Democracy Gone Astray

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Stephen Harper’s fate is in the pipeline

While the Senate seizes the spotlight in Ottawa, another threat to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s agenda is unfolding in capitals on opposite coasts. In both Victoria and Washington D.C., governments are weighing in on the future of oil pipelines which hold the key to Western Canada’s economic and political destiny — and that of the federal Conservative party.

The two fronts are related, as the inability to control one could jeopardize the achievement of the other by torpedoing the Conservatives’ ambitions to displace the center of political power in Canada.

Big changes to Senate unlikely

The sad reality is that all the recent hullabaloo over the Senate likely won't produce changes more substantive than making lifelong senators subscribe to the same travel expense rituals as the rest of us mere mortals.

It's still possible that the antics of senators Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin will take a political toll on Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government, should the reasonable assumption prove correct that Harper knew a lot more than he is letting on about his former chief-of-staff Nigel Wright's $90,000 personal cheque. But it's also possible that the Duffy kerfuffle will be forgotten by the next election, which is two years away.

SLAPP Suits: Ontario Introduces Bill To Crack Down On Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation

TORONTO - Ontario plans to crack down on frivolous strategic lawsuits aimed at intimidating and muzzling critics on matters of public debate.

New anti-SLAPP — or Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation — legislation was introduced Tuesday by the governing Liberals, who say it's time Canada's most populous province join Quebec in rooting out such nuisance lawsuits.

Julian Assange: Media's Failure To Defend Bradley Manning, WikiLeaks Emboldened DOJ

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. media made themselves vulnerable to attack by the Department of Justice by standing aside as WikiLeaks and Army Pfc. Bradley Manning were targeted several years ago, Julian Assange told The Huffington Post in an interview from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he is holed up fighting extradition to Sweden.

"All rights are fought for and maintained," the WikiLeaks founder said. "As soon as organizations or people stop demanding that their rights be protected, then they are overrun and the current situation results."

HSBC To Be Sued By New York Over Foreclosure Abuses

* NY says HSBC ignored law designed to protect homeowners

* Bank declines to comment

NEW YORK, June 4 (Reuters) - The state of New York plans to sue HSBC Holdings Plc for ignoring a law designed to protect struggling homeowners from being thrown into foreclosure without getting a chance to renegotiate their mortgages.

20-Week Abortion Bill Advanced By All-Male Congressional Panel

Republicans in the House Judiciary subcommittee voted on Tuesday to expand Rep. Trent Franks' (R-Ariz.) proposed D.C. abortion bill to apply to the whole country and advanced the bill favorably to the full committee. The bill would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy in the United States in all cases except those in which the mother's life is in danger.

All four Democrats on the panel voted against advancing the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, arguing that it is unconstitutional and allows no exceptions for rape victims, incest victims, women whose health is endangered by a pregnancy, and cases of severe fetal anomalies. The 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe vs. Wade protects women's ability to have an abortion up until the fetus is viable outside the womb, which is usually believed to occur around the 24th week of pregnancy.

Doug Ford No Longer Such An Exciting Candidate For Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak

TORONTO - The ongoing controversy surrounding Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is apparently making his councillor brother Doug a less attractive potential candidate for Ontario's Progressive Conservatives.

Just two months ago, PC Leader Tim Hudak said he would love to welcome Doug Ford to the Tories' list of candidates in the next provincial election and said he was "excited" to have the councillor on board the Tory team.

Rob Ford Crack Scandal: Jim Flaherty Stands By His Friend

Many Canadian conservatives appear to be distancing themselves from Toronto Mayor Rob Ford these days, but Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is standing by his long-time friend.

Flaherty emphasized his personal relationship with the embattled mayor in an interview on Monday with CBC’s "Power & Politics with Evan Solomon."

Solomon asked Flaherty about the allegations Ford smoked crack cocaine and whether the scandal is destructive to economic development in Canada’s largest city.

High-profile senator with ties to Harper denies interference with Duffy report

OTTAWA - A high-profile Conservative senator who worked inside the Prime Minister's Office says she's upset about allegations that she sought to whitewash a report into the expenses claimed by colleague Mike Duffy.

And Carolyn Stewart Olsen is also drawing a distinction between her living arrangements and Duffy's: Both Maritime-born Tories claimed expenses on their longtime homes in Ottawa after being named to the Senate, but Stewart Olsen said she immediately made New Brunswick her primary residence.

Two Tory MPs could be suspended from House of Commons in showdown over election filings

Two Conservative MPs are in legal limbo after Elections Canada sent letters to the Speaker of the House of Commons asking they be suspended for failure to file campaign documents from the 2011 election.

“Those letters advised the speaker that an elected candidate shall not continue to sit or vote as members of the House of Commons pending the filing of complete and accurate returns,” said Elections Canada spokesman John Enright on Tuesday.

Stephen Harper's Small Thinking Doesn't Engage Canadians

The current scandals enveloping the Senate and the Prime Minister's Office are simply the most visible symptom of the Conservative government's approach to managing the nation's affairs.

Stephen Harper leads an unprecedentedly insular and partisan national government -- a government that has perfected slice-and-dice incremental politics to the point of self-destruction. And now the emperor has no clothes -- standing for nothing but narrow self-interest, incapable of operating beyond the shortest of time horizons, unable even to pretend to engage Canadians in pursuing a vision of a better Canada.

Military Sexual Assault Reform Proposals Prompt Push Back From Military

WASHINGTON -- The witness table stretched across the front of the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing room Tuesday, ready for testimony from 20 people at the first full committee hearing on sexual assault in a decade.

A dozen are the highest-ranking military officials who are pushing back with increasing force against congressional proposals to remove or reduce chain-of-command power over sexual assault cases. Only four are independent counsel and victims advocates pushing for farther-reaching reforms.

Phil Bryant: Mothers In The Workplace Prompted Educational Problems

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant (R) said Tuesday that the country's problems with education began when mothers "got in the workplace" in large numbers.

During a Washington Post Live event on children's literacy, Bryant was asked why the country's state of education had become so "mediocre."

China Benefits From Bush's Folly

Imperialism doesn’t pay. Of course, it never did for the common folk recruited to invade another country, or the natives they conquered. But still, the thought persists that occupying foreign lands—particularly as in the case of Iraq, soaked in oil as well as blood—is a winner.

True, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, with its nonexistent WMDs and virulent hostility to the religious fanatics that attacked us on 9/11, was a false target for a war on terror. And yes, a Shiite-run Iraq is now closely allied with co-religionists in Iran and Lebanon, whereas Hussein had once been our ally in containing the power of the ayatollahs. But “we” now control Iraq’s vast oil reserves, some hawks will still argue in the manner of the idiot savant Paul Wolfowitz, who as then-deputy defense secretary promised that the oil would pay for the war. Only they, like he, have once again been proved wrong.

Apocalypse on a String

What is the future likely to bring? A reasonable stance might be to try to look at the human species from the outside. So imagine that you’re an extraterrestrial observer who is trying to figure out what’s happening here or, for that matter, imagine you’re an historian 100 years from now—assuming there are any historians 100 years from now, which is not obvious—and you’re looking back at what’s happening today. You’d see something quite remarkable.

What to do about Harper's corporate rights deals: A few thoughts from the B.C. trade justice tour

Forget the acronyms, fight the overall corporate agenda. If there was a general message to my six-city trade justice tour with Harjap Grewal this week in B.C., that was it. We're facing an onslaught of agreements with names like CETA (Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement), TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), FIPA (Foreign Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement) and permutations of the three. But at heart they're all about chipping away at democracy so multinational corporations can improve, however marginally, their profits.

What Harjap and I found out in Kelowna, Langley, Nanaimo, Campbell River, Comox and Powell River (Brenda Sayers of the Hupacasath First Nation joined us in Nanaimo and Comox) was that people already know this. They know that "trade" deals are not really about trade. Several of the dozens of people who attended each stop were veterans of past anti-corporate globalization battles: the WTO in Seattle, FTAA in Quebec City, SPP in Montebello, MAI… More acronyms, I know, but all good examples of "trade" fights we fought and won by exposing the deals for the corporate power grabs they are.

Greek opponents of Eldorado mine take message to company's Canadian HQ: 'Leave us alone'

Greek villagers brought their region's fierce battle against Vancouver-based Eldorado Gold to the firm's headquarters Friday, marking the end of the activists' cross-Canada tour opposing open-pit gold mining in their homeland.

Over the past year, a growing conflict in Greece's Halkidiki region -- birthplace of the philosopher Aristotle -- has seen thousands of residents blockade roads, raid mine sites, and skirmish with police they say are corrupt and beholden to the company. Another demonstration brought 20,000 protesters to the streets of Thessaloniki.

Tony Blair Says 'There Is A Problem Within Islam' After Woolwich Attack

In a column for the Daily Mail, former British prime minister Tony Blair stated "there is a problem within Islam" and implored officials to acknowledge radical ideology is "profound and dangerous."

The piece regarding the Woolwich terror attack, which resulted in the death of soldier Lee Rigby, also urged governments to "be honest" about the problem radical deology poses.

'Systemically Important Financial Institutions' Named By U.S. Regulator In Crackdown

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. government on Monday preliminarily designated at least three financial companies as having the potential to pose a grave threat to the financial system, the first time regulators have used post-financial crisis authority to crack down on companies that have previously escaped federal attention.

Christians Can't Drink Starbucks Because Company Supports Gay Marriage, Evangelical Says

Coffee-drinking Christians, take note: There's apparently "no way" a truly righteous Christian can drink Starbucks beverages.

At least, that's the opinion of former evangelical pastor and conservative activist David Barton, whose May 19 sermon on pious caffeine consumption was recently posted online.

Speaking at Whitesburg Baptist Church, Barton said that Starbucks was "pouring money" into the destruction of traditional marriage, according to video of the speech.

Two Months Later, Arkansas Residents Still Hurting From ExxonMobil Tar Sands Spill

More than two months after ExxonMobil’s 65-year-old Pegasus pipeline burst and spewed a gusher of thick Canadian tar sands oil through Mayflower, AR, and into a marsh on Lake Conway—the state’s most popular fishing spot—residents are still complaining of health problems and are worried about poisonous impacts on wildlife and the environment. Many locals and some scientists have little faith in the continuous rosy assurances from Exxon and the Unified Command that testing results show the environment is safe and that tar sands oil has not contaminated the lake.

John Boehner Was Allowed To Remain House Speaker Because God Spoke To Republicans, They Claim

The U.S. government was spared from going over the fiscal cliff earlier this year because God spoke to a group of Republicans and told them not to turn against House Speaker John Boehner -- at least, that's what they've told the Washington Post.

In a detailed piece about in-fighting among House Republicans, this gem stood out:

    Barely 36 hours after the caustic New Year’s Day vote, Boehner faced a coup attempt from a clutch of renegade conservatives. The cabal quickly fell apart when several Republicans, after a night of prayer, said God told them to spare the speaker. Still, Boehner came within a few votes of failing to secure his speakership on the initial vote, an outcome that would have forced a second ballot for the first time in nearly a century.

The speaker apparently knew at the time that he would need divine intervention. Shortly after House Republicans rejected his "Plan B" fiscal cliff bill in December, Boehner expressed his dismay about ever reaching a deal with Obama that would satisfy his party's demands for spending cuts.

"How we get there, God only knows," he said.

Original Article
Author: -

Seven Myths About Bradley Manning

Today begins the court-martial of Private First Class Bradley Manning, Wikileaks’ source inside the US military. Because Manning was arrested over three years ago, the global news media have already written much about the young soldier from Crescent, Oklahoma. And though news accounts have frequently gotten the facts right (he’s 25, was deployed to FOB Hammer in the Mada’in Qada desert of Iraq, is 5 foot 2), most reports have written about the big issues that collide in this case without the slightest sense of context and perspective, leading to all kinds of basic errors and distortions—for instance that the leaks were “top secret”; that Wikileaks is on a “utopian” quest for “total transparency,” that Manning did what he did not for political but for psychological (or sexual!) reasons. As Pfc. Manning’s court-martial proceeds over the next three to four months in Ft. Meade, you can bet that media reports will continue to put across the same funhouse distortions. So to kick off my blog coverage of the court-martial for The Nation, here’s a quick debunking trip through the thickets of folklore that have sprung up around this case.

Racial Disparity In Marijuana Arrests: Black Americans Are Nearly 4 Times More Likely Than Whites To Be Arrested For Possession Of Pot

The U.S. War on Marijuana is not just costly, time-consuming and unnecessary -- it's also racially biased, according to a new report.

In recent years, several states have passed laws that decriminalized marijuana, and a majority of Americans now support legalizing the drug. Yet between 2001 and 2010, there were over 8 million pot arrests in the U.S. What's worse, the authorities making the arrests were targeting black Americans far more than whites.

Tailings Ponds: University Of Calgary Study Could Reduce Greenhouse Gases Using Waste

CALGARY - A simple concept using straw or wood waste from the forestry and agricultural sectors might help cut greenhouse gas emissions and clean up water produced by Alberta's oilsands.

Lead researcher David Layzell from the University of Calgary said studies have shown that straw and wood can be turned into a biocarbon tailored for absorbing acids found in tailings ponds.

Political expediency comes with a price

Trust is vital to liberal democracy. Trust connects citizens to the institutions — legislatures, courts, military, etc. — that legitimize and sustain democratic order. When that sense of trust is violated, so, too, is the future of that order in question. Beyond the headline revelations this, arguably, is the deeper concern regarding the scandals plaguing the Conservatives.

How has it come to this, particularly from a party that won power on a promise of clean and transparent government? To ask this isn’t to sound alarms that Canada’s institutional order is in immediate danger of collapse. The Tories’ troubles, like the Liberals’ sponsorship scandal, will pass (possibly with a change of government). The problem with both current and past scandals is that, like acid dripping on stone, they gradually weaken the institutional pillars of the Canadian polity by eroding the bedrock of trust on which those institutions rest.

Canada’s political scholars fiddle while Rome burns

There was a time when Canada’s scholars played a more prominent role in national political debates. Queen’s University, for example, had such names as John Meisel, George Perlin, Hugh Thorburn and Richard Simeon. They were voices of influence.

Today, although Ned Franks remains at large as a professor emeritus, that kind of firepower no longer exists at Queen’s or elsewhere. Donald Savoie, who specializes in governance issues at the University of Moncton, points out that academics have become less and less interested in our politics and our institutions, leaving journalists to hold governments to account.

Internal federal audits found offshore oil spill response outdated, disorganized

VANCOUVER - Internal government audits of the Canadian Coast Guard's capacity to monitor and respond to a marine oil spill found a system that was outdated, disorganized and in need of an overhaul.

But many of the substantial recommendations in the reports have languished, despite pressure on Ottawa to deal with concerns over a potential increase in oil tanker traffic off the British Columbia coast.

Harper government to fine companies for leaving unsafe products on store shelves

OTTAWA — Companies that fail to pull dangerous products from store shelves are facing fines of up to $25,000 per day under federal regulations slated to be unveiled Tuesday.

Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq is scheduled to confirm the fines at a morning news conference in Ottawa, finalizing a process that began years earlier.

Canadian Auto Workers gives strike notice to Via Rail, deadline set for June 14

MONTREAL - The Canadian Auto Workers union has issued 72-hour strike notice to Via Rail.

The union, which represents about 2,000 customer service, on-board service and maintenance workers at the railway, will be in a legal strike position as of Thursday.

Via Rail and the union have set a strike deadline of June 14, 12:01 a.m.

Red meat issues snag final Canada-EU trade talks

From the outset of the Canada-Europe trade talks, officials and observers cautioned that contentious agriculture issues would be saved for the end of the negotiations.

But while Canada’s supply-managed dairy industry figured prominently in early speculation about things that could hold back a deal, that preliminary handicapping was betting on the wrong kind of cattle.

Bert Brown, Retired Alberta Senator: Former Colleagues Mindlessly Obeying Political Masters

OTTAWA — The upper chamber’s current crisis is the result of too many senators mindlessly following orders from their political masters rather than representing the interests of their region, says a former Conservative senator who champions Senate reform.

Bert Brown, a retired farmer who gained national prominence after plowing the words “Triple-E or Else” in his neighbour’s barley field, was twice elected by Albertans to represent them in the Senate. He was appointed to the red chamber by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2007 but retired this March after reaching the Senate’s mandatory retirement age of 75.

Raise Oil Sands Tax, Save Alberta (and Our Climate)

While many environmentalists and some prominent scientists are trying to limit the ultimate climate damage of the Alberta oil sands by apposing pipeline approvals, there may be a more direct way to moderate the reckless pace of extraction of this massive carbon deposit: taxation.

Higher taxes on bitumen would not only shrink the climate footprint of the oil sands, but increase revenue to provincial coffers and improve the lives of Albertans.

Rob Ford busy replacing staff who left embattled mayor’s office

Mayor Rob Ford is filling vacancies in his office that were created as staffers left last week in the wake of the crack-video scandal.

Ford moved quickly to counter the apparent chaos in his office, saying he had hired “movers and shakers” to replace the departed staff members.

As previously reported, one of the new faces is Katrina Xavier Ponniah, a recent Mount Allison University graduate. Yesterday, the city announced three others were joining the mayor’s office: Victoria Colussi, Jonathan Kent and Rob Krauss.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says he’s had ‘personal’ talks with Ford

OTTAWA—Embattled Mayor Rob Ford hasn’t lost the support of one old friend — Finance Minister Jim Flaherty — who says he has had “personal” talks with the mayor since allegations of Ford’s drug use surfaced.

“I’ve spoken with the mayor and I’ve spoken with members of his family,” Flaherty told CBC-TV when asked if he had communicated with Ford during the current uproar at Toronto’s city hall.

With spotlight on Tories, media focus finally back where it should be

When I came to Parliament Hill in the late eighties, veteran members of the press gallery used to drum into rookies that covering the opposition parties was not an optional part of the brief of a national affairs correspondent.

But none ever suggested that the government was not the main event.

Over their tenure, the majority governments of Brian Mulroney and Jean Chrétien sucked in most of the parliamentary media light.

Nigel Wright’s role as party bagman deserves scrutiny

For a guy forced to resign at the centre of a raging political storm, Nigel Wright has so far emerged largely unbruised.

While Senators Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin would be hard-pressed these days to find Conservatives willing to follow them on Twitter, Wright has been staunchly defended by conservative guru David Frum, who described Wright as the person he most admires in all of British, American and Canadian politics.

Secretly recorded video reveals scheme to thwart Calgary’s popular mayor

CALGARY—There is no sign of drugs in a secretly recorded video that involves Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi. And it is not being shopped for $200,000 by shadowy figures.

But despite that, this video has garnered a lot of attention in Calgary because it involves money and some very powerful people: Nenshi, former Reform party leader Preston Manning and Cal Wenzel, one of the city’s most prominent and prosperous homebuilders.

Egyptian politicians suggest attacking Ethiopia over Nile dam

CAIRO—Politicians meeting with Egypt’s president on Monday proposed hostile acts against Ethiopia, including backing rebels and carrying out sabotage, to stop it from building a massive dam on the Nile River upstream.

Some of the politicians appeared unaware the meeting with President Mohammed Morsi was being carried live on TV. Morsi did not directly react to the suggestions, but said in concluding remarks that Egypt respects Ethiopia and its people and will not engage in any aggressive acts against the East African nation.

The liberal elite’s gift to Rob Ford

There seem to be two schools of thought among those who don’t believe that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was, as has been alleged, filmed smoking crack cocaine. One school insists that, as Mr. Ford has said, “there is no video.” The other school, which, according to a Forum Research poll, includes nearly 50 per cent of those living in the inner suburbs, believes that any such recording is a fake.

It is not a Senate scandal: Harper and his choices are what's really scandalous

The Conservative government is now running Orwellian television ads touting its environmental record.

After reducing the federal environmental role to virtually nothing, radically limiting fisheries protection, scrapping the Navigable Waters Act, chopping the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy, and withdrawing from the Kyoto Accord, the Harper government now wants to convince Canadians it is has a strong environmental record.

That effort is a textbook case of chutzpah.

The Protests in Turkey, Explained

Turkey is experiencing its largest and most violent riots in decades as tens of thousands of young people voice opposition to the moderate Islamist government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Hundreds of protesters and police have been injured as authorities try to quell the fourth day of demonstrations with tear gas, water canons, beatings, and a tightening grip on the media. Today, Erdogan accused the protesters of "walking arm-in-arm with terrorism." Yet his defiant response is only making the crowds larger. In an echo of the Arab Spring and the Occupy Wall Street protests of 2011, the movement has been galvanized by images disseminated on social media, such as a picture of a policeman spraying tear gas at a young woman in a red summer dress, her long hair swept upward by the blast. "The more they spray," reads a popular Twitter caption, "the bigger we get."

Click here to go directly to the latest updates.

John Baird Says Canada Not Among 60 Nations Signing Landmark Arms Treaty

OTTAWA - Canada isn't saying whether it will join more than 60 other countries in signing a landmark treaty to regulate the multibillion-dollar global arms trade.

The federal government hasn't decided whether it agrees with the UN's arms trade treaty, despite having voted to move it ahead in the first place, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Monday.

"We believe that any treaty regarding the sale of munitions that helps move the international community closer to world-leading standards is a good thing," Baird said during question period.

Wireless Prices: Canadians Would Pay $419 More Per Year, Industry Group Study Suggests

HuffPost Canada readers got what they most wanted from the CRTC Monday — an effective end to three-year cellphone contracts, in the form of an early escape clause allowing wireless customers to end their contracts after two years.

But they didn’t get something else that wireless customers apparently want: Higher prices for cellphone service.

That’s the implication of a new poll carried out for the main lobby group of Canada’s telecom industry, which shows Canadians willing to pay up to $11.5 billion more for telecom services than they are currently paying.

Tory Senate leader calling in auditor general on expenses

Senator Marjory LeBreton is set to introduce a motion in the Senate Tuesday calling on Auditor General Michael Ferguson to conduct a "comprehensive" audit of all Senate expenses.

The Conservative government's leader in the Senate called on Liberals to support the move.

LeBreton told CBC News on Monday that auditors could look at every single dollar spent in the Senate, and said she expects Auditor General Michael Fergsuon would want to take a good look at the details of each senator's expenses.

But she said the final details of who and how far back that would go would be up to the auditors to decide.

Former Tory Western Arctic candidate now a top political staffer to Aglukkaq

PARLIAMENT HILL—The Western Arctic Conservative candidate whose 2011 election campaign featured star appearances by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Sen. Mike Duffy, under scrutiny for allegedly claiming Senate expenses at the same time he was campaigning for the Conservatives, is now on the public payroll as a regional director for Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq in Yellowknife, N.W.T.

Former candidate Sandy Lee, one of at least 12 Conservative candidates for whom Sen. Duffy campaigned during the election campaign, got her job as director of Ms. Aglukkaq’s (Nunavut) regional office for the Northwest Territories in July 2011, after a determined Conservative attempt to defeat NDP incumbent Dennis Bevington and sweep the three Arctic ridings failed.

Via Rail terror plot accused unable to find lawyer

A Montreal man linked to an alleged plot to bomb a Via Rail train says he cannot find a lawyer willing to use the Qur'an as a basis for his defence.

Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, had been expected to provide an update on his legal aid application when he made a video court appearance in Toronto this morning.

Supreme Court: DNA Samples Can Be Taken From Arrestees Without Warrant

WASHINGTON -- A sharply divided Supreme Court on Monday cleared the way for police to take a DNA swab from anyone they arrest for a serious crime, endorsing a practice now followed by more than half the states as well as the federal government.

The justices differed strikingly on how big a step that was.

"Taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee DNA is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the court's five-justice majority. The ruling backed a Maryland law allowing DNA swabbing of people arrested for serious crimes.

Rep. Steve Stockman's Staffers Ask Callers If Rape Victims Should Be Allowed To Carry Guns

Democrats who called Rep. Steve Stockman's (R-Texas.) office last week to advocate for gun control were asked a loaded question by one the congressman's staffers: Should women be able to use guns to defend themselves against rapists?

Stockman tweeted on Friday, "Democrats calling our office today to argue women should not be allowed to defend themselves with a gun if they are raped #WarOnWomen."

Medicaid Expansion Denial Will Cost States Billions: Report

States that refuse to expand Medicaid under President Barack Obama's health care reform law not only will deny health coverage to poor residents and lose access to a huge influx of federal dollars, they also will see increased spending on uninsured people's unpaid medical bills, according to a new report by the Rand Corp., a consulting firm.

The Rand Corp. analyzed 14 states with governors who oppose the Medicaid expansion. It found their actions will deprive 3.6 million people of health coverage under Obamacare, forgo $8.4 billion in federal funding, and cost them $1 billion for programs that partially compensate medical providers who care for the indigent, according to the report published in the journal "Health Affairs." Since nearly half of states may not undertake the Medicaid expansion next year, those figures could be even higher. Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia plan to broaden Medicaid in 2014, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.