wealthy few to the (potentially) consuming many.

As most of us now know, India has become something of an economic juggernaut over the past decade. In fact, its growth rate this year is expected to be nearly triple that of Canada and other Western nations.

Don't be naive on climate change, Norway’s former PM cautions Canada

Gro Harlem Brundtland, former prime minister of Norway, was keynote speaker on Monday at the International Polar Year conference in Montreal. Dr. Brundtland has headed the World Health Organization and served as a UN climate change envoy.

In her speech, she said warming temperatures have dramatically affected the globe’s polar regions. The Arctic Ocean ice has shrunk and will likely disappear within 30 to 40 years, permafrost is thawing, and Antarctica is losing ice and witnessing above-average warming in the Southern Ocean, she said.

“The Polar Regions are now being drawn into the rest of the world at a much accelerated pace,” she said.

Dr. Brundtland told delegates that despite the weaknesses of the Kyoto Protocol, the world can’t afford to push it aside without an alternative, as global emissions steadily increase.

Non-Tory voters targeted in robo-call scandal, pollster finds

One of Canada’s leading polling firms says it has found strong evidence of a targeted program of voter suppression aimed at non-Conservative voters during last May’s federal-election campaign.

The activities, surveyed in seven ridings across the country that are currently being contested in Federal Court, included erroneous reports of changes in voting station locations as well as faux calls purported to be from Elections Canada, says Ottawa-based Ekos Research Associates.

The Ekos survey, done in mid-April, is the first extensive study using fresh data that has been done of voter suppression allegations since anecdotal evidence of illegal automated calls – the so-called robo-call scandal – began surfacing in February.

Ekos president Frank Graves said the survey found voters in the seven ridings were 50 per cent more likely to have received illegitimate calls than those in 106 surveyed “comparison” ridings, in many of which there have been no allegations of illegal calls. And about three times as many Liberal, New Democrat and Green supporters as Conservative supporters claimed they were given false or incorrect information about polling station locations in the last two or three days of the campaign, Ekos found.

Elections Canada opened an investigation in Guelph, Ont., after being flooded by complaints of harassing or misleading phone messages said to be aimed at discouraging Liberal supporters from voting or turning voters away from the Liberal Party.