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 11, 2013

Toronto G20 police assault trial: Adam Nobody was ‘aggressive,’ police officers testify

Three Toronto police officers testified Tuesday that G20 protester Adam Nobody was aggressive and tried to turn the crowd against police.

Toronto police Const. Babak Andalib-Goortani has pleaded not guilty to assaulting Nobody with a weapon, his police baton.

Andalib-Goortani, the defence’s first witness, testified Monday that Nobody was resisting arrest and that he was doing as he was trained when he struck and jabbed the protester with his baton to get him under control so he could be arrested. Nobody, in his testimony last week, denied resisting arrest.

Why North Carolina wants to tax hybrid, electric car owners

Some things are hard to believe. Like this one: North Carolina wants to tax hybrid and electric car owners.

Lawmakers in the state are considering a tax on drivers of energy-efficient cars: $50 a year for a hybrid and $100 for an electric car. Very simply put, state politicans say it is a way to make up for the revenue lost when drivers buy less gasoline. The gasoline tax funds highways in the state.

This tax could raise to about $1.5 million each year.

John Boehner: Edward Snowden Is A 'Traitor'

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) called NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden a "traitor" in an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America" Tuesday.

"He's a traitor," he said. "The president outlined last week that these were important national security programs to help keep Americans safe and give us tools to fight the terrorist threat that we face."

"The disclosure of this information puts Americans at risk. It shows our adversaries what our capabilities are. And it's a giant violation of the law," he said.

Russian Anti-Gay Bill Passed By Lower Parliament

MOSCOW -- A bill that stigmatizes gay people and bans giving children any information about homosexuality won overwhelming approval Tuesday in Russia's lower house of parliament.

Hours before the State Duma passed the Kremlin-backed law in a 436-0 vote with one abstention, more than two dozen protesters were attacked by hundreds of anti-gay activists and then detained by police.

TransCanada Whistleblower Warns Of Shoddy Pipeline Practices

Former TransCanada Corp. employee Evan Vokes' impassioned testimony before a Canadian Senate committee last week painted "a very, very bleak picture of the pipeline industry in Canada, and probably by extension, the States," according to Sen. Betty Unger.

Vokes' allegations on Thursday against TransCanada, the Canadian company leading the controversial proposal to send tar sands oil from Alberta to the Gulf Coast via the Keystone XL pipeline, were sobering: a "culture of noncompliance" and "coercion," with "deeply entrenched business practices that ignored legally required regulations and codes" and carries "significant public safety risks."

NSA Programs Likely To Continue Despite Revelations

WASHINGTON — Dogged by fear and confusion about sweeping spy programs, intelligence officials sought to convince House lawmakers in an unusual briefing Tuesday that the government's years-long collection of phone records and Internet usage is necessary for protecting Americans – and does not trample on their privacy rights.

But the country's main civil liberties organization wasn't buying it, filing the most significant lawsuit against the sweeping phone record collection program so far. The American Civil Liberties Union and its New York chapter sued the federal government Tuesday in New York, asking a court to demand that the Obama administration end the program and purge the records it has collected.

Remember When NSA Surveillance Was Used to Help Launch the Iraq War?

Many Washington policymakers and journalists have framed the NSA surveillance controversy as a debate between privacy and security. Proponents of the data dragnets argue straightforwardly that it is necessary to protect Americans from terrorists. “I flew over the World Trade Center going to Senator [Frank] Lautenberg’s funeral, and in the distance was the Statue of Liberty. And I thought of those bodies jumping out of that building, hitting the canopy,” Senator Dianne Feinstein said on Sunday. “Part of our obligation is keeping Americans safe.”

A Modern-Day Stasi State

When I first heard that the source for Glenn Greenwald’s blockbuster stories on the National Security Agency was a contractor working for Booz Allen Hamilton, I felt a surge of vindication. After all, I’ve been writing about the murky world of intelligence contracting for a decade, and here was finally a sign of how extensively the government has outsourced its most secretive operations. Plus at the center of the scandal was a company that I have long identified as one of the most important companies in the intelligence-industrial complex.

Fracking firm chairman cited for role in UN-Iraq scandal

The chairman of the company behind controversial fracking plans on Newfoundland’s west coast was a player in a kickback scandal involving Australian wheat shipments to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

In 2006, the Australian judge who presided over a royal commission into that country’s role in the United Nations oil-for-food affair recommended that Norman Davidson Kelly be investigated by police. No charges were ever filed.

Government moves to force secret vote on contract offer with border guards

OTTAWA — The Conservative government is ratcheting up tensions with federal unions by invoking a never-used power to bypass the bargaining process and force a vote of Canada’s border guards on its last contract offer.

The government gave itself the power in legislation a few years ago but never used it until Heritage Minister James Moore ordered the Public Service Labour Relations Board, which he oversees, to call a secret vote on the government’s May 6 offer to 8,600 employees represented by the Customs and Immigration Union.

Crackdown on temporary foreign workers lets officials search without warrants

Federal officials will have the right to walk into Canadian workplaces without a warrant as part of a tightening of the controversial foreign temporary workers program.

Changes to immigration and refugee protection regulations, published just days ago, give Human Resources and Skills Development Canada officials or Citizenship and Immigration Canada officers the right to walk in on businesses as part of a random audit or because they suspect fraud.

Harper trip shifts focus to EU trade amid Senate scandal

Prime Minister Stephen Harper took off for Europe Tuesday, hoping to leave the Senate scandal behind and bask in the glow of international summitry.

His freshly painted plane, no longer dull grey, will whisk him away from the grubby Red Chamber.

Harper will meet the Queen, hold talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande, then attend the G8 summit in Northern Ireland. In the midst of such pageantry, who could be so gauche as to ask him about Mike Duffy?

Why Canada’s expense scandal resembles trench warfare

Canada’s expense scandal has settled into a form of rhetorical trench warfare, where neither the opposition nor the government nor journalists are giving an inch on their various questions and answers about a gang of now-independent senators—and, more recently, a Member of Parliament—who either allegedly, or admittedly, claimed expenses improperly.

Shelly Glover among MPs advising on Supreme Court pick

Shelly Glover, the Manitoba MP who is in the midst of a court battle with Elections Canada, is one of the government's picks to help choose the next Supreme Court justice.

Glover is one of three Conservative MPs tapped by Justice Minister Rob Nicholson to sit on an advisory panel that will advise him on a list of candidates.

House Speaker Scheer now keeping options open on confrontation between Elections Canada, two Conservative MPs

PARLIAMENT HILL—Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer is keeping his options open on a confrontation between Elections Canada and two Manitoba Conservative MPs over thousands of dollars in 2011 election campaign expenses that would put both of them over their campaign spending limit, and which could result in suspension of the MPs from House voting and proceedings at least until after court challenges they have filed are heard.

Up until Friday, June 7, Mr. Scheer’s (Regina-Qu’Appelle, Sask.) office had indicated to news media that he would not take “any action” until the two court cases launched by Conservative MPs James Bezan (Selkirk-Interlake, Man.) and Shelly Glover (Saint Boniface, Man.) were settled, which in Mr. Bezan’s case, would be at the earliest the fall.

Secret files reveal more Canadians using offshore tax havens

The president of the West Edmonton Mall. A prominent Ottawa philanthropist. A notorious fraudster. A pioneer of internet webcasting.

They are just a handful of the hundreds of Canadians named in the recent massive leak of records from offshore tax havens.

The 2.5 million files include financial and personal details on more than 550 Canadian taxpayers linked to companies and trusts based in the Caribbean and South Pacific.

Yaz, Yasmin birth control pills suspected in 23 deaths

At least 23 Canadian women who were taking two of the most commonly prescribed birth control pills in the world have died, CBC News has learned.

According to documents obtained from Health Canada, doctors and pharmacists say Yaz and Yasmin are suspected in the deaths of the women, who mostly died suddenly from blood clots.

Mayor Rob Ford again votes against community grants program

Mayor Rob Ford has continued his annual tradition of voting against all six of Toronto’s community grants programs — and losing overwhelmingly on all six.

The grants programs give $16.8 million in taxpayer money to more than 200 non-government organizations. By far the largest of the six, the $14.3-million Community Service Partnerships Program, funds groups “working to improve social outcomes for vulnerable, marginalized and high-risk communities.”

Government charges blamed for record new home costs

Up to one-quarter of the cost of a new home in the GTA is the direct result of government fees — especially municipal development charges that have skyrocketed in less than a decade, according to a new report by the building industry.

The growing list of fees being slapped on new home buyers now adds up to an average of $118,400, or 23 per cent, of the price of a new, single-detached home in the GTA, and more than $64,000, or 20 per cent, of the cost of a new high-rise condo, said the Building Industry and Land Development Association in a report being released Tuesday.

Neoliberalism has hijacked our vocabulary

At a recent art exhibition I engaged in an interesting conversation with one of the young people employed by the gallery. As she turned to walk off I saw she had on the back of her T-shirt "customer liaison". I felt flat. Our whole conversation seemed somehow reduced, my experience of it belittled into one of commercial transaction. My relation to the gallery and to this engaging person had become one of instrumental market exchange.

Canada blocking UN efforts to address sexual violence against women

OTTAWA/GENEVA, June 7, 2013 – Governments and civil society are calling into question the leadership of the Canadian government on the theme of Violence Against Women at the 23rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC).

In previous years, the Canadian government, which chairs the negotiations of the annual HRC resolution on violence against women, has played a leadership role in helping to create advances seeking to protect women from violence. Yet this year, a number of concerns have been raised regarding Canada’s approach to the new resolution on the theme of ‘sexual violence’. The concerns in question are the very proposals that Canada itself is putting forward which are regressive and represent a serious attack on women’s rights and the health and wellbeing of survivors of sexual violence.

Indigenous resistance, arrests continue against fracking in New Brunswick

ELSIPOGTOG, NEW BRUNSWICK – About 25 RCMP officers in uniform, along with about a dozen police cruisers, today continued to flank equipment owned by gas exploration company SWN Resources Canada as they proceeded with their seismic testing of highway 126 in Kent County, New Brunswick.

Pushing the scattered crowd of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people back “50 metres distance” from the southward approaching seismic trucks – or ‘thumpers’ – the RCMP first arrested one demonstrator and chased another into the woods before arresting Susanne Patles.

The Judicial Lynching of Bradley Manning

FORT MEADE, Md.—The military trial of Bradley Manning is a judicial lynching. The government has effectively muzzled the defense team. The Army private first class is not permitted to argue that he had a moral and legal obligation under international law to make public the war crimes he uncovered. The documents that detail the crimes, torture and killing Manning revealed, because they are classified, have been barred from discussion in court, effectively removing the fundamental issue of war crimes from the trial. Manning is forbidden by the court to challenge the government’s unverified assertion that he harmed national security. Lead defense attorney David E. Coombs said during pretrial proceedings that the judge’s refusal to permit information on the lack of actual damage from the leaks would “eliminate a viable defense, and cut defense off at the knees.” And this is what has happened.

Is the Surveillance State Constitutional?

The surveillance state is real and very much alive, but is it legal? The answer may surprise you. Despite constitutional protections against unlawful search and seizure, the Supreme Court and Congress have given the other branch of American government extraordinary power.

As classified documents recently published by The Guardian and The Washington Post reveal, the FBI and the National Security Agency are collecting the phone activity logs (the so-called metadata, encompassing billions of calls per day) of all telephone users in the country. The revelations also confirm that the feds are collecting, screening and reading at least some of the emails and other electronic communications made by suspected terrorists abroad, some of which might “incidentally” include communications made or received by Americans at home, to quote from the declassification memo released Saturday by James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, describing the NSA’s PRISM computer system used to acquire such information.

Was Cheney Right About Obama?

After Barack Obama was elected to his first term as President but before he took the oath of office, Vice-President Dick Cheney gave an exit interview to Rush Limbaugh. Under George W. Bush, Cheney was the architect, along with his legal counsel, David Addington, of a dramatic expansion of executive authority—a power grab that Obama criticized, fiercely, on the campaign trail, and promised to “reverse.” But when Limbaugh inquired about this criticism Cheney swatted it aside, saying, “My guess is that, once they get here and they’re faced with the same problems we deal with every day, they will appreciate some of the things we’ve put in place.”

Minimum Wage Saw Little Growth Over The Last 50 Years As Productivity Surged

Minimum wage workers haven’t seen their pay go up much in the past 50 years, but that doesn't mean they're less valuable to their employers.

The chart below from the New America Foundation, a non-profit public policy institute, shows that worker productivity has in fact skyrocketed even as the real minimum wage (which is the minimum wage adjusted for inflation) has seen slow growth.

NSA Leak Highlights Key Role Of Private Contractors

NEW YORK — The U.S. government monitors threats to national security with the help of nearly 500,000 people like Edward Snowden – employees of private firms who have access to the government's most sensitive secrets.

When Snowden, an employee of one of those firms, Booz Allen Hamilton, revealed details of two National Security Agency surveillance programs, he spotlighted the risks of making so many employees of private contractors a key part of the U.S. intelligence apparatus.

Why the NSA Surveillance Program Isn't Like The Wire

David Simon, creator of The Wire, got a lot of attention over the weekend for his defense of the NSA program that collects records of every phone call made in the United States. It's really nothing new, he says:

    Allow for a comparable example, dating to the early 1980s in a place called Baltimore, Maryland.

    There, city detectives once began to suspect that major traffickers were using a combination of public pay phones and digital pagers to communicate their business. And they took their suspicions to a judge and obtained court orders — not to monitor any particular suspect, but to instead cull the dialed numbers from the thousands and thousands of calls made to and from certain city pay phones.

Injured soldier who testified about struggles given discharge notice

An injured Canadian soldier who testified about his struggle for health benefits has been notified that he will be discharged in six months, despite assurances from Defence Minister Peter MacKay that he would suffer “no ramifications” for speaking out.

Vancouver-native Cpl. Glen Kirkland, who nearly died in Afghanistan five years ago when he was ambushed by the Taliban, said mere days after appearing before a parliamentary committee he received a notice in the mail of his impending discharge.

Digital Blackwater: How the NSA Gives Private Contractors Control of the Surveillance State

As the Justice Department prepares to file charges against Booz Allen Hamilton employee Edward Snowden for leaking classified documents about the National Security Agency, the role of private intelligence firms has entered the national spotlight. Despite being on the job as a contract worker inside the NSA’s Hawaii office for less than three months, Snowden claimed he had power to spy on almost anyone in the country. “I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant to a federal judge, to even the president, if I had a personal email,” Snowden told the Guardian newspaper. Over the past decade, the U.S. intelligence community has relied increasingly on the technical expertise of private firms such as Booz Allen, SAIC, the Boeing subsidiary Narus and Northrop Grumman. About 70 percent of the national intelligence budget is now spent on the private sector. Former NSA director Michael V. Hayden has described these firms as a quote “Digital Blackwater." We speak to Tim Shorrock, author of the book "Spies For Hire: The Secret World of Outsourced Intelligence."

Author: --

Via Rail's Strike Contingency Plan Rolls Ahead Before June 14 Canadian Auto Workers Union Deadline

MONTREAL - Via Rail says if its customer service and other employees go on strike this week, management will continue to offer basic railway services.

The railway is in negotiations with the Canadian Auto Workers union and faces a deadline of 12:01 a.m. on Friday to reach a new collective agreement.

Tory MP claimed visits to hair and nail salons, grooming products, and toothpaste as election expenses

OTTAWA — A Conservative MP claimed election expenses that included hundreds of dollars for repeat visits to a hair and nail salons, skin care and grooming products, and even whitening toothpaste.

The campaign of Mississauga – Brampton South MP Eve Adams, who serves as parliamentary secretary to the minister of veterans affairs, claimed a total of $2,777 in “other personal expenses” on her 2011 election return.

Elections Canada’s guidebook for candidates puts a $200 limit on the amount of other personal costs they can claim and only for expenses that “would not normally incur if there was no election.”

Steelworkers rally against Harper's low-wage, anti-worker agenda

On a rainy Monday morning outside Federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver's constituency office in Toronto, the United Steelworkers and their allies held a rally to protest the Conservative government’s low-wage, anti-worker agenda and corporate abuses of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

"We're very concerned about the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and what it's doing to workers they're brining in from around the world," said Carolyn Egan, president USW Local 8300.

Tories deny Canadian spy agencies are targeting Canadians

OTTAWA—The Conservative government flatly denies Canadian spy agencies are conducting any unauthorized electronic snooping operations.

After facing questions from the NDP Opposition about how far he has authorized Ottawa’s top secret eavesdropping spy agency to go, a terse Conservative Defence Minister Peter MacKay left the Commons, telling the Star: “We don’t target Canadians, okay.”

Does Canada need an office of religious engagement?

Depending on your view of Canada’s recently opened Office of Religious Freedom, you may or may not welcome the likelihood that a related idea from the U.S. State Department will be percolating its way northward.

In recent years, Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs (and its changing cast of partner departments) has been adopting experiments in diplomacy tried out by their counterparts in Washington. As well as copying the U.S.’s Office for International Religious Freedom, our government is in the early stages of figuring out how to emulate American initiatives in digital diplomacy and diaspora engagement that were pioneered under former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Now comes unofficial news that another initiative will soon be launched at the State Department: an office of religious engagement.

Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks are backlash of too much secrecy

Keep your distance: The director of national intelligence is having intestinal distress.

“For me, it is literally — not figuratively, literally — gut-wrenching to see this happen,” James Clapper told Andrea Mitchell over the weekend, referring to leaks about the government’s secret program to collect vast troves of phone and Internet data.

There might be a bit more sympathy for Clapper’s digestive difficulty if he hadn’t delivered a kick in the gut to the American public just three months ago.

The Government and Its Secrets: A Matter of Principles

America is supposed to be a nation governed by principles, which are undergirded by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and carried into law. The discussion about the government and its capture of *our* data should be held on the level of principles.

Privacy: Our direct and personal communication in any medium and by any means -- mail, email, phone, VOIP, Twitter DM, and any technology yet to be invented -- should be considered private, as our physical mail is, and subject to government intervention only through lawful warrant. That is not the case. Thus it is quite reasonable to be disturbed at the news that government can demand and receive communication we believe to be private. Government may call itself the protector of our privacy but it is our privacy's worst enemy.

NSA snooping: Obama under pressure as senator denounces 'act of treason'

Barack Obama was facing a mounting domestic and international backlash against US surveillance operations on Monday as his administration struggled to contain one of the most explosive national security leaks in US history.

Political opinion in the US was split with some members of Congress calling for the immediate extradition from Hong Kong of the whistleblower, Edward Snowden. But other senior politicians in both main parties questioned whether US surveillance practices had gone too far.

Under-estimating the climate impacts of bitumen

The news out of Detroit is pretty shocking. The only thing more shocking is that it is not making headlines in Canada.

The New York Times has been reporting that a mountain of coke, waste from refining Alberta bitumen, is towering over the streets of Detroit. An entire city block is buried in the waste that looms three stories above city streets. The pile is occupying precious waterfront, prime for local use. And it threatens the water quality of the Detroit River.

Edward Snowden Is No Hero

Edward Snowden, a twenty-nine-year-old former C.I.A. employee and current government contractor, has leaked news of National Security Agency programs that collect vast amounts of information about the telephone calls made by millions of Americans, as well as e-mails and other files of foreign targets and their American connections. For this, some, including my colleague John Cassidy, are hailing him as a hero and a whistle-blower. He is neither. He is, rather, a grandiose narcissist who deserves to be in prison.

Why Edward Snowden Is a Hero

Is Edward Snowden, the twenty-nine-year-old N.S.A. whistle-blower who was last said to be hiding in Hong Kong awaiting his fate, a hero or a traitor? He is a hero. (My colleague Jeffrey Toobin disagrees.) In revealing the colossal scale of the U.S. government’s eavesdropping on Americans and other people around the world, he has performed a great public service that more than outweighs any breach of trust he may have committed. Like Daniel Ellsberg, the former Defense Department official who released the Pentagon Papers, and Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli nuclear technician who revealed the existence of Israel’s weapons program, before him, Snowden has brought to light important information that deserved to be in the public domain, while doing no lasting harm to the national security of his country.

Jay Carney Refuses To Discuss Edward Snowden, But Says Obama Is Open To 'Debate'

WASHINGTON -- White House Press Secretary Jay Carney repeatedly said on Monday that he won't discuss Edward Snowden, the former CIA employee who revealed himself as The Guardian's source of confidential National Security Agency documents, while also repeatedly assuring the press that President Barack Obama welcomes debate on these issues.

During his daily briefing, Carney said from the start that he wouldn't comment on Snowden. He wouldn't even say his name.

John Lewis's Long Fight for Voting Rights

On March 7, 1965, John Lewis threw an apple, an orange, a toothbrush, some toothpaste and two books into his backpack, and prepared to lead a fifty-four-mile march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. The impromptu march was organized to call national attention to the disenfranchisement of African-Americans in the South and to protest the death of a young civil rights activist shot by police during a demonstration in a neighboring town.

Edward Snowden and the Iceland Option

Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who disclosed details about two massive spying programs, initially holed up in a hotel in Hong Kong, a part of the world he chose apparently because of its "spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent." But it's not clear that Hong Kong officials are especially interested in sheltering him. And Snowden said when he went public this weekend that he might try to seek asylum in Iceland.

Canada Has NSA-Style Surveillance System, Documents Show

Since the revelations last week that the U.S. culls the phone records of millions of Americans every day and accesses the network of tech giants like Apple, Facebook and Google to trace citizens, questions have been popping up about whether Canadians are subject to similar surveillance.

So far, experts could only say that Canada has the legal loopholes and the capability to do so if it wishes.

But documents obtained by the Globe and Mail and The Canadian Press suggest that Canada is, indeed, engaged in mass warrantless surveillance.

Pierre Poilievre: 'Mr. Speaker, Can I Tell You A Secret?'

Members of Parliament sometimes get a bad rap for behaving like kids in question period. They shout. They taunt. Sometimes there’s almost a schoolyard tussle. Heck, every once in a while they even fall asleep.

But Pierre Poilievre, parliamentary secretary to the minister of transport, took things to a different level on Monday.

Poilievre has been earning his bucks lately by being one of a handful of Tory MPs consistently rising to defend the government on the Senate expense scandal and reports of a Conservative party fund run out of the Prime Minister’s Office.

CBC boss Hubert Lacroix ‘sorry,’ backpedals on French name change

OTTAWA – After sounding the alarm last week, Federal Heritage Minister James Moore Monday welcomed a decision by Canada’s public broadcaster to retreat on a planned change to its French-language name.

Radio-Canada provoked a public backlash last week, and stinging criticism from politicians, the public and social media users after it announced it would rebrand itself as “ICI” (which in English means “here”).

Government warned before loss of student loan, CPP data

Human Resources and Skills Development Canada was alerted to several security concerns months before breaches last November in which the department lost data belonging to more 500,000 recipients of student loans, CPP and disability benefits, CBC News has learned.

In June 2012, the department's security plan, obtained by CBC News Network's Power & Politics under Access to Information, concluded: "To continue building a strong culture of security and a robust security program for the department, additional resources will need to be made available.

Rob Ford boots last woman off executive committee

Mayor Rob Ford has an all-male executive committee after a Monday leadership shuffle in which he demoted two councillors who have challenged him over his alleged substance use.

Ford ousted the only woman on the powerful 13-member committee, Councillor Jaye Robinson. He also bumped Councillor Paul Ainslie to a lesser role.

Robinson had publicly urged Ford to take a leave of absence to deal with an ongoing crack cocaine scandal. Ainslie confirmed to the Star in March that the mayor was asked to leave a military ball at which organizers were concerned that he was intoxicated.

Can Edward Snowden Stay in Hong Kong?

In choosing to go to Hong Kong, Edward Snowden, the former C.I.A. tech, who leaked news of the U.S. government’s collection of private Internet and telephone data, put himself at the intersection of forces more powerful than what he called that city’s “commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent.” He’s not wrong about that commitment—it’s one of Hong Kong’s most appealing distinctions—but going to Hong Kong out of devotion to free speech is a bit like going to Tibet out of a devotion to Buddhism; the people love it, though they live under authorities who intervene when they choose. On Monday Wen Yunchao, a liberal blogger in Hong Kong, wrote that Snowden has gone “out of the tiger’s den, and into the wolf’s lair.”

Global Carbon Dioxide Emissions From Energy Rose To Record High In 2012, IEA Reports

STOCKHOLM (AP) — The world's energy-related carbon dioxide emissions rose 1.4 percent in 2012 to a record high of 31.6 billion tons, even though the U.S. posted its lowest emissions since the mid-1990s, the International Energy Agency said Monday.

In its annual World Energy Outlook report, the Paris-based IEA said top carbon polluter China had the largest emissions growth last year, up 300 million tons, or 3.8 percent, from 2011. Still, the increase was among the lowest seen in a decade as China continues to invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

The Six Vital Questions About NSA Surveillance

The startling revelations about NSA surveillance this week -- from the collection of phone records to an Internet collection program named "PRISM' -- have brought a firestorm of media attention, but there are few solid answers about how these programs operate, how our personal information is being used or indeed, how post 9-11 laws have been interpreted to permit sweeping surveillance activities.

The American people are being told that the programs are subject to a "robust legal review" and in any event, have proven useful in fighting terrorism. The message has been straightforward: Nothing to see here folks, just move on. But we should not be reduced to playing guessing games about whether and how our own government is monitoring us and how far these programs reach into our private lives.

State Department memo reveals possible cover-ups, halted investigations

(CBS News) CBS News has uncovered documents that show the State Department may have covered up allegations of illegal and inappropriate behavior within their ranks.

The Diplomatic Security Service, or the DSS, is the State Department's security force, charged with protecting the secretary of state and U.S. ambassadors overseas and with investigating any cases of misconduct on the part of the 70,000 State Department employees worldwide.

Tony Clement Targets Sick Days In Public Service

The federal government intends to overhaul the way public servants can take time off work for being sick in a way that will benefit them and the taxpayer, Treasury Board President Tony Clement says.

Clement said Monday the changes will tackle the abnormally high rates of absenteeism in the federal public service and provide better help for ill employees so they can get back to work faster.

"We are overhauling an archaic system that does not work for the taxpayer and doesn't work for the employee," Clement said at a news conference on Parliament Hill.

Senate, MP Expenses: Politicians Can Claim $90 A Day For Food Without Showing Receipts

OTTAWA — As MPs get ready to publicly disclose more details of their expenses, several groups are questioning why members of Parliament and senators are allowed to claim per diems for food while in Ottawa without having to show any receipts.

MPs and senators are allowed to claim up to $89.95 per day for breakfast, lunch and dinner, without having to show how they spent the money, while working in the national capital region. Members of Parliament are also eligible for per diems while traveling across the country or abroad and may also charge taxpayers for meals while traveling in their own riding.

Canadians should be demanding answers about secret surveillance programs

Privacy and surveillance have taken centre stage this week with the revelations that U.S. agencies have been engaged in massive, secret surveillance programs that include years of capturing the meta-data from every cellphone call on the Verizon network (the meta-data includes the number called and the length of the call) as well as gathering information from the largest Internet companies in the world including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple in a program called PRISM. This article provides some background on the U.S. programs, but focuses primarily on the Canadian perspective, arguing that many of the same powers exist under Canadian law and that it is likely that Canadians have been caught up by these surveillance activities.

Rathgeber’s ‘trained seals’ barb strikes nerve with government backbenchers

Government backbenchers attacked MP Brent Rathgeber, who quit the caucus last week after saying the Conservatives have “morphed into what we have once mocked.”

Within 24 hours of Mr. Rathgeber’s (Edmonton-St. Albert, Alta.) exit from the Conservative caucus, members of the government’s backbenches began to take aim at the now Independent MP by disputing his comments and questioning his professionalism.