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.]

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Harper government appeals Ontario prostitution ruling

The federal government has asked the Supreme Court of Canada to put the brakes on the decriminalization of a key prostitution law.

A 30-day stay on imposed by the Ontario Court of Appeal last month when it rewrote the pimping provision is due to be lifted later this week.

The provision was struck down last month by the provincial appeals court in a decision that also removed prohibitions on keeping a brothel.

In the federal application – which also asked the Supreme Court to hear a full appeal of the Ontario decision – federal lawyers raised the spectre of neighbourhoods being frequented by prostitutes and their bodyguards.

The expiration of the 30-day delay imparted a sense of urgency to the government’s request for leave to appeal the entire Ontario Court of Appeal ruling.

It stated that an imminent “regulatory void” will permit prostitutes, bodyguards, drivers and booking agents to openly go about their business.

“If the stay is not extended, the public interest, communities and neighbourhoods and the proper administration of justice will suffer irreparable harm,” the Department of Justice application said.

Stephen Harper says Canadian troops could stay in Afghanistan past 2014

OTTAWA—Canadian soldiers could remain in Afghanistan past the current 2014 deadline even though many other nations are looking for a quick exit from the war.

In a plan that appears to have been hatched at NATO meetings in Brussels last week, the U.S. is seeking support from Canada and Australia to form a force of elite commandos that will remain in the troubled country when other nations leave. Their role would be to hunt down enemy insurgents in Afghanistan and train Afghan forces.

On the sidelines of the meeting of NATO defence and foreign ministers, U.S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta reportedly met with Defence Minister Peter MacKay and his Australian counterpart Stephen Smith to discuss the possibility of a prolonged stay.

After ending their Kandahar combat role last year, about 1,000 Canadian troops have been involved in a Kabul-centred training mission that is slated to end in 2014. Australia is keen to wrap up its combat mission next year, but Prime Minister Julia Gillard has said she is open to a “limited special-forces contribution.”

Harper hinted Wednesday that he is on the same page after a report on the planned military extension made its way to the floor of the Commons.

Activist sues G20 undercover officer who was his ‘good friend’

Julian Ichim, the anti-poverty activist once accused of being a G20 co-conspirator, has filed a notice of claim to sue the Crown, Toronto police and his former “good friend” who was actually an undercover officer tasked with infiltrating activist groups.

In a notice filed with the Crown's office Wednesday, Ichim alleges Ontario Provincial Police Const. Bindo Showan — who went by the name “Khalid Mohammed” — overstepped his lawful authority by encouraging criminal acts and driving drunk while working as an undercover police officer ahead of the June 2010 summit in Toronto.

Ichim claims his Charter rights were violated and that Showan provided “false and misleading information” that resulted in his unlawful arrest. He also alleges he was beaten by Toronto police, strip searched and subjected to “cruel and unusual treatment” at the G20 temporary jail.

The 32-year-old Kitchener resident is suing Showan, the province and the Toronto Police Services Board for $4 million in damages.

“The defendant Showan attempted to manipulate the Plaintiff into making decisions that were objectively not in the interests of the Plaintiff and instead were in the interests of the police,” the notice of claim reads.

As Tories crack down, records show few charities fund political activism

The Conservatives are clamping down on the political activities of registered charities, but tax returns show only a tiny fraction of Canadian organizations spend money for political purposes.

An analysis of the Canada Revenue Agency's charities database conducted by The Canadian Press found 450 of the 85,000 charities registered in Canada reported spending money on political activities. That's less than 1 per cent of all charities.

It is possible the actual number could be higher, since charities self-report to the CRA.

Still, the finding that so few charities spend money politicking raises questions about the Conservatives motivation for further restricting these activities.

At least one group questioned whether new budget measures to restrict charities' political activities are actually aimed at a handful of environmental organizations that have been a thorn in the government's side.

“It's very difficult to do a surgical intervention silencing specific charities or sectors within the broader charitable community without doing damage to organizations that might be more aligned with the government's perspective on social or environmental initiatives,” said Ross McMillan of Tides Canada.

Kevin Page: Budget Watchdog Says Economy Paying Heavy Price To Eliminate Deficits

OTTAWA - Government spending restraint and cuts will lead to balanced budgets but also slower economic growth and 100,000 lost jobs, Canada's budget watchdog said Wednesday.

Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page's latest economic and fiscal report is surprising in that it agrees with the Harper government that the budget will be balanced in 2015-16 — maybe even a year earlier.

But it says fiscal soundness carries a heavy price, with Ottawa taking $52 billion out of the economy and the provinces adding another $9 billion in drag.

"The PBO expects that restraint and reductions in government spending on programs in Canada will act as a drag on economic growth and job creation, pushing the economy further away from its potential (gross domestic product) and delaying the economic recovery," the report states.

The report was posted on the PBO website Wednesday ahead of Page's testimony before the Commons finance committee on Thursday.

The report says it incorporates Finance Department multipliers for jobs and growth for its projections, and is taking the government at its word that it will limit spending increases while chopping 19,200 public service jobs.

Barney Frank: Mitt Romney 'Despicable' For Anti-Gay Views

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said Tuesday that Mitt Romney was "despciable" for his positions on gay issues, according to the Washington Blade.

Romney trivialized gay marriage and demonstrated a "willingness … to switch and become very anti-gay," Frank told a Blade reporter at a reception for the National Stonewall Democrats’ Capital Champions.

Frank, who has previously called Romney unprincipled, also dismissed his hiring of an openly gay spokesman, Richard Grenell.

“He’s got one openly gay person,” Frank told the Blade. “How many people is he going to hire? He had some openly gay people work for him when he was in Massachusetts. We’re beyond giving people credit for not overtly discriminating.”

Frank, who is retiring at the end of the term, declined to criticize President Barack Obama for not doing more on LGBT issues, but he said he would like to see the Democratic Party platform include a plank supporting gay marriage or more clearly opposing the Defense of Marriage Act. A number of prominent Democrats, including four former DNC chairs, have endorsed adding support for same-sex marriage to the platform.

Original Article
Source: Huff
Author: Ariel Edwards-Levy 

Former senior air force officer says F-35 too big a risk for taxpayers

OTTAWA - A former senior air force flight engineer says the F-35 is currently too big a risk for the Canadian taxpayer.

Retired colonel Paul Maillet, a former Green party candidate who also managed the CF-18 fleet during his time in the military, says his biggest worry about the stealth fighter program is that the aircraft is still in development.

He says it will be a decade before it's clear whether the multi-role jet lives up to its billing.

Maillet says a lot can change in aerospace development between now and 2020 and suggests that the air force consider whether unmanned drones can fill some of operational needs.

Speaking on behalf of the Rideau Institute, an Ottawa-based, left-leaning think-tank, Maillet said the Harper government should take a lesson from its experience with the CH-148 Cyclones, the maritime helicopters ordered by Paul Martin's Liberals.

The choppers are still in development, years behind schedule and far over budget.

Environmental rules should be better, not easier

Few people would argue against making environmental review processes and regulations more efficient -- as long as they're effective. But changes announced in the recent federal budget don't do that. Instead, they make it easier for the federal government and industry to push through projects that could harm the environment and the economy, and limit the ability of ordinary Canadian citizens to have a say in matters of national importance.

Based on the budget announcement you'd think delays and duplication in the environmental review process are the biggest issues. They're not. As the Pembina Institute points out, the equivalent of one major oil sands mine has been approved in each of the past five years, and the pace is increasing. Some people, including former Alberta premier Peter Lougheed, suggest we'd benefit by slowing down -- for economic and environmental reasons. When there are setbacks in the review process, they're often caused by industry's reluctance to provide timely data or by a lack of capacity within the government itself. The latter is getting worse as funding for basic monitoring and enforcement is subject to further cuts.

Eliminating environmental reviews for some projects altogether, shifting responsibility to the provinces, and severely cutting back on staff and agencies that provide management and information are not ways to make processes more efficient; they're ways to accelerate approval of major projects, making the short-term interests of industry a higher priority than protecting the air, land, and water we all need to stay healthy.

More evidence misleading calls really did affect election

The Council of Canadians is doing a heroic job of turning a complex, statistical process into news.

The process involves determining whether or not so-called robocalls in seven ridings which falsely told voters that polling stations had been changed had an impact on the election results.

The news is that there is plausible and credible evidence that such calls took place, that they targeted voters whose support for opposition parties had been identified and that some of the calls did, in essence, tell lies. They told voters that polling places had been changed, when that was not true.

There are seven ridings involved in the court case the Council is spearheading and there was only a single polling station change in all of them combined.

Thus the argument Conservatives try to make that these misleading calls were an honest "mistake" rings hollow.

If there had been lots of polling station changes at the last minute and political parties had to scramble to make sure their voters know about them, such mistakes might be possible.

But since there were zero polling station changes in six of the seven ridings where the result is now being contested, what possible reason could there be for parties to call voters to inform them of (non-existent) changes?

Danielle Smith, Stephen Harper and the art of closing the deal

There have been 28 general elections in Alberta since becoming a province, and government has changed hands in just three. So only 10.7 per cent of Alberta elections saw a new party take office.

Compare that to 29 per cent federally, 23 per cent in British Columbia, 30 per cent in Saskatchewan or 27.5 per cent in Manitoba, and you begin to see how unique Alberta’s political stability truly is.

In such a climate, it’s not surprising that so many pundits were wrong in predicting a change of government. It’s been so long since anyone has seen one in Alberta people forget what to look for.

Despite Alberta’s unique electoral history, insurgent parties face exactly the same challenges there that they do around the country, and the lesson of the 2012 Alberta election can be applied to the rest of the country because the forces at play have been seen elsewhere.

Take the federal scene.

In 2004, the new Conservative Party under Stephen Harper looked set to end 11 years of Liberal dominance. That was, until a series of minor mishaps – a ham-handed release accusing Liberals of supporting child pornography and statements by Randy White attacking federal judges – raised concerns about the values of the Conservative Party. These were amplified by the Liberal campaign and the media in the heat of a closely fought campaign.

Mining sector feels cold splash of reality

The biggest risk in mine investing isn’t geology or third-world dictators or metallurgy. The biggest danger is purely financial. It’s called dilution.

Most of us underestimate how devastating this process can be until it’s too late. Simply put, dilution is when your economic interest is watered down. If a company you've invested in sells new stock and the share count goes up more than the value of the company, your investment is diluted. The more it can sell its new shares for, the less you'll be diluted.

Waves of dilution usually herald the beginning of the end of the investing cycle in mining. I think we’re close.

By way of example consider the travails of Baja Mining Corp. (BAJ-T0.390.0051.32%) It’s a junior miner with a promising copper-cobalt-zinc project in Mexico. The company has spent hundreds of millions bringing the project to the cusp of production. In late March it told shareholders that construction of the site infrastructure was on schedule for production next year. It also said that the cost to build the mine was creeping up and that it would try to find ways to cut costs to bring the project in on budget.

No need to withhold nitty gritty detail on cuts, budget watchdog says

Government secrecy over details of spending cuts in the 2012 budget is unnecessary and prevents MPs from performing their constitutional role as watchdogs of the public purse, the Parliamentary Budget Officer warns.

In two new reports released Wednesday, Kevin Page touches on a wide range of current economic issues. The reports urge departments to address the lack of transparency over spending cuts, suggest the government is relying on overly-positive assumptions for economic growth and warn of growing inequality in Canada between regions, as well as between the rich and poor.

The PBO also estimates that four years from now, the prolonged period of federal spending cuts will shrink Ottawa’s debt-to-GDP levels down to rates not seen in Canada since 1980.

The two PBO reports include one on “Strengthening Transparency and Oversight in an Era of Consolidation,” and another on the PBO’s economic and fiscal outlook.

The first report takes issue with the fact that the government, as recently explained by Treasury Board President Tony Clement, is of the view that existing rules prevent departments from fully detailing the cuts until as late as spring 2013. The minister’s comments appeared to contradict a pledge he made before the March 29 budget was released, when he promised to provide MPs with “timely and accurate” information on spending cuts.

Greece cuts benefits to 200,000 people, some of whom were dead

ATHENS—Greece has stopped various benefits, including pensions, to 200,000 people who lied to get their monthly cheques or were in fact dead, a Greek labour ministry official said on Wednesday.

The number is roughly 2 per cent of the Greek population.

Debt-laden Athens discovered the fraud after beginning basic data cross-checks and means-testing, under pressure from its international lenders to cut its deficits.

Original Article
Source: Star
Author: Reuters

Beetles, forests, and climate change: Exchanging old mistakes for new?

hereMany sectors of Canadian society are still in shock, reeling from the recent budget cutbacks announced by the Harper Conservatives. The CBC, the National Film Board, Elections Canada, Canadian Border Services, Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Veterans Affairs, and Fisheries and Oceans have all been slashed. While the government has said it will cut 20,000 public sector jobs, the CCPA estimates that given the multiplier effect the total job loss could be as high as 72,000 by 2014-15. The CCPA has estimated that 3,500 public sector jobs will be lost in Atlantic Canada, and that doesn’t include the multiplier effect. Citizens continue to struggle to understand how the fabric of Canadian society will be affected since Treasury Board president Tony Clement has said that the full picture of which programs and personnel have been eliminated will not be fully known until the spring of 2013.

One Department hit hard is Environment Canada, particularly its programs to monitor climate and environmental change. The National Round Table on the Environment is being eliminated. The Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL), perhaps the single-most important research facility in the world in monitoring climate and environmental change in the high arctic (run, in part, by Dalhousie University researchers) is permanently closing as a result of funding cuts. And these cuts come on top of earlier cuts announced in August 2011 that slashed $ 222.2 million in spending and eliminated 1,211 jobs resulting in the elimination of the Clean Air Agenda, Air Quality Health Index, and Species at Risk programs. Researchers in the areas of climate change and clean air were cut in half, and the current round of funding cuts will reduce these even further.

PBS Frontline Investigation Into Financial Crisis Suggests Another Disaster On Horizon

Frontline's new documentary about the financial crisis probably doesn't say much you didn't already know, at least if you've followed the story. But it's a story worth telling again anyway, because memories on Wall Street and in Washington are dangerously short.

On Tuesday night PBS will air the first two parts of a four-part documentary on the crisis, called "Money, Power and Wall Street," with the second two parts to air next Tuesday, May 1.

The first hour tells the history of the credit derivatives at the heart of the crisis, while the second hour tells the blow-by-blow of the crisis itself, culminating with the bank bailouts in the fall of 2008.

Viewers familiar with all of this material -- and there's not much new in the first two hours, which could probably have been condensed to one hour without losing much -- might be confused about the point of rehashing what is by now old history. The trailer for the whole series suggests Frontline is slowly building a case, maybe to be hammered home in the final two hours next week, that the financial system is still just as primed for disaster as it was four years ago.

The second part of the documentary, airing in the second hour tonight, is more entertaining than the first, but mainly in the way oft-told horror stories are fun to hear around the campfire. Stop me if you've heard any of this before: Bear Stearns goes down because of toxic mortgage debt early in 2008. Policy makers take the summer off. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson decides to let Lehman Brothers die, to teach Wall Street a lesson. Oops! AIG and the rest of Wall Street get hundreds of billions of dollars to keep the financial system from going down the drain.

TARP Profit A Myth, Claims TARP Inspector General Christy Romero

Contrary to the Obama administration's claims, the bailouts of the financial and auto industries have not turned a profit for the U.S. government and may never turn a profit, according to a grim new assessment by the bailout's watchdog.

Even by non-financial standards the bailout has been less than a roaring success and may be helping to lay the groundwork for future financial disasters and bailouts, writes Christy Romero, the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, in her latest quarterly report to Congress, released Wednesday morning.

"It is a widely held misconception that TARP will make a profit," she writes right at the top of her 327-page report. "The most recent cost estimate for TARP is a loss of $60 billion. Taxpayers are still owed $118.5 billion (including $14 billion written off or otherwise lost)."

That directly contradicts the Treasury Department's repeated claims that the government will eventually at least break even on the bailout. So far, the government has gotten back about $300 billion of the $414 billion it has paid out to banks, but some banks paying back TARP have simply used other government money to do so, as The Huffington Post and the Wall Street Journal have reported.

UK Economy: GDP Figures For Q1 Show We Are Back In Recession

The UK returned to recession after a 0.2% fall in GDP in the first quarter of 2012, the Office for National Statistics said on Wednesday.

The decline in gross domestic product (GDP) was driven by the biggest fall in construction output for three years, while the manufacturing sector failed to return to growth, the ONS said.

The preliminary estimate, which may be revised later, means the UK is back in a technical recession - defined as two quarters of decline in a row.

The City had predicted the economy would scrape growth of 0.1% after a 0.3% fall in the previous quarter.

Reacting to the news Chancellor George Osborne said Britain was in a "very tough economic situation."

“It’s taking longer than anyone hoped to recover from the biggest debt crisis of our lifetime – even after the recent fall in unemployment. But over many years this country built up massive debts, which we are having to pay off. It’s made much harder when so much of the rest of Europe is in recession or heading into it.

CFIA Budget Cuts: Gerry Ritz Not Telling Truth About Cuts To Food Inspectors, Union Says

The federal government is misleading Canadians about the changes it’s making to Canada’s food safety measures and bowing to industry pressure in its cuts to the food inspection agency’s budget, says the union that represents food inspectors.

The Agriculture Union, a component of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, said Tuesday the changes the government is planning to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency will create a system “reminiscent of the conditions in place just prior to the listeriosis outbreak.”

In a statement to the press, the union said the CFIA’s food inspectors will be converted to “systems inspectors,” effectively creating an industry “self-policing” system reminiscent of the one in place prior to the 2008 listeriosis outbreak, in which 22 people died from eating processed meats linked to a Maple Leaf plant in Toronto.

The union also said Tuesday that CFIA executives expect to hand off a “big role” to the food industry when it comes to enforcement of food safety rules. It did not provide details.

Despite assurances by Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz that there will be no reduction in the front-line staff that inspect food products, executives at the CFIA have been telling staff that cuts are coming, the Agriculture Union said.

5 Blush-Worthy Public Expense Missteps

Canadian International Development Minister Bev Oda's $16 bottle of orange juice becomes the latest example of a public figure getting into trouble over his or her expense claims.

The minister generated headlines this week after documents obtained by The Canadian Press showed Oda refused to stay at one five-star hotel in London, England, last year and rebooked at a swanky establishment for more than double the cost.

Her office, which originally said the expenses met government guidelines, confirmed Monday the minister has personally reimbursed taxpayers for the difference in cost between the two hotels, the cancellation fee and a costly bottle of juice.

Here are a few examples of some red-faced moments in public expense reports, in which those involved likely wished they had gone back and done — or in the case of David Dingwall, said — a few things differently.

Fraudulent Election Calls 'Widespread' In 7 Ridings, Poll Suggests

A group supporting a Federal Court challenge of the election results in seven ridings says a new poll it commissioned shows fraudulent election calls were widespread and targeted at people previously identified as Conservative non-supporters.

The Council of Canadians, which announced last month it was supporting an attempt to overturn the election results in seven ridings, hired Ekos Research Associates to survey Canadians about whether voter suppression techniques were used to influence the election results in those ridings.

The poll also looked at whether the techniques deliberately targeted supporters of a particular political party.

Nine people are challenging the results of the May 2, 2011 election in the following ridings:

- Don Valley East in Ontario, won by Conservative MP Joe Daniel by 870 votes.

- Nipissing-Timiskaming in Ontario, won by Conservative MP Jay Aspin by 18 votes.

- Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar in Saskatchewan, won by Conservative Kelly Block by 538 votes.

- Vancouver Island North in B.C., won by Conservative John Duncan by 1,827 votes.

- Winnipeg South Centre in Manitoba, won by Conservative MP Joyce Bateman by 722 votes.

- Elmwood-Transcona in Manitoba, won by Conservative MP Lawrence Toet by 300 votes.

- Yukon won by Conservative Ryan Leef by 132 votes.

Wildrose Loss Stunned Some Federal Tories: A Lesson For Harper's Alberta Caucus

OTTAWA - Even as the polls were closing Monday night in Alberta, a group of federal Conservative MPs had no inkling their chosen right-wing vehicle was heading for the ditch.

Members of Stephen Harper's Alberta caucus, some of whom loudly backed the upstart Wildrose party, watched the provincial election in stunned disbelief, according to insiders.

Alison Redford's Progressive Conservatives returned to power with another strong majority, winning 61 of the province's 87 seats despite a slew of polls that had suggested Danielle Smith and the Wildrose party were en route to ending the PC dynasty. Wildrose, which began the campaign with four MLAs, ended up winning 17 seats.

The Wildrose, whose campaign staff borrowed heavily from Harper's old federal team, was ideologically attuned with Harper's Reform roots and its rejection in rock-ribbed Alberta clearly stung.

"It's pretty much an open wound today," one senior federal Conservative from Alberta said Tuesday.

Another, veteran MP Lee Richardson of Calgary, said of his Alberta caucus mates: "I know that some of them are pretty surprised — like many of media, who really bought into these polls and were walking around like experts here."

James Murdoch Lightly Grilled

According to SEC filings, James Murdoch’s base salary as chief executive of News Corporation’s Asian and European operations was $3.4 million. He was also eligible for a performance bonus of between $6 and $12 million. And a further signing bonus of 400,000 shares of company stock—presumably to secure his services from the many rivals bidding for the talents of the Harvard dropout and failed hip-hop record producer.

Those figures are worth bearing in mind when considering Murdoch minor’s response to the admirably precise summary of Robert Jay, the attorney acting as lead inquisitor to the Leveson Inquiry into the culture practice and ethics of the press, which was set up in response to the scandal last summer over revelations that reporters on the News of the World had hacked into the voicemail of various celebrities, politicians and figures in British life. At the time the hacking took place James Murdoch was busy running the British broadcaster BSkyB, but one of the first tasks he faced when he took over News International, the family’s British newspaper interests, in December 2007 was to settle a lawsuit by Gordon Taylor, head of the British football players’ union, whose phone had been hacked. The Taylor claim was significant because it exploded News Corp.’s claim that phone hacking, which first hit the headlines here with the January 2007 arrest of News of the World royal correspondent Clive Goodman, had been limited to a lone “rogue reporter.” And in agreeing to a settlement of over $ 1 million James Murdoch was paying way over the odds, leading to suggestions that the payment was “hush money” to keep the scandal under wraps.

CFPB to Take on Shadow Corporate Justice System

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced Tuesday morning a “public inquiry” into how the financial services industry uses arbitration clauses to protect itself from consumer lawsuits. These clauses are often hidden from consumers, deep in contractual fine print, and strip away basic rights to judicial review.

Banks, credit cards, cell phone companies or even employers routinely offer contracts that, in the event of a dispute, mandate an arbitration procedure in which there is not a judge or jury—but rather, a private arbitrator often chosen by the corporation being sued.

Naturally, this creates a pseudo-judicial system heavily weighted towards corporations—in California, for example, a study found that corporations won 94 percent of the arbitration proceedings. In one of the more infamous cases of an arbitrator simply rubber-stamping a corporation’s case, a Minnesota arbitrator ruled in 2006 that woman owed a credit card collection agency $7,800 for a defaulted account—except the card was taken out by an entirely different woman who happened to have the same name.

The Super-PAC Steamroller: Coming to a Town Near You!

Super-PACs are a staple of the 2012 presidential race. Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and Ron Paul all have at least one. The Karl Rove-inspired American Crossroads super-PAC is so powerful that it has begun elbowing aside the Republican National Committee as the key force in national GOP politics.

Now a new breed of super-PACs is taking aim at state and local campaigns—elections where they may get even more bang for their buck.

Some of the new super-PACs are state-level groups that are also active in national politics. Others—including USA Super-PAC, created earlier this month by conservative attorney James Bopp Jr.—are organized at the federal level but will focus on specific primaries and state races.

Bopp, the Republican attorney who argued Citizens United all the way to the Supreme Court, says his group will back true conservative candidates in Republican primary contests around the country. He won't say which ones, or how much money the group will spend.

164 Anti-Immigration Laws Passed Since 2010? A MoJo Analysis.

Editors' Note: Read our primer on Supreme Court oral arguments about Arizona's strict anti-illegal immigration law and read how immigration policy already affects people in the state.

To get a better sense of the legislative push that most famously included Arizona's draconian SB 1070, Mother Jones built a database of the 164 (often curiously similar) anti-immigration laws passed by state legislatures in 2010 and 2011. As you can see below, the number of restrictive laws jumped last year, when five states—Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina, and Utah—passed Arizona-style bills. For a state-by-state look at these copycat laws, undocumented population demographics, political contributions from the private-prison industry, and more, scroll down the page. See our sources and dive into the full database below.

Did Arizona's SB 1070 Kill David de la Fuente?

David de la Fuente might still be alive if his pal David Salazar hadn't been short on cash one day. Both men lived in Phoenix, where they'd settled after making their separate ways north from the Mexican farming village of Colonia Emilio Carranza many years earlier. Salazar and his family came across legally in 1974, while de la Fuente arrived during the 1990s, traversing the desert on foot to cross the border illegally near Nogales, Arizona. De la Fuente, a plumber, and Salazar, a delivery driver, eventually became good friends. Their families grew close, too, often spending weekends and holidays together.

But that all changed one morning in May 2009, when Salazar asked de la Fuente for a ride to the ATM. They hopped into de la Fuente's green Nissan Maxima and drove to a nearby Wells Fargo. As they were about to turn into the parking lot, a Phoenix squad car driving behind them hit its flashers.

Stompin’ at the Savoy

Does privilege improve the performance of politicians? Do they function better not having to worry about that expensive second brandy, or the marble hot tub in their luxury suites?

After all, they can’t stand shoulder to shoulder with the wealthy elite all day and then drive off in a rental to the local Comfort Inn. Can they?

Well, as the ones who have to pay for it, most of us like to think that, yes, you bet your sweet fanny ass they can.

Not only can they spend responsibly, but they are ethically and fiscally bound to do so.

Yet, it seems upgrading to a super-exclusive hotel and blowing thousands of dollars on limousines is fine for International Development Minister Bev Oda.

In London last year, Oda racked up $1,000 a day staying in a hotel — the Savoy — that was twice the cost of the five-star hotel at which meetings were taking place, and then was shuttled back and forth in a chauffeured car. Her bill included a $16 glass of orange juice.

Oda tried to undo the damage Monday morning by paying back the difference in costs.

Climate change is reducing Arctic Ocean biodiversity: $40-M study

MONTREAL — A unique, all-season study of the effects of global warming in the Arctic Ocean shows that climate change is reducing biodiversity and posing "significant challenges to the survival of some of the Arctic's unique marine species."

The study also shows that climate change is resulting in the increased distribution through the Arctic food chain of contaminants, such as methylmercury.

The $40-million study, which was conducted by 10 scientific teams from 27 countries, spent 2007-2008 studying open water along what are called flaw leads, or breaks in multi-year ice, where they studied how global warming is changing the entire marine ecosystem in the Arctic.

"The Arctic Ocean is definitely changing on a whole lot of different fronts," said Prof. David Barber, of the University of Manitoba.

The study was released Tuesday at the Polar Year conference in Montreal. The data was gathered aboard the research icebreaker Amundsen in the Amundsen Gulf south of Banks Island in the eastern Beaufort Sea.

Common-sense will prevail in managing threats to fisheries: Ritz

ALBERTON — Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz says he welcomes the changes Fisheries and Oceans Minister Keith Ashfield announced Tuesday for protecting the productivity of Canada’s recreational, commercial and aboriginal fisheries.

“We want to put in place rules that are clear and practical and focus on the priorities of Canadians and, in doing so, we want to conserve and protect Canada’s fisheries so that they can continue to contribute to the Canadian way of life for generations to come,” Ritz said during a media conference call.

“The Fisheries Act is predicated, is about maintaining fisheries, and that’s what we’re seeking to do here,” said Ritz. “Make sure that we refocus our energies, make sure that we’re actually working on fish habitat and fisheries, not on a small canal across the back-40 somewhere that really isn’t connected.”

As for runoff from sewage systems or from farmers fields polluting fish habitat, Ritz said there are existing rules under Environment Canada and provincial guidelines that are supposed to guard against those situations.

Fisheries Act overhaul likely to reduce regulatory burden on Enbridge pipeline: minister

OTTAWA --- The federal government's planned overhaul of the Fisheries Act may reduce the regulatory burden facing companies like Calgary-based Enbridge Inc. to get approval for major projects, Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield acknowledged Tuesday.

But Ashfield rejected opposition allegations that the federal government's plan for a "more sensible and practical" Fisheries Act was a result of corporate pressure from the energy and mining sectors.

"It certainly hasn't influenced me in any way shape or form. I have never sat down with (or) had any discussions with Enbridge," he said in an interview.

Enbridge has long complained, according to internal government documents, that its proposed Northern Gateway oilsands pipeline to the B.C. Coast faces excessively "onerous" requirements under the Fisheries Act.

But Ashfield said there is broad support from farmers, municipalities, and even some conservation groups for government's new plan that shifts regulatory enforcement focus away from general fish habitat and towards specific fish and fish habitat that are of "vital" importance to the recreational, commercial and aboriginal fisheries.

Federal government partly to blame for higher retail costs: Retail Council

OTTAWA — The federal government should take a chunk of the blame for the stubbornly high cost of consumer goods in Canada when compared with prices south of the border, the retail sector said Tuesday.

Testifying at special Senate hearings probing the reasons for price discrepancies between Canada and the United States given the value of the Canadian dollar, the Retail Council of Canada (RCC) said retailers are being unfairly tarnished as the culprit.

In addition to "outdated" import duties on finished goods and a lack of harmonization of different standards and requirements, council president Diane Brisebois flagged Ottawa's system of supply management affecting dairy and poultry prices as three of the "largest contributing" factors.

"We understand that this is a sensitive issue, but if this committee is really going to look at factors that contribute to the differences in pricing between Canada and the U.S., it would be remiss in not addressing supply management in some way," Brisebois told members of the Senate finance committee.

Vendor pricing in Canada is the fourth "significant" area of concern for the council, she testified.

But it would be wrong to assume that large, multinational retailers "should be able to negotiate one price from suppliers for the products they sell in North America," Brisebois said, pointing out the majority of products that retailers buy are sourced in Canada.

Libya bans religious parties under new law

Libyan authorities on Tuesday passed legislation governing the formation of political organizations which rules out religious, regional and tribal platforms and bans foreign funding.

“Political parties and associations should not be built on the basis of regional, tribal or religious affiliation,” a member of the ruling National Transitional Council told AFP.

“They cannot be an extension of a political party abroad or receive foreign funding,” said Mustafa Landi, a member of the legal committee.

Political parties must have a minimum of 250 founding members while associations need only 100, according to legislation which was agreed on late Tuesday, he said.

Libya’s electoral committee warned on April that legislation on forming political parties must be adopted soon if June elections are to go ahead as scheduled.

But even without it, dozens of parties have launched in the past months with the intention of contesting elections to a constituent assembly, which should be held by June 19.

A full 120 of the assembly’s seats are reserved for independent candidates but political associations are to contest the remaining 80.

Political organizations of any kind were banned for decades under the iron-fisted rule of Muammar Qaddafi, who was toppled and killed in last year’s popular uprising.

Original Article
Source: alarabiya
Author: AFP

Wildrose to reconsider conscience rights, climate-change policies

Danielle Smith, the Wildrose Party’s rookie leader, is prepared to dismantle key parts of her election platform after Albertans kept her right-wing party from forming government.

The list of policies she is willing to reconsider were some of the most divisive issues in the 28-day campaign. And while softening her party’s stance on a number of social issues may convince some voters to warm to Wildrose, she risks upsetting the conservative voters who gave her enough power to take over as Alberta’s Opposition Leader.

“You can only govern with a mandate from the people, and if the people aren’t interested in going a certain direction, you have to be the one to change,” she said in an interview Tuesday. “You have to be the one to modify your policies to be able to fit where Albertans are. … There are clearly some policies that cause them some pause, cause them some concern. And we have to address those.”

The party must revisit its policy on conscience rights, its desire to set up an Alberta pension plan and establish a provincial police force. Wildrose’s environmental stance also needs to be reviewed, she said.

“I think we have to revisit our position on climate change and whether or not Albertans want to see a more comprehensive policy to deal with greenhouse gases,” she said. During the election, Ms. Smith said the science around climate change is not settled.

F-35 a 'serious mismatch' for Canada's North, retired colonel says

OTTAWA — A retired air force fleet manager fired a salvo at the F-35 Wednesday, saying the strike fighter is ill-suited for Arctic missions and may become obsolete soon after it enters service.

Retired colonel Paul Maillet, an aerospace engineer and former CF-18 fleet manager, said the F-35 does not meet the needs of the government's Canada First Defence Strategy, a key pillar of which is Arctic sovereignty.

"How do you get a single engine, low-range, low-payload, low-manoeuvrability aircraft that is being optimized for close air support . . . to operate effectively in the North?" he asked.

Maillet called the F-35 a "serious strategic mismatch" to Canada's military needs, and suggested the Royal Canadian Air Force would be better off purchasing a fleet of F-18 E/F fighters.

Maillet, who twice ran as a federal Green party candidate, said the billions the government is planning to spend on F-35s would be better used on schools and health care.

Maillet, who now works as an anti-corruption consultant, said a truly competitive bidding process was never held. Instead, he said, the decision was made by the "Old Boys club of air force generals and politicians" under pressure from allies and the "military industrial complex."

Electoral Boundary Commissions: Canadians May Be Sidelined From Major Revamp Of Ridings Under New Tory Rules

Canadians risk being sidelined from a major reconfiguration of the country’s electoral map by new rules brought in by the governing Tories that limit public consultation and dramatically accelerate the pace of the process, critics say.

Ten electoral boundary commissions, one in every province, are quietly at work devising ways to re-jig overpopulated ridings in their region based on new census data.

The chore, which is revisited every 10 years when new population data is released, is made more difficult this time around by the addition of 30 new ridings, seats that will be added at the next federal election in 2015. The Conservative government has argued the additional MPs are necessary to give voters in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec fairer representation.

    This is the first part of an ongoing series on the redrawing of Canada's electoral map. Thursday, we'll look at fears the process may be manipulated for political gain and Friday an example of a riding where those fears have become all too real. On Friday, we'll also be looking at some of the most important ridings likely to be affected by the coming changes. As always, you can find these stories and more on HuffPost Canada's Politics page.

Many insurers reject requests - will yours?

Suppose you’re driving your car with three passengers and you hit a deer. No one is hurt, except the animal.

Your insurance company quickly pays $24,000 to cover repairs to your damaged car. It’s happy to protect you from financial harm after an accident.

Now suppose you and your passengers are all injured after hitting the deer. This time, the insurance company is slower to respond.

It may turn down your requests to be repaid for rehabilitation treatments not covered by the health care system (such as physiotherapy or psychological counselling). It may treat you as fakers, exaggerating your injuries.

Related: Why women pay less for insurance

You and your passengers are entitled to maximum benefits of $3,500 each, or $14,000 in total, under Ontario’s minor injury guideline. That’s far less than the $24,000 paid for car repairs.

But you may fight for months — perhaps even years — to get the amount owed to you.

Alberta election proves Red Tories alive and well

When Stephen Harper took over the right in 2004, his victory appeared to signal the demise of that stock figure in Canadian politics, the Red Tory.

Harper’s more muscular brand of conservatism had little use for those who thought government had a legitimate role in restraining markets.

Some Red Tories, like former federal minister Sinclair Stevens, left the new Conservative Party. Those that remained tended to keep their heads down.

But as events in Alberta and Ontario showed this week, Red Toryism — that peculiar Canadian mix of conservative and communitarian ideologies — is alive and well.

In Alberta, the decisive election win by Alison Redford’s ruling Progressive Conservatives surprised pollsters and analysts — including me.

After 41 years of PC rule in the province, a victory by Danielle Smith’s upstart Wildrose Party had seemed inevitable.

For one thing, Smith is far closer ideologically to Harper — particularly on issues like climate change (neither thinks it is real).

International Polar Year Conference: Federal Scientists Closely Monitored At Conference

Media liaison staffers have been sent to an international polar conference in Montreal to shadow Canadian government scientists during interviews, in what critics are calling the latest example of extreme information control by the Harper Conservatives.

Hundreds of researchers from around the globe arrived in Montreal this week to attend the International Polar Year Conference, but those scientists working for Environment Canada were also accompanied by so-called "media relations contacts" tasked with monitoring and recording interactions with the press.

Ahead of the conference, the Canadian participants were reportedly sent a memo ordering them to have a government liaison present during conversations with reporters.

While none of the government scientists would speak on record about their media monitors, one researcher told CBC's Dan Halton off-camera that the strict communications measures were an embarrassment to Canada.

Some leading researchers worry the media intervention may undermine Canada's scientific reputation abroad.

Cost Of Diabetes: Disease's Impact Felt Around The World

The number of people affected by diabetes worldwide is on the rise -- and with it, the price tag for everything touched by the disease.

Estimates have put the numbers as high as 552 million for those who could have diabetes by 2030, and as is shown in the chart above, certain countries are facing a more difficult time with it than others. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has 34 countries in its membership, including the top five countries with diabetes: Mexico, United States, Portugal, Canada and Germany. The organization is starting to sound the alarm on the projected impact.

At the European Diabetes Leadership Forum in Copenhagen today, OECD Deputy Director General Yves Leterme stated, "Preventing and treating diabetes and its complications costs about €90 billion annually in Europe alone. With health budgets already under great pressure and national budgets severely strained, for the sake of our health and the health of our economies we must find ways to prevent and manage diabetes in a cost-effective manner."

In the United States, the current direct and indirect costs of diabetes total $174 billion annually, with experts predicting a total of $3.4 trillion by the time the year 2020 rolls around. In Canada, the number is estimated to reach $16.9 billion annually by the end of the decade.

Apart from medication and treatment, the organization points to societal problems, like reduced employment opportunities and salaries for those affected -- for example, obese people earn up to 18 per cent less than non-obese people. There's also the issue of depression, for which those with diabetes have been found to be at a higher risk.

Prevention programs put into place around the world have demonstrated that certain lifestyle behaviours -- specifically, a healthy meal plan, regular physical activity and weight control -- can bring the risk of getting the disease down by almost 50 per cent.

Original Article
Source: Huff
Author: Rebecca Zamon 

Tensions high as public servants compete for fewer jobs

Public servants say office tension is palpable and stress levels are high inside federal offices as employees given surplus notifications compete with each other for the remaining jobs.

Last month the federal government said it would cut approximately 19,200 positions over the next three fiscal years. Since that time, notices have gone out to thousands of employees across departments telling them their job may be affected by job cuts.

In some cases, employees have been told they will need to compete with others in their workplace for the remaining positions.

Ottawa workers CBC News spoke to at the Tunney's Pasture complex — the home of several federal offices — said the notifications of potential job losses make for a high-anxiety workplace.

"I was just in a training course," said one worker, on condition of anonymity. "And three quarters of the people there, somebody in their department has been made surplus. People have gotten their notifications, but it's still a long drawn-out process so it's very stressful."

Might of the right: Conservatives winning hearts and minds across the country

Is Canada getting more conservative?

Some days, it sure seems that way. Monday’s Alberta election was a contest between a conservative party and a far-right conservative party. The left-of-centre options didn’t count for much. All of them were much more focused on getting their deposits back than on forming government.

Next door in British Columbia and Saskatchewan, the right rules the roost. B.C. Premier Christy Clark is Liberal in name only, and is surrounded by former advisers to Conservative Leader Stephen Harper. In Saskatchewan, Premier Brad Wall has been associated with conservative causes and parties for his entire life.

Quebec’s Jean Charest, while theoretically a Liberal, was a card-carrying Conservative for decades. In the Atlantic, Conservatives govern in Newfoundland and New Brunswick.

And federally, of course, Harper united the right in 2004, and went on to defeat the once-mighty Liberal Party thereafter, and now governs with a comfortable majority.

Meanwhile, the trade union movement is in decline, and governments everywhere — even non-conservative ones — are pushing tough austerity measures.  Conservative voices control Canada’s newsrooms: Only one English-language newspaper, for instance, didn’t endorse Harper in the 2011 federal general election.

The Commons: A simple misunderstanding

The Scene. Thomas Mulcair had a simple question. And lest the House fail to appreciate the simplicity, he said so explicitly.

“Mr. Speaker,” the opposition leader prefaced, “I want to ask a very simple question of the Prime Minister.”

Specifically and simply, Mr. Mulcair wanted to know whether Mr. Harper thought it acceptable for a minister to knowingly mislead Parliament in the exercise of its functions.

Mr. Harper seemed to seek a word of clarity from Peter Van Loan before rising. “Mr. Speaker,” he said, “I am not certain of the subject of that question, but obviously I expect that ministers tell the truth at all times.”

That much established for the record, Mr. Mulcair moved to his second question.

“Mr. Speaker, on April 5 in this House the Minister of National Defence said about the F-35, and I quote: ‘No money has been spent on this file,’ ” Mr. Mulcair recounted, speaking deliberately.

It will perhaps not surprise you to learn that the NDP leader did not raise this for the purpose of saluting Peter MacKay’s commitment to clarity and transparency.

Aerospace industry worries as Tories backtrack on F-35 purchase

The federal government is officially back-tracking on the process of buying the F-35 stealth fighter, part of a reassessment of the purchase that’s causing anxiety among Canadian companies hoping to tap billions of dollars in spin-off work for the jets.

The Department of National Defence has issued a significant correction to the “Plans and Priorities” report it tabled in Parliament for MPs last year.

In an “erratum” note, it says the 2011-12 report wrongly described the F-35 purchase as being in “definition” project phase, which generally means an item has already received preliminary approval from Treasury Board, the gatekeeper for federal spending.

Instead the decision to buy a next-generation fighter is being reclassified as being in “option analysis” phase, which means Ottawa is still determining what it needs in terms of a plane.

In the note, National Defence blames an unknown bureaucrat for the snafu, saying someone made a “typographical error” in the 2011-12 “Report on Plans and Priorities.”

The annual Reports on Plans and Priorities are an important accountability exercise for federal departments, which must file these documents in the Commons each year.

Beyond Greenwashing

Businesses need to ditch the spin and become transparent about their true environmental credentials.

What’s happening with green business these days? Plenty, according to Kathryn Cooper, director of the Sustainability Learning Centre. Cooper, who has been one of Ontario’s leading sustainability consultants since 2009, views the greening of business as a long, slow boil – a slowly growing field of practice that might well have grown faster if the recession had not hit so hard. She has seen sustainability come into companies by a number of different routes, starting with environmental management of operations and the desire to be certified ISO 14000.

In recent years, she has also seen it percolating through purchasing and the greening of the supply chain. She sees new interest in sustainability and accountability worldwide among project managers as well as designers. Five years ago, environmental concerns were just another silo in management thinking, but now the approach is much more integrated, emanating from many touch points within a company. That said, the marketing practice of “greenwashing,” or putting a green “spin” on business as usual, is still widespread.

During her 13-year tenure as director of training at the Guelph Technology Centre, Cooper found that there was a silver lining, or maybe a green hue, to the clouds of recession: For companies that had weathered the economic downturn, it seemed that adversity had acted as a catalyst for critical thinking, and, at the same time, people started promoting eco-efficiency training as a way to reduce costs in areas like energy, water, and waste.

Death by a Thousand Cuts

On the slow demise of Aboriginal civil society by government design.

Hardly a week passes without the news of yet another Aboriginal organization losing its federal funding, and being forced to shut down as a result.

The hit list thus far includes the First Nations Statistical Institute, the National Aboriginal Health Organization and the National Centre for First Nations Governance. The health promotion programming and research capacity of some key organizations, such as the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the Native Women’s Association of Canada, have also been scaled back following federal cuts, the exact details of which have not been made public.

Which group might be next is anyone’s guess.

Budget cuts, of course, are always about much more than fighting the deficit. Where governments choose to cut tells us something about what they value, and how they understand the public good. Federal funding cuts to Aboriginal organizations are part of a worrying trend in silencing advocacy and capacity-building in sectors of civil society that may not share the views and priorities of the current government.

Harper and the Charter: setting the record straight

OAKVILLE, ONT.—Last week we marked the 30th anniversary of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

For many Canadians, this was a key milestone in our nation’s constitutional history if only because it gave them a unique opportunity to bash Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Why bash Harper over the Charter’s anniversary?

Well on the surface at least, Harper’s critics attacked him because his government allegedly didn’t do enough to commemorate the anniversary.

And indeed, there were no “Charter Day” parades, no 21-gun salutes, no ice sculptures of Pierre Trudeau signing the Constitution Act.

In fact, all the Harper government did was issue a bland news release, which made absolutely no mention of Trudeau’s greatness.

Former prime minister Jean Chrétien called this disappointing while Liberal MP Irwin Cotler called it “myopic.”

Judicial system without aboriginal or minority judges simply not fair

OTTAWA—With little fanfare, the government cancelled this year’s Mathieu Da Costa Challenge program.

The program, launched in 1996 after the Parliament of Canada officially recognized Black History Month, was designed to educate young Canadians on the role racial diversity played in shaping our nation. Instead, the Conservatives replaced the challenge with a major commemoration of the War of 1812.

Parks Canada’s black history portal, launched as part of a decade-long diversity education initiative, no longer mentions Da Costa’s name.  There is an oblique reference unnamed persons of “African descent” accompanying Samuel de Champlain, but in keeping with the government’s new direction, the emphasis is on black soldiers, starting with, you guessed it, the war of 1812.

I have nothing against soldiers, but by expunging Da Costa, we ignore a seminal moment in the birth of our country.

Da Costa was an African linguist/explorer who spoke multiple languages, including the eastern Algonquian dialect that permitted him to interpret between Samuel de Champlain and the Mi’kmaq people of the New World.

Health Canada cuts signal changing government role in health care: experts

The federal government has been fundamentally changing the traditional role of government in Canadian health care, and the cuts to health programs are the latest sign that it is washing its hands of the portfolio, say experts.

“They’ve clearly indicated that they’re sort of stepping away from the health portfolio as much as they possibly can,” said Allan Maslove, public policy professor at Carleton University.

“In terms of playing a role in what’s going to happen to the healthcare system at large or what’s going to happen to particular segments to it, like in the aboriginal population, they’ve clearly indicated they are no longer interested in being a player,” he added.

Health Canada will be expected to save $200.6-million by 2014-15, according to the 2012 budget. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research will be expected to save $30-million, Public Health will save $68-million in that time, and a number of organizations, like the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission and the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board will also be making cuts.

The National Aboriginal Health Organization and Assisted Human Reproduction Canada will be shutting down completely in the coming year.

In the past three weeks, more than 1,100 Health Canada employees have been told they could lose their jobs, and the department expects to cut a total of 840 positions. The department said that there are still a small number of employees who will receive affected letters at a later date.

Opposition parties accuse government of being in contempt of Parliament over F-35s

PARLIAMENT HILL—Contempt of Parliament accusations flew in the Commons once again Tuesday as the opposition parties ramped up pressure on the government over the $25-billion F-35 fighter jet project, and a dramatic ultimatum by the NDP chair of the House Public Accounts Committee made the government blink and agree the federal auditor general should be the first witness in an inquiry into the affair.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair (Outremont, Que.) and interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae (Toronto Centre, Ont.) confronted Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Calgary Soutwest, Alta.) with accusations Associate Defence Minister Julian Fantino (Vaughan, Ont.) and his department were in contempt of Parliament for allegedly misleading Parliament over the cost of the proposed fleet of 65 stealth warplanes, while Liberal and NDP MPs invoked images of the 2011 confrontation over contempt findings that led to the dissolution of Parliament and an election.

The Commons front in the F-35 clash centred on Auditor General Michael Ferguson’s claim, in a report earlier this month on the project, that the Department of National Defence withheld billions of dollars in estimated costs last year when it attempted to refute a report from Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page that estimated the stealth jets would cost up to $29-billion over their lifetime, as opposed to $14.7-billion National Defence and the government were claiming.

Canada suspending Burma sanctions

Canada is suspending its sanctions against Burma in recognition of its moves towards democracy.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says he has seen encouraging steps in Burma, also known as Myanmar, after former political prisoner Aung Sang Suu Kyi won a parliamentary seat in historic elections there earlier this month.

Baird says Canada's sanctions on imports, exports and financial transactions will be suspended, although an embargo will be maintained on sales of arms and military technology.

The minister visited Burma, last month and personally conferred honorary Canadian citizenship on Suu Kyi, a Nobel laureate.

Baird also visited Burma's new, reform-minded civilian leadership, and though impressed, said at the time he wanted to wait before easing restrictions on the repressive South Asian country.

Earlier this week, the European Union suspended some sanctions against Burma for a year, but retained an arms embargo.

Original Article
Source: CBC
Author: The Canadian Press

Stay down, Newt! Mitt Romney rolls through five U.S. primaries

WASHINGTON—Republican front-runner Mitt Romney coasted to victory on Tuesday night in five state primaries — a rout that appeared to be finally prompting Newt Gingrich to ponder whether it’s time to drop out of the race.

An uncharacteristically realistic Gingrich said earlier this week that his campaign would need “to take a deep look at what we are doing” if the results of Tuesday’s primaries were dismal.

He had hoped to win Delaware, a state where he campaigned heavily. But Romney triumphed there, as well as in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New York and Rhode Island.

As primary day dawned, Gingrich had taken on a more familiar combative tone, declining to answer questions about whether he’d drop out soon.

Indeed, following his introspective remarks to NBC News on Monday, Gingrich suggested he was sticking to the original plan: to remain in the race until the party convention in Florida in August.

“We are going to go to Tampa fighting for an American energy independence plan,” Gingrich told supporters in North Carolina.

Danielle Smith: Undecided voters key in Wildrose defeat

CALGARY—A coalition of Liberal and NDP supporters backing the Progressive Conservatives and a last-minute decision by undecided voters to stick with the government led to the surprise defeat of the Wildrose Party, said Alberta’s new opposition leader Danielle Smith.

Defying all polls — including internal party surveys — that had her leading the Tories by numbers as high as double digits, the right-of-centre party failed to unseat the Conservatives.

Smith had to settle for winning her seat in High River, one of 17 the party took in the 87-seat legislature. The Progressive Conservatives won a comfortable majority with 61 seats and extended their record term in power with a mandate that takes them to 45 years in government. The Liberals won five seats while the NDP won four.

“I think a lot of undecided voters made up their mind in the last 24 hours, when people looked at the agenda the government was putting forward and the agenda we were putting forward, they felt we needed a little more time to season,” said Smith, adding that strategic voting helped give the Conservatives the majority.

ORNGE execs’ girlfriend, daughter did $6.7-million report using Google

The daughter of ORNGE’s chairman and the girlfriend of founder Chris Mazza did the small amount of research that brought the air ambulance’s for-profit arm a $6.7-million payment from an Italian helicopter firm.

Two small binders of market research, including press clippings, were assembled by Kelly Long (Mazza’s girlfriend, who rose to be associate vice-president of ORNGE) and Carrie Anne Brunet (a junior ORNGE executive who is the daughter of now former ORNGE chairman Rainer Beltzner).

Beltzner is to testify Wednesday at Queen’s Park hearings into the ORNGE affair and is expected to be asked about the controversial payment.

Neither Long nor Brunet could be reached for comment. Both lost their jobs at ORNGE after the Star exposed financial and patient care problems at the provincially funded service.

Ontario Provincial Police are investigating various allegations surrounding ORNGE, including one involving AgustaWestland’s payment of $6.7 million to Mazza’s for-profit company shortly after ORNGE purchased 12 helicopters at a cost of $144 million, a deal financed with taxpayers’ money.