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, December 12, 2012

Tories Hit Reset Button On F-35 As Report Finds Program's Cost Will Be $45.8 Billion

OTTAWA - The cascading multibillion-dollar cost of the celebrated F-35 stealth aircraft has prompted the federal government to "hit the reset button" on its controversial effort to replace Canada's aging fighter fleet.

Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose said Wednesday the entire process would be reviewed in the face of a long-awaited KPMG report that warns the Lockheed Martin-built F-35s could cost Canada as much as $45.8 billion over 42 years.

Commons Speaker rejects Tory arguments, upholds MPs' rights to oppose government

OTTAWA - The Speaker of the House of Commons has flatly rejected Conservative procedural arguments in order to protect MPs' roles in holding to account a majority government.

The latest Conservative omnibus budget bill — which cleared its final vote Wednesday in the Senate — sparked a procedural battle over how many separate votes the opposition could force, and which MPs would be allowed to propose changes.

Federal Court can stop U.S.-style voter suppression from taking root in Canada

In Tuesday's Globe and Mail Lawrence Martin writes: "The Supreme Court threw out a bid to have a result in Etobicoke Centre thrown out, setting a very high bar in so doing for anyone trying it."

Martin was referring to the so-called Opitz case, named after Conservative MP Ted Opitz, who very narrowly won the 2011 federal election in Toronto’s Etobicoke Centre.

A lower court had overturned Opitz's victory because of a number of voting irregularities (voters who did not have proper identification, that sort of thing), but the Supreme Court overturned the lower court.

South African church delegation returns from occupied Palestine

A group of twelve South African Christian leaders and members visited the occupied state of Palestine from 2 – 9 December. The delegation includes Southern Africa heads of the Methodist and Presbyterian Churches, the Secretary General of the Evangelical Alliance of South Africa, a senior member of the Dutch Reformed Church and a representative of South African youth.

We did not expect the extent to which Israel violates international laws to oppress the Palestinian people. Our exposure to East Jerusalem and the West Bank was overwhelming, one which traumatised us. However, even though we experienced that the Palestinians live in open-air prisons, they were still able to inspire us with their dignity and their commitment for a just peace based on human dignity for both themselves and the Israelis. “We want more than human rights,” they told us, “we want our human dignity and reconciliation”.

CIA’s request to keep torture details secret in Guantanamo trial granted

Details of the CIA’s interrogation program will remain secret, a Guantanamo judge has ruled in granting the Pentagon’s request to censor testimony of the five detainees accused of orchestrating the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

The ruling was quickly condemned by civil libertarians who have accused the U.S. government of using Orwellian restrictions to avoid accusations of torture.

Auditor general’s report: Ontario slow to catch tax dodgers

Ontario’s tax collectors don’t jump on deadbeats quickly enough, leaving the cash-strapped province owed $1.4 billion it may never see, Auditor-General Jim McCarter warned in his annual report Wednesday.

And as Premier Dalton McGuinty’s government threatens public sector pay freezes to help eliminate a $14.4-billion deficit, McCarter found the costs of Crown attorneys, Ontario Provincial Police and the youth criminal justice systems rising at alarming levels despite declining crime rates — with OPP officers preferring 12-hour shifts that cover slow overnight periods but give them more days off.

It’s election time in the courtroom

OTTAWA—The parallels with the Rob Ford follies may not be exactly precise, but our political battles have again moved into the forum of the black robes, high ceilings and wood-panelled walls.

The Toronto mayor blustered his way into a court and his current problems. The robocalls case, better described as the Conservative vote suppression case, being heard at Federal Court here, is much more complex.

F-35 deal scrapped as Conservative government begins new search for fighter jet

OTTAWA—The federal government is launching a sweeping new search for the next fighter to safeguard Canadian skies, setting aside a controversial plan to go with the Lockheed Martin F-35.

Battered by criticism that its original decision to buy 65 F-35s was done without an open competition, federal officials on Wednesday announced they were going back to square one to find a replacement for the CF-18 Hornets.

Wave Power to Prove Its Mettle with 30 Megawatts to be Built Off Mexico's Coast

Wave power is the oft-forgotten cousin of solar and wind power. It has huge potential, but it is not quite as far along as the better known sources of clean power, so it tends to be overlooked. But it shouldn't! To clean up our power grid we'll need all the help we can get. Granted, in many places where wave power would work, offshore wind power would also work, but that might not be the case everywhere (ie. very deep water), and if wave power's cost can be brought down enough, that might not even matter.

Auditor General says Presto smart card cost has ballooned to $700 million

Those Presto fare cards that were supposed to make commuting a breeze have turned into a mighty expensive ride for Ontario taxpayers.

The cost of Metrolinx’s green smart cards has ballooned to about $700 million from the original $250 million, 10-year agreement between the province and supplier, Accenture.

Sean FitzPatrick is third ex-Anglo Irish Bank executive to be arrested in 24 hours

The former head of Anglo Irish Bank, Sean FitzPatrick, has been arrested by Irish police in connection with alleged financial irregularities at the bank.

Mr FitzPatrick has been appearing in court in Dublin.

He is the third former senior executive from Anglo Irish Bank to appear in court within the past 24 hours.

The Animus of Antonin Scalia

“Justice Scalia, I’m gay, and as somebody who is gay I find these comparisons extraordinarily offensive,” Duncan Hosie, a freshman at Princeton, said to Antonin Scalia on Monday. In front of eight hundred other students who had come to hear the Justice speak, Hosie cited Scalia’s dissents in two crucial gay-rights cases, Romer v. Evans, from 1996 (the one in which Scalia wrote, “But I had thought that one could consider certain conduct reprehensible—murder, for example, or polygamy, or cruelty to animals—and could exhibit even ‘animus’ toward such conduct. Surely that is the only sort of ‘animus’ at issue here: moral disapproval of homosexual conduct….”) and Lawrence v. Texas, from 2003 (“The Texas statute undeniably seeks to further the belief of its citizens that certain forms of sexual behavior are “immoral and unacceptable,” Bowers, supra, at 196—the same interest furthered by criminal laws against fornication, bigamy, adultery, adult incest, bestiality, and obscenity…. Even if the Texas law does deny equal protection to “homosexuals as a class,” that denial still does not need to be justified by anything more than a rational basis, which our cases show is satisfied by the enforcement of traditional notions of sexual morality.”) Hosie, who is eighteen, and was a small child when both of those cases were decided, wanted to know if Scalia, who is seventy-six, and the longest serving justice on the Supreme Court, had any second thoughts, if only about his tone.

Fed To Keep Rates Near Zero Until Unemployment Drops Below 6.5 Percent

WASHINGTON -- The Federal Reserve sent its clearest signal to date Wednesday that it will keep interest rates super-low to support the U.S. economy even after the job market has improved significantly.

The Fed said it plans to keep its key short-term rate near zero until the unemployment rate reaches 6.5 percent or less – as long as expected inflation remains tame. Unemployment is now 7.7 percent.

I'm in a Life-Threatening Abusive Relationship...With My Government

Although thousands of indigenous people all over Canada rallied together under the banner of Idle No More on December 10, there has been very little media coverage on the movement. Most of what is being said in the mainstream media is focused on Bill C-45. I'd like to make it clear...they're getting it wrong.

Chief Theresa Spence of Attawapiskat did not launch a hunger strike over a single piece of legislation. The women who are planning on supporting her in a nationwide fast, in relay, are not doing this because of a single piece of legislation. Canada, this is not just about Bill C-45 or even all the other Bills rammed through Parliament lately.

Harper’s warning to foreign state-owned firms masks deeper ambiguity in new rules: experts

The impact of Ottawa’s new restrictions on foreign state-owned enterprises on the wider business climate will take years — and more regulatory decisions — to determine, said several analysts who spent the last several days deciphering the new rules.

While simultaneously approving over $20 billion in foreign takeovers during a rare news conference Friday evening, Prime Minister Stephen Harper also announced that the oilsands would from now on be off-limits to foreign SOEs and that similar firms in other sectors would receive extra scrutiny for any “influence” by their home governments.

Clear evidence of voter suppression exists, applicants’ lawyer argues

OTTAWA — The lawyer leading the robocalls election case acknowledged Tuesday that he faces a challenge proving voters were disenfranchised without evidence that “there are ballots that aren’t in the ballot box.”

Steven Shrybman, the lawyer for eight voters who want the Federal Court to overturn the election results in six ridings, told Judge Richard Mosley that he is “up against the difficult task of proving the negative.”

Canadian miners won’t be at B.C. coal mine for another four years, documents say

VANCOUVER—Court documents reveal that a company planning to bring 201 Chinese miners to a project in northern B.C. would be using temporary foreign workers in its transition plans for the next 14 years.

Two unions are in court challenging temporary foreign worker permits obtained by HD Mining for its Murray River underground coal mine near Tumbler Ridge, B.C.

Down our throats: Fed-up with salmon feedlots

The issue is as tangled as cage netting washed ashore after winter storms. Forty years ago it was seen as a burgeoning industry, a salvation for fisherman, and a pathway towards a sustainable fishery that would protect wild stocks. Salmon, once a rare treat for anglers and a staple for many coastal native groups, was commodified into a mainstream supermarket fish.

Obama Administration Essentially Admits That Some Banks Are Too Big To Jail, Which Is Troubling

One of the great things about being too big to fail is that you're also too big to jail, apparently.

So saith the Obama administration, via the New York Times, in its front-page story on Tuesday about HSBC's settlement with the government over money-laundering charges. Though the British banking giant had to pay a wrist-stinging $1.9 billion, the settlement helped it avoid formal criminal charges. The NYT quotes anonymous government officials who say they were skittish about indicting HSBC because formal charges would amount to a "death penalty" for the bank, potentially roiling the financial system.

This is at least three very specific flavors of bullshit.

The EPA Is Letting Energy Companies Pollute Our Drinking Water

Federal officials have given energy and mining companies permission to pollute aquifers in more than 1,500 places across the country, releasing toxic material into underground reservoirs that help supply more than half of the nation's drinking water.

In many cases, the Environmental Protection Agency has granted these so-called aquifer exemptions in Western states now stricken by drought and increasingly desperate for water.

Newspapers Don't Care When Notable Women Die

If a notable woman dies and a major national newspaper doesn't report it, did it actually happen?

Big papers' lists of significant deaths in 2012 overwhelmingly feature men. The Washington Post put 18 women and 48 men on its list. On the other side of the country, the Los Angeles Times listed 36 women and 114 men. And lest you think this is some kind of freak 2012 phenomenon, the New York Times has consistently listed many more men than women over the last five years.

Northern Gateway: UBC Study Suggests Cost Of Worst-Case Spill Outweighs Rewards

PRINCE RUPERT, B.C. - The financial costs of a worst-case scenario tanker spill off the north coast of British Columbia could outweigh the economic rewards of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline for the region, says a study by the UBC Fisheries Centre.

The study funded by World Wildlife Fund Canada looked at the potential losses to commercial fisheries, tourism, aquaculture and port activities in the area in the event of a tanker accident.

What infantile verbal brawls tell us about the health of Parliament

Last week, Canadians witnessed very nasty jousting between Conservative House leader Peter Van Loan and NDP House leader Nathan Cullen — a despicable display of old-fashioned political machismo.

The verbal brawl resulted from Speaker Andrew Sheer’s ruling against Cullen’s point of order questioning the legitimacy of the vote on the government’s omnibus budget bill. Van Loan crossed the floor to berate Cullen for having had the audacity to question the legitimacy of the vote.

Why is this misbehaviour significant? What does it reveal about the state of Parliament and the health of Canadian democracy?

Fear is dividing Canada’s Jewish community

Canada’s Jewish community is split up the middle. Spurred by a mistaken belief in Israel’s vulnerability, a growing number of Jews in Canada are becoming single-issue voters.

As a Jew myself, I find this puzzling and more than a little disturbing. It’s rare enough for Canadians to vote exclusively based on foreign policy, let alone an issue so peripheral to Canadian grand strategy as Canada-Israel relations. The division in the Jewish-Canadian community is far from irreparable, but if left unaddressed it could pose a significant threat to the community’s long-term interests and values.

Nexen deal proves Harper is China’s plaything

Just this once, OK?

That sums up Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s terrified assent to China’s $15-billion CNOCC takeover of Calgary-based petroleum producer Nexen. From now on, he promises, he’ll only say yes under “exceptional” circumstances.

Harper had offered himself up to NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair on a platter, and Mulcair set the platter on fire during question period. It was fun to watch but that’s little comfort. Nexen’s an awful deal for Canadians.

Harper government will back bill to force unions to throw open books

OTTAWA—Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government will try Wednesday to push through legislation requiring unions to throw open their books to tax authorities for public disclosure on the Canada Revenue Agency website.

The bill comes up for a vote a day after the Michigan legislature drew international attention by passing two laws weakening organized labour’s power in a U.S. state once seen as the bulwark of the labour movement.

F-35s: How politicians get sucked into the secrecy trap

Watching the F-35 spectacle is like watching a plane wreck in slow motion. The file has been crashing for two years now and, as it finally slams into the ground, the lesson for ministers is very clear: Secrecy is your enemy, transparency is your friend.

When ministers are assigned a new portfolio, they often know almost nothing about the files they’re assuming. No one should expect them to. They may come from one of any number of backgrounds. This lack of expertise carries a risk.

F-35 fiasco: Harper needs to release the full KPMG report

I spent the morning today on Parliament Hill. Stephen Harper's government is in an absolute turmoil over the F-35 stealth fighters.

The Globe and Mail's headline is 'Ottawa scraps plan for F-35 jet,' while the National Post's reads, 'F-35 Dead in the Air.' Despite the headlines, which were spurred by an unnamed government source, the Harper government says nothing has changed. What is the truth?

Tolkien in the tar sands

I am reading The Hobbit to my son. Not that I don't trust Peter Jackson to get the story right, but Tolkien's writing really was meant to be read aloud. Try it and you'll see.

While it is difficult to imagine our Prime Minister reading fantasy novels aloud to his children, I do hope that he and Liberal leadership front-runner Justin Trudeau take in the movie. For if you can look past the trappings of dragons and magical rings, Tolkien has a lot to say about the dilemma that is increasingly at the heart of Canadian politics: what to do with the tar sands.

Anti-native racism common in Toronto health care

It’s not unusual for Dr. Chandrakant Shah to have patients come to him in tears.

“They tell me that they’ve been stereotyped and discriminated against,” he said.

Shah, who has worked in health care among native people for 45 years and is the staff physician for Anishnawbe Health Toronto, a community health care centre. He said racism against First Nations people in Toronto’s health-care system is far too common.

Canada’s international stature is slipping

Canada’s role in the world matters now more than ever. In the decades ahead we will see a dramatic shift in global power.

By 2050, China will be the world’s biggest economy, followed by the United States. India, Brazil, Mexico, Russia, Indonesia, Nigeria, South Korea, Turkey and Vietnam — all will have larger GDPs than Canada.

Who's looking out for Tim Hortons' temporary foreign workers?

Erik Flores came to Canada full of optimism that his new job at a Tim Hortons franchise near Regina would open doors to a "beautiful life."

Instead, the 21-year-old from Mexico says he found himself walking to work in the snow and living in a basement with five other Mexican men.

Scott Tranter, Republican Consultant: Voter ID And Long Lines Help Our Side

Republican campaign consultant Scott Tranter appeared on a panel Monday hosted by the Pew Center on the States to discuss the long lines and voter ID controversies that plagued the 2012 election. In his comments, Tranter seemed to imply that he believed these issues were helpful to Republicans and should be pursued for that reason.

"A lot of us are campaign officials -- or campaign professionals -- and we want to do everything we can to help our side. Sometimes we think that's voter ID, sometimes we think that's longer lines -- whatever it may be," Tranter said with a laugh.

Tranter owns Vlytics, a company that was paid more than $3,000 by former presidential candidate Mitt Romney's campaign for "data consulting."

Original Article
Source: huffington post
Author: John Stephens

Walmart Workers Model 'Minority Unionism'

A leading labor expert says the OUR Walmart campaign, which last month mounted a strike by 500 retail store employees, demonstrates the potential of an oft-debated model: what scholars call “minority unionism.”

“You’re never going to be able to organize store by store by store by store,” says Kate Bronfenbrenner, the director of labor education and research at Cornell University. “Because then Walmart would close store by store by store by store” to shut the organizing down. Instead, “they built an organization that was a Walmart workers’ organization…in stores across the country.”

Latinos Are Ready to Fight Climate Change—Are Green Groups Ready for Them?

Smart Republican strategists—yes, they do exist—acknowledge that their party’s loss of Latinos was critical to President Obama’s re-election. Alienated by Mitt Romney’s call for the “self-deportation” of undocumented immigrants, a whopping 75 percent of Latino voters backed Obama. And they turned out in large enough numbers—nearly 13 million voted, roughly 10 percent of all ballots cast—to make a decisive difference in swing states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida, according to the website Latino Decisions, which tracks Latino politics.

In Cairo, Egyptian Protesters Continue Revolution’s Legacy in Challenging Morsi’s Referendum

Sharif Abdel Kouddous reports from the streets of Cairo, where thousands of people have taken to the streets in new rallies for and against a controversial referendum backed by embattled Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. In a potential nod to the opposition, Egypt’s government now says the vote will take place on Saturday, as well as one week later. Egypt’s main opposition leaders are urging their supporters to vote "no" in the referendum instead of boycotting it.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Clackamas Town Center Shooting: Gunfire Erupts At Portland Mall

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A masked gunman wearing camouflage opened fire Tuesday in a busy Portland mall, leaving the gunman and two others dead and forcing the mall's Santa Claus and hundreds of Christmas shoppers and employees to flee or hide among store displays.

Austin Patty, 20, who works at Macy's, said he saw a man in a white mask carrying a rifle and wearing a bulletproof vest. He heard the gunman say, "I am the shooter," as if announcing himself. A series of rapid-fire shots in short succession followed as Christmas music played. Patty said he ducked to the ground and then ran.

Tim Hudak’s leaner, meaner Ontario

If Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak was hoping to give Ontarians a distinct choice at the polls next year, his “New Deal” for the public sector certainly does the trick. But do we really want to live under Hudak’s vision?

The fact that the traditionally labour-loving Liberals have already stolen his thunder with their hard line on union contracts — landing smack in Hudak austerity territory — may have so unnerved him that he veered even farther right with his “Paths to Prosperity,” a 26-page blueprint for strangling the public sector.

No new money to advance women in the RCMP, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews says

OTTAWA—The Conservative government says there won’t be any new money for the RCMP to encourage more women to enter, remain in and move up through its ranks.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews told reporters Tuesday he expected the Mounties to deliver by the end of the day a new action plan to respond to a gender bias analysis that showed barriers to the advancement of women in the force.

The Commons: Thomas Mulcair attempts to conduct an intervention

The Scene. The leader of the opposition had asked again for the Prime Minister to account for the government’s fraught relationship with the F-35 and the Prime Minister had again reassured the leader of the opposition of the government’s intent to follow a “seven-point” plan. And Mr. Mulcair was apparently ready for this.

“Mr. Speaker, instead of following their seven-point program, they should inspire themselves with 12-point programs,” the NDP leader offered, “and start by admitting they have a problem.”

Nexen and Progress takeovers approved: What next?

The federal government's announcement on Friday that it is approving two more big oilsands takeovers (by China's CNOOC and Malaysia's Petronas, both state-owned suitors) was political tap-dancing at its best. Prime Minister Harper's speech listed several reasons why takeovers by foreign state-owned firms are a problem … but then proceeded to approve $21 billion worth of them. Future takeovers by foreign state-owned firms of bitumen assets will not normally be approved, he boldly proclaimed. (This strikes me like warning a burglar who has just robbed your house that you are going to install a burglar alarm sometime in the future.) Exactly how and on what criteria oilsands takeovers by foreign SOEs is not clear (and remember, the government also promised to clarify its foreign takeover rules after the BHP/Potash debacle, but has yet to do so). Foreign companies which are not state-owned are still welcome to take over Canadian bitumen companies -- and foreign state-owned companies are still welcome to take over other (non-bitumen-centred) petroleum companies. So this purported "crackdown" on foreign takeovers is awfully narrow and unclear in its potential application.

Rick Snyder: Right To Work Bills Signed Into Law In Michigan

WASHINGTON -- Gov. Rick Snyder (R) officially made Michigan a "right-to-work" state on Tuesday, signing into law two bills that significantly diminish the power of unions.

"I have signed these bills into law. ... We are moving forward on the topic of workplace fairness and equality," he said at a press conference on Tuesday evening, just hours after the state House passed the bills.

Thousands Protest Michigan’s Anti-Union Law, But Deep Pockets of Right-Wing Backers Prevail

Michigan Republican Governor Rick Snyder has signed into law two highly controversial anti-union bills, officially making the historic union stronghold the 24th so-called "right-to-work" state in the country. On Tuesday, thousands of demonstrators flooded the state capitol in Lansing to denounce the bill as an organized attack against labor that will lower wages and diminish collective bargaining rights. We’re joined by two people who attended the demonstrations: Katie Oppenheim, a registered nurse and President of the University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council; Andy Potter, state vice president of the Michigan Corrections Organization and the chair of SEIU’s National Republican Member Advisory Committee. We also speak with Lee Fang, a reporting fellow with The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute, about how the bills were pushed through by powerful corporate interests and secretive billionaires. Michigan lawmakers are also using the lame-duck session to significantly restrict women’s reproductive rights with three bills that would ban abortion coverage in many insurance plans, and another bill that would allow employers and medical professionals to refuse to cover or provide health treatment on moral grounds.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Transgender Rights Bill Sabotaged By Tories, Says NDP MP Randall Garrison

OTTAWA - The New Democrat MP behind a bill to protect transgender Canadians from discrimination is accusing a group of Conservatives of trying to sabotage the legislation through procedural stalling tactics.

Randall Garrison's private member's bill was sent back to the Commons from the Justice committee this week unamended and without an official report, despite efforts by the NDP, the Liberals and Conservative MP Kerry-Lynne Findlay to strike a compromise.

Right-To-Work Legislation Could Come To Canada, Opposition Warns

OTTAWA - The federal opposition parties are warning that so-called "right-to-work" legislation that has passed in Michigan could soon come to Canada.

Thousands of people in that state protested Tuesday as the first of two laws designed to weaken union power passed in Michigan's Republican-dominated House of Representatives.

Two Toronto councillors show how to keep local democracy alive

It was the second Saturday in December, prime time for Christmas shopping. The Eaton Centre was jammed, the sidewalks crowded, the coffee shops packed. Grim, determined buyers jostled for advantage.

A kilometre and a half away at the Regent Park Arts and Cultural Centre, the scene was quite different. Fifty residents of downtown Toronto were working their way through the city’s 2013 budget: asking questions, raising concerns, preparing to fight for the services they valued.

Lawyer accuses Conservatives of delaying tactics in voter suppression Federal Court hearings

OTTAWA—Six Conservative MPs whose 2011 elections are being challenged over allegations of widespread attempts to suppress votes with fraudulent or misleading telephone calls have used delaying tactics to hold off Federal Court hearings on the complaints, a lawyer for voters challenging the election results told court on Tuesday.

“We did confront along the way what I would respectfully describe as a highly-adversarial and litigious opponent in the respondent MPs,” Ottawa lawyer Steven Shrybman said to Federal Court Judge Richard Mosley as he began outlining evidence and legal arguments that eight voters in the six electoral districts are using in attempt to have the results overturned.

Evidence suggests election robocalls were targeted, court hears

A lawyer arguing six Conservative MPs should lose their seats because of a targeted campaign of voter suppression says there's "no loaded gun" pointing to electoral fraud, but the evidence fits.

Steven Shrybman says he doesn't have anyone among the eight voters he represents who didn't cast a ballot in the last election.

Harper’s foreign ownership policy is incomprehensible

Once again I’m dumbfounded that Stephen Harper’s university major was economics. His new policy on foreign ownership, unveiled with fanfare late last week, is as clear as the goo extracted from the dinosaur remains at Fort McMurray.

Harper last Friday rebuked the majority Canadian public opposition to a proposed Chinese government takeover of Calgary oil producer Nexen Inc. with his approval of that $15.1-billion deal, and of a $5.2-billion Malaysian government state grab for Alberta oil and gas assets. In doing so, the PM unveiled a ballyhooed “get tough” stance on future foreign state designs on the Alberta tar sands.

Michigan Legislature gives final approval to laws limiting unions in huge defeat for labour

LANSING, MICH.—Two laws that would weaken union power in the labour stronghold of Michigan awaited the governor's expected signature after the Republican-dominated House of Representatives passed them Tuesday, a devastating and once unthinkable defeat for organized labour in a state considered a cradle of the union movement.

The House passed the anti-union bills Tuesday as hundreds of protesters shouted “shame on you” from the gallery and huge crowds of labour backers massed in the state capitol halls and on the grounds. Gov. Rick Snyder says he will sign the laws — one dealing with private sector workers, the other with government employees — as early as Wednesday.

Gaza: 'My child was killed and nothing has changed'

The morning ritual goes like this: three-year-old Ali Misharawi wakes up and reaches for his father's mobile phone. He kisses and strokes the face of his baby brother, Omar, on its small screen. Then he starts asking questions. Why is Omar in paradise? Why did you put my brother into the ground? Why can't I play with him any more?

"He asks a lot of questions. Every day he asks if Omar is alive or dead. He knows what happened, he was there, but he needs to make sense of it," says his father, Jihad Misharawi, whose family was devastated in an inferno on the first full day of last month's war. Misharawi's 11-month-old son Omar and 19-year-old sister-in-law Heba were killed instantly; his brother Ahmed, 18, died after 12 days in intensive care with burns to 85% of his body.

Robocalls: No smoking gun needed to prove electoral fraud, lawyer says

OTTAWA—The lawyer representing eight voters challenging the narrow victories of six Conservative MPs based on alleged dirty tricks argued the absence of the proverbial smoking gun does not mean there was no widespread electoral fraud.

“There is no loaded gun,” said Steven Shrybman, a lawyer who is representing the eight applicants in a Federal Court challenge seeking to overturn the results of the 2011 federal election in six ridings.