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.]

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Labour Reform Up For Debate At Tory Convention

A number of labour reform proposals on the agenda at this weekend’s Conservative party convention could be signs that the party is shifting further to the right, political observers say.

At least nine resolutions for amendments to the Conservative party’s policy book seek to crack down on the power of organized labour. The labour reform proposals are sponsored by various riding associations in Ontario, Quebec and Alberta.

Many call for an end to union political involvement, but one amendment seeks a more radical change to the Rand formula, a staple of Canadian labour relations that requires all employees in a unionized environment to pay union dues regardless of whether they join.

Smithville, Texas Oil Spill: Koch Pipeline Leaks Crude Southeast Of Austin

A Koch Pipeline Co.-owned pipeline spilled around 400 barrels, or about 17,000 gallons, of crude oil in Central Texas this week, KVUE reported.

A Texas Railroad Commission representative told the station that the spill likely came from a leak in an eight-inch diameter pipeline that delivers crude oil to refineries in Corpus Christi.

The spill, which occurred about 40 miles southeast of Austin near Smithville, has reportedly been contained. Oil did contaminate a "private stock pond and two overflow reservoirs" that are "not used by the public," according to KVUE. A 100 by 25 yard area was impacted, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

Shackles and Ivy: The Secret History of How Slavery Helped Build America’s Elite Colleges

A new book 10 years in the making examines how many major U.S. universities — Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown, Dartmouth, Rutgers, Williams and the University of North Carolina, among others — are drenched in the sweat, and sometimes the blood, of Africans brought to the United States as slaves. In "Ebony & Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities," Massachusetts Institute of Technology American history professor Craig Steven Wilder reveals how the slave economy and higher education grew up together. "When you think about the colonial world, until the American Revolution, there is only one college in the South, William & Mary ... The other eight colleges were all Northern schools, and they’re actually located in key sites, for the most part, of the merchant economy where the slave traders had come to power and rose as the financial and intellectual backers of new culture of the colonies," Wilder says.

Author: --

Oil firms asked to account for climate change risk

A group of global institutional investors have asked the world’s oil companies to determine how much risk they face from potential policies to reduce carbon emissions.

Two U.S.-based ethical investment companies — Ceres and Carbon Tracker Initiative — have written to 45 of the world’s oil companies on behalf of big pension and institutional investors to ask about how they intend to manage demands to deal with climate change.

Politics and the Canadian Language

The Senate expenses scandal, as the CBC now calls it, continues to grow, while the language used to describe it continues to shrink: we have fewer words to describe the scandal and those involved, and many of them are clichés like "bombshell" and "house of cards."

Without an extensive and nuanced vocabulary, our media provide a narrow and simplistic picture of events. Our own ability to think about those events is similarly narrowed.

Canada massively fails to meet Copenhagen targets, calls it 'progress'

Canada's carbon emissions in 2020 will be 20 per cent higher than Harper government's promised reductions under the 2009 Copenhagen Accord. More importantly, Canada's emissions will be 66 per cent to 107 per cent higher than what's actually required to do its share in meeting the 2C global warming target a new Environment Canada report revealed.

That is "significant progress" the report says without irony.

Trade deal may add $1.65B to drug bill: study

OTTAWA - The recently announced free-trade deal with Europe will likely cost Canadians hundreds of millions of dollars more for prescription drugs, says a new analysis.

The report, by two York University professors, says concessions by the federal government to cement the deal will delay the arrival cheap generic drugs by about a year, on average.

And the delay will add between $850 million and $1.65 billion — or up to 13 per cent — to the total drug bill paid annually by Canadians, either directly, through insurance plans or by provinces.

Paradis defends mining exec on aid panel

OTTAWA - Christian Paradis, Canada's new development minister, is standing firm on two controversial policies — using a mining executive as one of his key advisers and not funding abortions in cases of war rape.

Both policies will remain as Paradis moves forward in the coming months with the major task of integrating the former Canadian International Development Agency into Foreign Affairs, the minister said Wednesday.

The merger was first publicized, with no fanfare, in this year's federal budget.

Paradis is carrying forward the Conservative government's plan to integrate private businesses in Canada's overall development strategy — an approach that's been tried in places such as the United Kingdom, but that nonetheless remains unpopular with some aid groups.

Stephen Harper’s government spent over $50 million on ads in 2012, say records

OTTAWA — The federal government spent tens of millions of dollars in advertising in the last fiscal year led by major multimillion dollar marketing offensives from the Finance Department, and others touting their own policies, say new accounting records tabled Wednesday in the House of Commons.

The Public Accounts of Canada documents, tabled by Treasury Board president Tony Clement, show that the Finance Department, which has been running a long-standing advertising blitz touting the government’s economic policies, spent $15.25 million on advertising initiatives for the fiscal year, which ended on March 31, 2013.

Robocalls witnesses harassed, feared for jobs: Elections Canada

OTTAWA — Witnesses who gave key evidence against the former Conservative campaign worker accused in the robocalls affair were subjected to online harassment, and fear for their jobs if their names are published, according to Elections Canada.

Investigator Allan Mathews said in an affidavit sworn last week that the media attention surrounding his probe of robocalls in Guelph has had a “chilling effect” and discouraged some witnesses from speaking with him.

Canada, Aboriginal Tension Erupting Over Resource Development, Study Suggests

Canada has been singled out as the country with the most risk of conflict with aboriginal communities in a new study examining treatment of indigenous rights and resource development around the world.

“Canada is a developed country and it is having an implosion of the sort that we’ve only seen in the developing countries,” said Rebecca Adamson, president and co-founder of First Peoples’ Worldwide, the group that conducted the study.

“We’ve always seen this erupt when a government refuses to be clear in upholding indigenous land tenure.”

House Republicans Skip Obamacare Briefing They Furiously Demanded

For all their fury, most of the House Republicans who had demanded their own closed-door briefing from the administration on President Barack Obama's struggling health care rollout were no-shows on Wednesday.

Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) told reporters that "about 20 members" attended the House GOP briefing, at which senior Health and Human Services Department official Mike Hash laid out some of the issues facing the website.

Elizabeth Warren: 'No Excuse' For Corporations To Keep Their Political Spending Secret

WASHINGTON -- Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) on Wednesday called for the Securities and Exchange Commission to finally adopt a rule requiring publicly traded corporations to disclose their political spending to their shareholders.

"This is foundational," said Warren at an event organized by the watchdog group Public Citizen. "There is no excuse. There is no reason, on the other side, for saying a corporation wants to be able to spend shareholders' money and not tell shareholders how that money is being spent."

Election Days, Opening Nights

Only two offices in American political life have a double function, one official and the other ceremonial, offering, and demanding, a second role that everyone knows about, but no one quite articulates. The Presidency is one: it’s both political and monarchical. He (or, soon, she) gets the top job in politics, and is also the embodiment of the state. Presidents who do both jobs passably well—Reagan and Kennedy, and Obama, too—get many a break from their constituents, and from the history books. We want a guy who looks the part. Those who never did—Nixon, Carter—get kicked around, perhaps unduly.

Immigrant mental health compounded by language and cultural barriers

For almost 25 years, since the onset of her schizophrenic symptoms, Kim Ngan Nguyen did not know why she heard voices and saw things that other people did not.

The 62-year-old Vietnamese immigrant says she had no idea what “schizophrenia” was when her psychiatrist in Toronto handed her the diagnosis in 1983, two years after she moved here with her husband.

She never spoke about her mental illness with her friends and family, not even to her husband when he passed away a decade ago.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The NSA Spied on Angela Merkel—and the Rest of Us, Too

Of all the spying activities conducted by the National Security Agency and disclosed by Edward Snowden, the one provoking the most alarm in Washington is the revelation that the agency monitored the communications of at least thirty-five world leaders, including Angela Merkel. Suddenly there is concern that the agency has overstepped its authority regarding foreign dignitaries—but not necessarily when it comes to American citizens.

After an outcry from Europe, the Obama administration indicated it may order the NSA to stop monitoring the heads of American allies. Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee and a prominent defender of domestic surveillance, said in a statement that Congress was not “satisfactorily informed” about the program. “With respect to NSA collection of intelligence on leaders of US allies…I am totally opposed,” she declared.

NSA Broke Into Yahoo, Google Data Centers: Report

WASHINGTON (AP) — The National Security Agency has secretly broken into the main communications links that connect Yahoo and Google data centers around the world, the Washington Post reported Wednesday, citing documents obtained from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

A secret accounting dated Jan. 9, 2013, indicates that NSA sends millions of records every day from Yahoo and Google internal networks to data warehouses at the agency's Fort Meade, Md., headquarters. In the last 30 days, field collectors had processed and sent back more than 180 million new records — ranging from "metadata," which would indicate who sent or received emails and when, to content such as text, audio and video, the Post reported Wednesday on its website.

A letter to Rona Ambrose, Canada’s "minister of disease"?

As a member of the federal government, you are currently titled Canada’s health minister. I question the accuracy of that nomenclature.

You have recently taken it upon yourself to void a decision by Health Canada, the public agency granted the task of supervising health practices in this country. The decision authorized a few physicians in Vancouver to prescribe heroin to a selected number of clients, patients who have failed other treatment attempts to keep their addictive habits manageable. The doctors did not seek such authorization because they wish to promote drug use but because clinical practice and scientific evidence have shown that the provision of this opiate is beneficial in some cases.

The Canada-Europe CETA: What's Behind the Curtain?

Is it a hard-fought win for Canada or a political decoy? So far, the Canada-EU trade agreement (or CETA) looks more the latter than the former.

I support the ideals of liberty and efficiency behind free trade. Yet the real question about the CETA, in a world of intense international competition, is whether the Harper government negotiated a good deal for Canada.

On this, the government's closed approach to the deal is a big problem. When the government announced the CETA on Oct. 18, it did not provide any text and, after much trumpeting of the deal, still has not done so. Thus, we are left to judge the deal by examining the circumstances of its negotiation. From this perspective, there is cause for concern.

Harper throws CETA party for CEOs, tables flimsy summary of Canada-EU deal

Yesterday in the House of Commons, Prime Minister Harper tabled a technical summary of the political deal Canada reached with the European Union on Friday, October 18. He invited a dozen or more CEOs to witness the spectacle from the bleachers, and they partied it up with Trade Minister Ed Fast in the afternoon (even though negotiations on key issues like investment and sustainable development continue in Brussels on November 25 and December 2).

The summary Harper tabled contains very little new information about the CETA trade-offs that was not already available on the government's Action Plan website, or that was not already reported in news stories this week. What it does contain confirms our fears about the EU deal -- that what little new access Canadian businesses will find in Europe is more than offset by the costs (financial and democratic) we will face if CETA is eventually ratified in its current form.

The knife in Harper’s heart marked ‘ethics’

If the Conservative Party of Canada is crushed like a bug on a windshield in 2015, Mike Duffy will have provided the epitaph.

The cause of death is another matter.

Policy will have little to do with it. Policy, after all, is in the eye of the beholder. There will always be lots of voters who like pipelines, fighter jets and panda bears.

And there will never be a shortage of people who favour daycare, a national healthcare system and an environment that doesn’t look like the back forty of Hell. All will vote their preference, according to the their lights — or at least 60 per cent of them will.

Tory Decision To Pay Duffy's Legal Bills Draws Scrutiny

OTTAWA — The Conservative Party of Canada’s decision to use its donors’ money to pay Mike Duffy’s legal bills isn’t sitting well with Tory members of Parliament, but few were willing to say so Tuesday.

Tory MPs John Weston, Ryan Leef and Daryl Kramp avoided reporters’ queries as they left the House following Question Period. Under condition of anonymity, however, several other Conservative MPs told The Huffington Post they believe the party membership would be upset.

“I would certainly think so,” one MP said.

Injured Canadian Military Troops Booted Before Pension Qualification

OTTAWA - Gravely injured troops are being booted from the military before they qualify for a pension, despite assurances to the contrary from the Harper government.

A former reserve combat engineer was let go last Friday on a medical discharge after begging for months to remain until hitting the 10-year mark.

Cpl. David Hawkins is about a year shy of being eligible for an indexed pension, but was released because his post traumatic stress means he is unable to deploy overseas.

Here's Another Way the GOP Is Undermining Obamacare

Scott Messick is a 54-year-old retired health insurance consultant from Conroe, Texas. His wife runs a small yarn shop. They're both on his former employer's health insurance plan for retirees, and Messick says that he and his wife together pay $964 a month in premiums, and a $12,000 annual deductible (the amount of money they have to pay out-of-pocket each year before the insurer will pay any expenses). Starting in January, their premiums will shoot up to $1,283 a month, he says.

Earlier this month, Messick logged on to the federal insurance exchange website to shop for a new plan. (The federal government's health insurance website has so many problems that many Americans are not able to register for the site, let alone compare plans. But Messick got through.) Although the Messicks' income is too high to qualify for a subsidy, they found a plan that would save them $6,000 a year in premium payments, and another $5,000 or so on their deductible.

Illegal gold mining in Peru is destroying the Amazon

LIMA, Peru — The ravaging of the Peruvian Amazon by a wave of illegal gold mining is twice as bad as researchers had thought.

That is according to a new study using groundbreaking technology that’s discovered thousands of previously undetected small mines in the Madre de Dios region of Peru, near the Bolivian border, a global biodiversity hotspot.

Thanks to its stunning wildlife, the region is home to various nature and indigenous reserves and dozens of thriving jungle lodges that welcome tourists from around the world.

Ted Cruz: The Mask of Sincerity

When Ted Cruz lies, he appears to be praying. His lips narrow, almost disappearing into his face, and his eyebrows shift abruptly, rising like a drawbridge on his forehead into matching acute angles. He attains an appearance of supplication, an earnest desire that men and women need to listen, as God surely listens. Cruz has large ears; a straight nose with a fleshy tip, which shines in camera lights when he talks to reporters; straight black hair slicked back from his forehead like flattened licorice; thin lips; a long jaw with another knob of flesh at the base, also shiny in the lights. If, as Orwell said, everyone has the face he deserves at fifty, Cruz, who is only forty-two, has got a serious head start. For months, I sensed vaguely that he reminded me of someone but I couldn’t place who it was. Revelation has arrived: Ted Cruz resembles the Bill Murray of a quarter-century ago, when he played fishy, mock-sincere fakers. No one looked more untrustworthy than Bill Murray. The difference between the two men is that the actor was a satirist.

Britain told social inequality has created 'public health timebomb'

Women and children in the UK would have longer and healthier lives if they lived in Cyprus, Italy or Spain, and Britain is facing "a public health timebomb", according to a study by an expert on inequality and health.

Sir Michael Marmot, who is known worldwide for his work on the social determinants of health, says much of the rest of Europe takes better care of its families. Life expectancy for women and death rates among the under-fives are worse in the UK, where there is also more child poverty.

The "N" in NDP Now Stands for Neoliberal

This past week may come to be seen as a watershed moment in the NDP's capitulation to neoliberal capitalism. The nominally social democratic party effectively supported a major corporate trade accord all the while opposing an International Monetary Fund call for a more progressive tax code.

Last week the NDP basically endorsed the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) the Harper Conservatives have negotiated with the European Union. The accord will greatly expand the power of multinational corporations.

Pipeline safety: Canada lags U.S. on making data public

After a long day tending his expansive canola farm near Swan Lake, in central Manitoba, Dan Hacault turns on his computer to try to find out more about what's buried below his cash crops — eight pipelines.

The veteran farmer says he spends hours looking at the website of the federal pipeline regulator, the National Energy Board, but finds it a confusing labyrinth that leads him in circles.

Is Bell's Plan to Monitor and Profile Millions of Canadians Legal?

Last week, Bell announced plans to implement new consumer monitoring and profiling practices that would greatly expand how it uses the information it collects on millions of subscribers. The planned scope of Bell's profiling is unprecedented in Canada, reflecting the power of a vertically-integrated media giant to effortlessly track their customers' location, media habits, search activity, website interests, and application usage.

The Bell plan generated a significant public backlash, with the Privacy Commissioner of Canada launching an immediate investigation. Yet the company steadfastly defended its plans, saying that users are supportive of the new policy and maintaining that it is fully compliant with Canadian law.

Tim Flannery: 'Innovation Is the Enemy of Oil and Gas'

Tim Flannery, the internationally acclaimed Australian scientist and author of The Weather Makers, recently visited Canada at the invitation of Clean Energy Canada to speak on energy and climate matters.

The Tyee caught up with the 57-year-old paleontologist and climate activist in Toronto to talk about the uncertain world of liquified natural gas exports, the Australian government's attack on its own Climate Commission, the prospect for renewables and what lessons Australia's sinking coal industry might have for Canada's global bitumen miners.

Stephen Harper's Gift to Canada

Canada may owe Stephen Harper an enormous debt of gratitude. The Senate scandal and unraveling cover-up from the PMO have provided Canadians with a spectacle more compelling than many a Stanley Cup playoff. And Mr. Harper's penchant to double down and dig himself deeper may undermine the goal that he has worked so long for -- to disengage Canadians from their political process.

Exactly the opposite has been true in the last week. To my surprise I found myself listening to hours of live audio of debates inside the Senate. Across the country Canadians of all political stripes have been tuning in to Question Period to watch the gladiatorial bloodsport between Thomas Mulcair and Mr. Harper.

Cell Phone Radiation: Health Canada Is Manipulating Review, Say Critics

OTTAWA - A safety advocacy group says Health Canada is ignoring science that shows some Canadians are getting sick from using cell phones and other wireless technology.

Canadians for Safe Technology says they've obtained documents showing the government is controlling a so-called independent review of radiation from cellphones, cell towers and Wi-Fi.

Mike Duffy: 2 Cheques Were Given To Me By PMO

OTTAWA - The $90,000 from Stephen Harper's former chief of staff wasn't the only secret, five-figure payment made on Mike Duffy's behalf during the Senate expense scandal, the senator at the heart of the controversy says.

For the second time in as many weeks, Duffy, expelled from the Conservative caucus in May, shocked the normally sleepy upper chamber Monday with a tale of intrigue and betrayal he says starts and ends with the Prime Minister's Office.

"The cheques tell who's telling the truth and who is not,'' Duffy, a former TV broadcaster, declared before releasing more documents to buttress his explosive claims.

Flaherty: House Prices A Worry, But No Mortgage Crackdown For Now

OTTAWA - Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is taking on the responsibility of averting a housing bubble in Canada that could destabilize the economy, adding he will speak to those in the business to try and keep a lid on rising home prices.

With the Bank of Canada essentially taking itself out of the game by signalling interest rates won't be raised for some time, Flaherty said Monday after meeting with about a dozen economists that it falls on his department to ensure the market is stabilized.

James Sensenbrenner, Patriot Act Pioneer, Says NSA Spying Out Of Control

WASHINGTON - A Republican congressman now wants to scale back some of the counterterror laws he once championed, citing an overreach by the National Security Agency.

Rep. James Sensenbrenner plans to offer legislation as early as Tuesday to overhaul the NSA. It mirrors a bill by Democrats on House and Senate judiciary committees and is gaining support from the extreme wings of both parties.

In the past, Sensenbrenner voted to give more surveillance power to U.S. government spies, railed against civil liberties advocates who warned about privacy abuses and even shut down a 2005 hearing to silence critics.

Now Sensenbrenner says he is "appalled and angry" to learn the NSA is sweeping up millions of Americans' phone records.

He says that goes far beyond the intent of the 2001 Patriot Act.

Original Article
Author: Lara Jakes

Canadians' Non-Mortgage Debt Jumps 21%, Fewer Paying It Off: RBC

Canadians’ debt loads have grown 21 per cent in the past year, and more consumers are running into the red, according to Royal Bank’s debt poll.

Just 24 per cent of Canadians say they are debt-free, compared to 26 per cent in 2012. And those who are in debt have increased their non-mortgage burdens to $15,920 from $13,141 in the same time frame, RBC’s survey found. That’s an extra $2,779 over the past year compared to growth of just $83 in the year prior.

Who's Really Behind Campbell Brown's Sneaky Education Outfit?

Early one morning in July, former CNN anchor Campbell Brown appeared on MSNBC's Morning Joe, pen in hand, notes fanned out in front of her. Viewers might have mistaken her as a fill-in host, but Brown had swung by 30 Rock in her new role as a self-styled education reformer, a crusader against sexual deviants in New York City public schools and the backward unions and bureaucrats getting in the way of firing them. "In many cases, we have teachers who were found guilty of inappropriate touching, sexual banter with kids, who weren't fired from their jobs, who were given very light sentences and sent back to the classroom," Brown, the mother of two young sons, explained.

Chemical Safety Rules Requested After West, Texas Explosion Delayed By Shutdown

WASHINGTON –- The 16-day government shutdown earlier this month has delayed the new chemical safety rules that President Barack Obama called for in response to the deadly fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, last April.

Obama issued an executive order on Aug. 1 in response to the West disaster, which killed 15 people and destroyed much of the neighborhood around the plant. The order calls on a number of federal agencies to update regulations and coordinate on initiatives that would improve safety at chemical facilities across the country. That includes the formation of a new Chemical Facility Safety and Security Working Group made up of the top officials from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Labor and the Department of Homeland Security. The order called for a number of those recommendations to be delivered within 90 days, which would conclude on Oct. 31.

Ted Cruz Continues Fight For Texas Anti-Abortion Law Ruled Unconstitutional

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said he doesn't accept Monday's federal court declaration that part of a new Texas abortion law that required doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals is unconstitutional.

"Texas passed commonsense legislation to protect the health of women and their unborn children," Cruz said in a statement. "This law is constitutional and consistent with U.S. Supreme Court precedent protecting the life and health of the mother and child. I hope the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will uphold Texas' reasonable law."

The N.S.A. and Obama: Who Watches the Watchers?

The news that the National Security Agency was monitoring the telephones of the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and many other foreign leaders is less shocking than the revelation that, for the first four and a half years of his Presidency, Barack Obama, the Commander-in-Chief, didn’t know anything about it. Can this be true?

Evidently, it is. According to a story in the Wall Street Journal on Monday, the spying program targeted as many as thirty-five world leaders, but it didn’t come to Obama’s attention until this summer when, in the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations, the Administration carried out an internal review of the N.S.A.’s activities. “These decisions are made at N.S.A.,” someone described as “a senior U.S. official” told the Journal. “The President doesn’t sign off on this stuff.”

'We're Really Screwed Now': NSA's Best Friend Just Shivved The Spies

One of the National Security Agency's biggest defenders in Congress is suddenly at odds with the agency and calling for a top-to-bottom review of U.S. spy programs. And her long-time friends and allies are completely mystified by the switch.

"We're really screwed now," one NSA official told The Cable. "You know things are bad when the few friends you've got disappear without a trace in the dead of night and leave no forwarding address."

The New Futurism

This summer, Jordan Elpern-Waxman had a revelation. He’d quit his job in order to start a company that markets craft beer, and, as most new entrepreneurs do, he’d been paying for the whole thing himself. “I had gone through my savings and put everything on my credit card, and I woke up one morning and looked at the balance and said, ‘Holy shit, how am I ever going to pay this thing off?’ ” Elpern-Waxman told me. So he did something unusual: he sold off a share of his future.

He went to a new site called Upstart. Founded last year by former Google employees, it’s a crowdfunding marketplace where people looking to start a business, say, or pursue more education can raise cash from investors. In exchange, they pay some of what they earn over the next five or ten years—what percentage you have to pay is determined by how much you want to raise and by the Upstart algorithm’s assessment of your earnings potential. For thirty thousand dollars today, you might end up paying out, say, two per cent of your income for the next five years.

NSA: Dianne Feinstein breaks ranks to oppose US spying on allies

The chair of the Senate intelligence committee, who has been a loyal defender of the National Security Agency, dramatically broke ranks on Monday, saying she was "totally opposed" to the US spying on allies and demanding a total review of all surveillance programs.

California Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein strongly criticised the NSA's monitoring of the calls of friendly world leaders such as German chancellor Angela Merkel.

Feinstein, who has steadfastly defended the NSA's mass surveillance programs, added that both Barack Obama and members of her committee, which is supposed to received classified briefings, had been kept in the dark about operations to target foreign leaders.

Energy firms raised prices despite drop in wholesale costs

Some of Britain's big six energy companies have seen their wholesale electricity costs fall over the last three years while still putting up prices for millions of households.

The figures will put yet more pressure on the firms to explain why bills and UK profits have been going up, as they appear before a influential House of Commons committee of MPs.

According to Ofgem, Npower paid an average of £59.61 per megawatt-hour for electricity in 2010. The average wholesale price fell by 4% to £57.32 in 2011 and rose by less than 2% to £58.39 in 2012. The company increased retail prices by 5.1%, 7.2% and 9.1% respectively in those years.

The silent racism of ‘post racial’ Canada

“Thanks bitch. You really further your stereotype.”

This was the note I found pinned under my windshield wiper recently; and it said more about Toronto and multiculturalism than all the official pieties put together.

To backtrack: A Wednesday mid-afternoon, on Bloor St. just west of St. George. I pull into a (rare) parking space, get out of my car, and notice that I’m in the middle of a space big enough for two vehicles. I hate people who do that, so I get back in, and pull up closer to the car in front, nevertheless leaving ample room for that car to exit. Another thing I hate is to be wedged into a parking spot.

BC Signed Away Its Right to Stop Northern Gateway

[Editor's note: Back in early 2012, in her analytical submission to the National Energy Board, independent economist Robyn Allan characterized the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal as a "serious threat" to Canada's economic growth and long-term development. Since then she's closely tracked the political struggle over Gateway, taking apart revenue claims and calling out dubious pipeline economics. Today, Allan takes a closer look at the B.C. government's first "condition" for Gateway to meet its approval. Expect analysis of the other four in coming weeks.]

More than a year ago, in response to growing political heat over the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline proposal, Christy Clark's government released five requirements oil pipeline projects must fulfill for British Columbia to consider supporting them.

Give Us a Referendum on Northern Gateway

Aux Barricades!

We are witnesses to the greatest acts of political cynicism I have seen. Two of them, in fact, made all the more cynical by the amazing timing of their commission.

Last month the provincial Liberals let us in on a document -- you might call it a peace treaty turned into an alliance -- from Premier Clark and Premier Redford of Alberta concerning pipelines and tanker traffic. The "pith and substance," as we lawyers say, is that the pipelines (plural) and tanker traffic will go ahead based on the "certainty" that no pipelines will burst and no tankers will spill. And on the remote chance that an accident does occur, we'll have "world class" cleanup all ready to make things right.

Story of a life in Canada has lessons about Harper's new immigration policy

At a midpoint in the progress of Ken Sobol's dementia, his wife of over 40 years, Julie, said: "You know it occurs to me there can't be many people in the world who are writing partners with someone who has dementia." She says Ken looked unbothered but thoughtful -- a look of his I can picture -- and said: "You should put that in." So she did. If that's what you get after a half-century together, it sounds good to me.

They were Americans who met at university in Ohio in 1959. They soon decided to share their futures. I've known other such cases. There isn't usually a romantic thunderclap; more a calm realization that 'we should probably spend the rest of our lives together.' They moved to New York. Ken wrote for the Village Voice for many years, starting at age 21. He was that much a natural writer. Later they went to L.A., where he worked at cartoon studios scripting kids' shows. He wrote a hilarious account of doing the first episode of The Care Bears. They had three kids in five years. Julie faced some disdain for taking the mom route during that second wave of feminism; but as others have noted, if feminism means women control their lives, shouldn't family also be a possibility, and choices like head scarves? You could say they became co-adventurers.

Harper created this mess by cynically appointing non-residents to the Senate

Stephen Harper’s appointments of Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin to represent Prince Edward Island and Saskatchewan were illegal and unconstitutional from day one.

Here’s why.

The Canadian Constitution stipulates two requirements regarding a Senator’s residency status.

One requirement is that the Senator must own $4,000 worth of property in the province he/she represents.

Oil And Gas Pipeline Incidents In Canada Doubled In A Decade: Report

The number of safety-related incidents involving federally regulated Canadian pipelines has doubled in little more than a decade, with the number of reported spills tripling during that time, according to an investigative report at the CBC.

According to data obtained by the network from the National Energy Board, the number of annual incidents rose to two per 1,000 kilometres of pipeline by 2011, up from one per 1,000 kilometres of pipeline in 2000.

Harper: Nigel Wright 'Dismissed' Over $90,000 Cheque, Didn't Resign

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper continues to recast himself in the role of stern disciplinarian in the Senate expense narrative, telling a Halifax radio station he "dismissed" his chief of staff for writing a $90,000 cheque to Sen. Mike Duffy.

Last spring when word of the secret payment first surfaced, Harper initially praised Nigel Wright, before appearing to regretfully accept his top lieutenant's resignation several days later.

"I accept that Nigel believed he was acting in the public interest, but I understand the decision he has taken to resign," the prime minister said last May 19.

iQor Canada, Collection Agency, Fined After Automated Phone Calls

One of the largest collection agencies in the country has been hit with a $500,000 fine from the CRTC, CBC News has learned.

The federal regulator took the action after receiving complaints about automated phone calls made by iQor Canada between October 2011 and February 2013.

Former Irish President, Climate Justice Advocate Mary Robinson Urges Divestment of Fossil Fuel Firms

As the New York region marks the first anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, hurricane-strength winds are battering northern Europe today. At least a dozen people have already been killed across Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark and France. Amidst an increase in extreme weather and storms, we discuss the movement to confront climate change with Mary Robinson, former Irish president and U.N. high commissioner for human rights. She now heads the Mary Robinson Foundation–Climate Justice, where her efforts include campaigning for the divestment from fossil fuels. "We can no longer invest in companies that are part of the problem of the climate shocks we’re suffering from," Robinson says. "To me it’s a little bit like the energy behind the anti-apartheid movement when I was a student. We were involved because we saw the injustice of it. There’s an injustice in continuing to invest in fossil fuel companies that are part of the problem."

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Leaked Documents Reveal the Secret Finances of a Pro-Industry Science Group

The American Council on Science and Health bills itself as an independent research and advocacy organization devoted to debunking "junk science." It's a controversial outfit—a "group of scientists…concerned that many important public policies related to health and the environment did not have a sound scientific basis," it says—that often does battle with environmentalists and consumer safety advocates, wading into public health debates to defend fracking, to fight New York City's attempt to ban big sugary sodas, and to dismiss concerns about the potential harms of the chemical bisphenol-A (better known at BPA) and the pesticide atrazine. The group insists that its conclusions are driven purely by science. It acknowledges that it receives some financial support from corporations and industry groups, but ACSH, which reportedly stopped disclosing its corporate donors two decades ago, maintains that these contributions don't influence its work and agenda.

How Jock Culture Supports Rape Culture, From Maryville to Steubenville

Your 14-year-old daughter is dumped on your freezing front lawn in a state of chemically induced incoherence with her shoes off and frost stuck in her hair. She tells you she was raped. You hear her 13-year-old best friend was also raped that same night. Your daughter is then bullied as a tape of the incident passes around her high school. You wait for the indictments and some semblance of justice, but they dissipate, as one of the accused is a football star from one of the area’s most prominent and politically connected families. The county prosecutor drops the charges, stating that your family is refusing to cooperate even though you are begging to be heard. Then it gets worse.