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.]

Monday, December 02, 2013

Over 110 Arrested as Record Black Friday Protests Challenge Wal-Mart, Major Retailers on Low Wages

At least 111 people were arrested on Black Friday in a series of protests and acts of civil disobedience targeting Wal-Mart and other big-box retailers. In St. Paul, Minnesota, 26 protesters were arrested when they blocked traffic while demanding better wages for janitors and retail employees. In Illinois, 10 people were issued citations at a protest near a Wal-Mart in Chicago. Video posted online showed nine people being arrested at a protest outside a Wal-Mart store in Alexandria, Virginia. At Wal-Mart protests in California, 15 people were arrested in Roseville, 10 arrested in Ontario, and five arrested in San Leandro. Organizers said actions took place at 1,500 Wal-Mart locations across the country, up from about 400 locations last year. Meanwhile, fast-food workers have announced plans to hold a one-day strike in 100 cities on Thursday as part of a campaign to win a $15-an-hour wage. We discuss the labor protests with Josh Eidelson, staff reporter at

Author: --

Watching the Watch List: Landmark Case Goes to Trial over Massive U.S. Terrorism "No-Fly" Database

With hundreds of thousands of people now on the government’s terrorist watch lists, a closely watched trial begins today in San Francisco. Stanford University Ph.D. student Rahinah Ibrahim is suing the U.S. government after she was barred from flying from Malaysia back to the United States in 2005 to complete her studies at Stanford after her name was placed on the list. The New York Times reports that the federal government’s terrorist watch list, officially called the "Terrorist Screening Database," has grown to at least 700,000 people, and those on the list are often subjected to extra scrutiny, prohibited from flying, and interrogated while attempting to cross borders. The government refuses to divulge who is on the list, how one can get off the list, and what criteria is used to place someone on the list in the first place. Oftentimes, people have no idea their name is in the database until they attempt to board a flight. We speak with Anya Bernstein, associate professor at the SUNY Buffalo Law School and author of the article, "The Hidden Costs of Terrorist Watch Lists."

Author: --

Meet Patrick Soon-Shiong, The LA Billionaire Reinventing Your Health Care

SANTA MONICA, Calif. –- You have been diagnosed with lung cancer.

There is a bewildering array of drugs, and combinations of drugs, that may shrink the tumor and prolong your life. Or they could make matters worse and give you terrible side effects.

In the past, this decision was mostly a crude guess, and it was often wrong.

No longer.

The Death of the Reverend

Wiebo Ludwig, the man that the mainstream media labelled an "eco-terrorist" and "convicted bomber" died the way he lived: in an uncompromising manner and surrounded by his large and resourceful family.

Struck by esophageal cancer several months ago, the fundamentalist Christian and Dutch immigrant declined modern chemotherapy. He then made his own coffin with the deliberation of a man who feared nobody except God.

The Saboteurs

CALGARY, Canada—Oil and natural gas drilling in the province of Alberta has turned Calgary into a boomtown. Glittering skyscrapers, monuments to the obscene profits amassed by a fossil fuel industry that is exploiting the tar sands and the vast oil and natural gas fields in Alberta, have transformed Calgary into a mecca for money, dirty politics, greed and industry jobs. The city is as soulless and sterile as Houston. The death of the planet, for a few, is very good for business.

The man who waged North America’s first significant war against hydraulic fracturing was from Alberta, an eccentric, messianic Christian preacher named Wiebo Ludwig who died last year. He, with his small Christian community in the remote north of the province, sabotaged at least one wellhead by pouring cement down its shaft and blew up others. The Canadian authorities, along with the oil and gas barons, demonize Ludwig as an ecoterrorist, an odd charge given that they are the ones responsible for systematically destroying the environment and the planet. And as the ecosystem deteriorates—and the drive by corporations to extract the last remaining natural resources from the earth, even if it kills us all, becomes more and more relentless—the resistance of Wiebo Ludwig is worth remembering.

BC's Land Oil Spill Response Isn't Remotely 'World-Leading'

Terrestrial oil spills are fundamentally a provincial responsibility. Whereas Ottawa is responsible for federal lands, species at risk, migratory fish and birds and their habitats, the rest falls under the purview of the province. The province's land-based spill preparedness and response principles in its five conditions for heavy oil pipelines represent "a starting point for discussion with industry and Canada towards building a world leading terrestrial spill management system for B.C."

However, more than four years earlier the province was aware it was playing Russian roulette with B.C.'s land-based resources. The Ministry of Environment commissioned an independent study in 2008 that found funding for spill preparedness and response was sorely lacking, and that provincial legislation was weak. There was no long-term liability for the restoration of resources damaged or destroyed by the release of hazardous materials. Recommendations to address the inadequate regime were made, but the government took no apparent action.

Harper turning Canada into a rogue state

Under Stephen Harper, Canada has become a rogue state. This is the politest phrase I can devise for the ratty gun-loving gimme-the-money nation we’re turning into on the international stage.

“You’re from Canada, you say?” customs officers will ask us at Heathrow with the caution they before reserved for … I won’t say because I’m a traditional Canadian and don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, OK, Uzbekistan. Or Alabama.

After a visit from us, other countries count the spoons.

Benjamin Netanyahu Expenses: Israel Prime Minister Under Fire For Big Expenses

JERUSALEM - The Israeli prime minister's reported penchant for scented candles is setting off a stink.

Maariv daily on Monday slammed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for spending $1,700 on scented candles, $23,300 on flower arrangements and $31,600 on gardening at his official residence in Jerusalem, among other costs totalling about $909,000 in 2012.

Netanyahu's alleged expenses were detailed in a document released by a civil liberties group following a freedom of information request.

Israelis have long accused Netanyahu of leading a lavish lifestyle while failing to address the middle class' economic woes. He came under fire in the past for spending $127,000 on a special sleeping cabin on a flight to London and for $3,000 spent on ice cream.

Asked about the document, Netanyahu's office said expenses decreased this year.

Original Article
Author: CP  |  By The Associated Press 

Food Bank Use Near Record Level In Ontario, Report Says

A near-record number of Ontarians are using food banks, according to a new report.

The Ontario Association of Food Banks (OAFB) says that 375,789 people made use of a food bank in the province this March – more than one-third of whom were children.

House Only Working 8 More Days This Year

Working during the holidays sucks. Luckily for members of the U.S. House of Representatives, they don't have that much of it before the new year begins.

The House is only scheduled to work eight days between now and January 7, when members return for the second session of the 113th Congress.

The House had 239 days off scheduled during 2013, and they have even more off days scheduled for next year.

The 2014 calendar for the House, released in October by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), shows members will only work only 113 days. That's down from 2013, when House lawmakers were scheduled to meet for 126 days. Only 107 days were scheduled in 2012.

As HuffPost reported in July, the 113th Congress is on pace to be the least productive in modern history. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has been defensive of that report.

"We should not be judged on how many new laws we create," Boehner told CBS News' Bob Schieffer in July. "We ought to be judged on how many laws we repeal. We’ve got more laws than the administration could ever enforce."

Original Article
Author: The Huffington Post

Who’s who in Senate expenses scandal

The Senate expense scandal started with a look at Senators claiming ineligible housing and travel allowances and has sparked into arguably the Conservative government’s biggest crisis. It erupted in the spring when news broke that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s former chief of staff got involved by giving Senator Mike Duffy $90,000 to cover his ineligible expenses. So far the scandal has claimed three Senators’ suspensions, five resignations, sparked six investigations, the opposition calling for Senate reforms and abolishment, and a deep soul searching in Parliament. The scandal received new legs when the RCMP filed an 80-page document with more explosive details about the Wright-Duffy deal, the communications strategy, and just how far some PMO staff went to try to change a Senate report. Here is the definitive guide to Senate scandal.

China Leak: Charged Man Had No Security Clearance, Says Exec

The man RCMP accuse of trying to leak secrets about Canada's $36.6-billion federal shipbuilding program to China had no official access to information about the project, the president of Lloyd's Register Canada told The Tyee.

The RCMP-led Integrated National Security Enforcement Team announced Security of Information Act charges Dec. 1 against 53-year-old Quentin Qing Huang, a Chinese-educated surveyor with Lloyd's Register's Toronto Technical Support Office. Huang was arrested and placed in custody a day earlier.

Is the senate scandal Canada's Watergate?

The Senate scandal is no longer about Mike Duffy, Nigel Wright or the future of the Senate. It's about Stephen Harper's integrity -- his credibility and trustworthiness.

The Prime Minister's most senior advisers first tried to orchestrate a deal to play down Mr. Duffy's offence of cheating on his expenses so he could remain in the Senate. When this ploy became untenable, they succeeded in arranging his suspension from the Senate. From the beginning, the Prime Minister's inner circle in his office (the PMO) and the Senate were also attempting to cover up these schemes.

Canadian Torture Policy Irks European Security Alliance, Records Reveal

OTTAWA - A major alliance that promotes European security has criticized Canada for opening the door to the use of information that may have been extracted through torture.

Newly disclosed briefing notes and correspondence show the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe wrote to Canada's representative to the organization to express concerns about the policy.

Canada belongs to the 57-member alliance, which bills itself as the world's largest regional security organization, working for peace, democracy and stability for more than a billion people.

Park Service to Congress: Only YOU Can Prevent Government Shutdowns

Perhaps nothing is more emblematic of the frustration Americans felt during the October government shutdown, which cost the economy an estimated $24 billion, than the furor over the shuttering of more than 400 federal national parks. Republicans accused Democrats of keeping veterans from seeing the World War II monument in Washington, DC. Democrats blamed the Republicans (who effectively held the nation's budget hostage for 16 days until they couldn't politically afford to anymore) of seizing the park issue to distract from the economy. But now, the US National Park Service—which lost $450,000 a day in park entry and activity fees during the shutdown—has a new message for Congress: No, we're not going prepare for another government shutdown, because you need to do your job.

PM prerogative, public’s knowledge of his office and fleeting glimpses

OTTAWA—Of late, the opposition, media, the RCMP, and the public all want to know more about the Prime Minister and the PMO’s involvement in containing the Senate expenses scandal.

The email trail the RCMP has disclosed in its continuing investigation in the PMO/Wright/Duffy expense case reveals a small bit about the PMO’s operations, and the PM, his political party, and Senate allies.

However, records concerning the PMO/PM behind-the-scenes actions are not normally ever releasable or covered by access to information legislation. All this pretty absolute wall of secrecy helps make possible the tight, centrally-controlled information ship Prime Minister Harper runs.

Opposition MPs say feds’ anti-cyber-bullying bill ‘ghost of Vic Toews’ e-snooping bill’

Opposition MPs are accusing the government of reviving controversial lawful access measures found in Bill C-30 through the backdoor of a legislation meant to address cyber-bullying and are calling on the Conservatives to split the bill, but Justice Minister Peter MacKay says the opposition’s claims are “misleading” and the reforms are necessary.

“The Conservatives have a tendency to always push forward, even if they are hitting a brick wall. They do not often make a strategic retreat to show that they heard what the public had to say. However, that is what happened in the case of Bill C-30. The Conservatives backtracked because Canadians felt that Bill C-30 violated their privacy and gave some people unrestricted tools. Those people may have good intentions, but once again, the devil is in the details,” said NDP MP Françoise Boivin (Gatineau, Que.).

PMO’s recent influence on Senate Internal Economy Committee unprecedented, says Lowell Murray

The political culture has changed so much so that the Prime Minister’s Office has tentacles where it doesn’t belong, as documented by the RCMP investigation into the Senate expenses scandal showing PMO officials tried to change a report from the Senate Internal Economy Committee—something that was unheard of 20 years ago, says a recently-retired Senator.

“The culture has really changed. There’s always been some attempt to persuade your own colleagues to go along, God knows I tried, but that’s the culture. In the Senate, in the House of Commons, Members stand up and they’re reading from a script that’s been prepared for them by some people over there in the PMO,” said Lowell Murray, a former Progressive Conservative Senator who served in the Upper Chamber for 32 years, including seven-and-a-half as the Senate government leader, in a telephone interview with The Hill Times last week. “In general, it is a team sport, but they should never allow themselves—especially a committee like Internal Economy—to be so controlled that the PMO would be reaching in to decide what should be in a committee report, on a matter internal to the Senate. It wasn’t as if it was a big trade agreement or a bunch of Criminal Code amendments or something that the government would have a legitimate interest in.”

Why is Sweden closing its prisons?

Swedish prisons have long had a reputation around the world as being liberal and progressive. So much so that in 2005 even Saddam Hussein requested to be transferred to a Swedish prison to await his trial – a request that was rejected by the Swedish authorities. But are the country's prisons a soft option?

The head of Sweden's prison and probation service, Nils Oberg, announced in November that four Swedish prisons are to be closed due to an "out of the ordinary" decline in prisoner numbers.

The war on democracy

A stunning new report compiles extensive evidence showing how some of the world's largest corporations have partnered with private intelligence firms and government intelligence agencies to spy on activist and nonprofit groups. Environmental activism is a prominent though not exclusive focus of these activities.

The report by the Center for Corporate Policy (CCP) in Washington DC titled Spooky Business: Corporate Espionage against Nonprofit Organizations draws on a wide range of public record evidence, including lawsuits and journalistic investigations. It paints a disturbing picture of a global corporate espionage programme that is out of control, with possibly as much as one in four activists being private spies.

China pushes for greater investment in UK, including HS2 and nuclear power

China wants involvement in Britain's first high-speed rail line and an increased role in civil nuclear power, the country's premier said in Beijing after talks with David Cameron on the first day of the prime minister's visit.

Li Keqiang said China would also like to invest in power projects.

Speaking in the Great Hall of the People on Monday, Li said: "The two sides have agreed to push for breakthroughs and progress in the co-operation between our enterprises on nuclear power and high speed rail. The Chinese side is willing to not only participate in but also purchase equities and stocks in UK power projects."

David Cameron accused of 'smoke and mirrors' on energy bills

David Cameron stands accused of using "smoke and mirrors" tactics over his pledge to cut energy bills, with critics claiming that fuel prices will be at a record high this winter and cuts to energy efficiency schemes will come at the expense of some of the poorest households.

The government has pledged to bring down energy costs by taking £50 off bills and offering new homebuyers up to £1,000 to help install insulation, double glazing or green boilers as part of Thursday's autumn statement, which will be set out by George Osborne.

Revealed: Australian spy agency offered to share data about ordinary citizens

Australia's surveillance agency offered to share information collected about ordinary Australian citizens with its major intelligence partners, according to a secret 2008 document leaked by the US whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The document shows the partners discussing whether or not to share "medical, legal or religious information", and increases concern that the agency could be operating outside its legal mandate, according to the human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC.

Kiev Protests Draw Over 300,000 People To March Against Regime

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — A protest by about 300,000 Ukrainians angered by their government's decision to freeze integration with the West turned violent Sunday, when a group of demonstrators besieged the president's office and police drove them back with truncheons, tear gas and flash grenades. Dozens of people were injured.

Bedouin rise up against Israel eviction plan

Rahat, Israel - Those passing by Al Araqib may call it a shanty town, but to Sheikh Siah Altori it is a home he says he is prepared to die for. After a reported 62 separate demolitions by state authorities, the remains of the Bedouin community, off the road from Rahat to Be'er Sheva, consists of several portable buildings, and a clutch of shacks and animal pens clinging to a hillside in the north of Israel's Negev Desert.

Portions of the village's lands have been designated to be planted with a state-sponsored forest. Al Araqib is one of the Bedouin communities known as an "unrecognised village", which receive no state services such as electricity, water or sanitation. As many as 200,000 Bedouin live in the Negev, an area comprising 60 percent of Israel's territory. Under a government proposal known as the Prawer-Begin Plan, $340m has been allocated for land and monetary compensation to move up to 40,000 of the Bedouin into state-sponsored townships.

Senate scandal: Nigel Wright and the making of a controversy

OTTAWA—It had been a wicked week.

By Friday, Feb. 22 — the day of a fateful conferral between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his trusted chief of staff Nigel Wright over the headache of Mike Duffy’s Senate expenses — a brief midwinter Commons recess was ending.

The ethical storm now engulfing the prime minister hadn’t yet broken. Yet were warning signs missed in a PMO where a hands-on chief had taken personal charge of a political controversy?

American Oligarchs Will Never Cancel the Debts Owed to Them

University of Missouri economic historian and former Wall Street economist Michael Hudson explains one of the best-kept and most pernicious secrets of contemporary capitalism: Unless the financial scheme underpinning society is restructured, the bulk of debts owed by working and poor Americans can’t and won’t be repaid. The result is an ever-growing class of permanent debt slaves.

The clip below comes from a 2011 documentary called “Surviving Progress.” In it, Hudson states that the problem originates with the privatization of finance. “Every society in history for the last 4,000 years has found that the debts grow more rapidly than people can pay,” he says. “The problem is a small oligarchy of 10 percent of the population at the top to whom all of these net debts are owed to. You want to annual the debts to the top 10 percent. That’s what they’re not going to do. The oligarchy is running things. They would rather annul the bottom 90 percent right to live than to annul the money that’s due to them. They would rather strip the planet and shrink the population and be paid rather than give up their claims. That’s the political fight of the 21st century.”

Hudson’s belief that the problem cannot be solved without a radical reorganization of finance comes from his experience on Wall Street. “My job on Wall Street was to be balance and payments economist for Chase Manhattan bank in the 1960s. My first job there was to calculate how much debt could third world countries pay, and the answer was ‘Well, how much do they earn?’ And whatever they earned, that’s what they could afford to pay in interest. And our objective was to take the entire earnings of a third world country and say ‘Ideally, that would be all paid as interest to us.’ ”

Original Article
Author:  Alexander Reed Kelly

Let’s Face It, Believing Rich People Create Sustainable Jobs Is Delusional

Henry Blodget, CEO of news website Business Insider, clears up the widespread myth that entrepreneurs such as himself are responsible for creating jobs for the rest of America. The often-told lie is simply a way to justify the immense inequality symptomatic of our dire economic climate. What’s more, Blodget writes, is that the notion that investors and entrepreneurs wouldn’t work as hard to build companies if taxes were higher is simply not true.

Blodget discusses what is needed to create employment in a piece for Business Insider:

Busting Eight Common Excuses for NSA Mass Surveillance

We’ve heard from lots of folks who are passionately concerned about the NSA’s mass spying, but are struggling to get their friends and family to understand the problem and join the over a half-million people who have demanded change through and elsewhere.

Of course, you can show them the Stop Watching Us video and this great segment from Stephen Colbert. And if you’d like a detailed refresher on all the ways NSA is conducing mass surveillance, ProPublica has a handy explainer here.

But you also need to be prepared to respond to the common refrains of folks confused, nonplussed, or simply exhausted from the headlines. So here’s a cheat sheet to help you talk about the NSA spying when you’re with family and friends.

Eight Common Excuses for Mass Spying and Why They’re Wrong

The Electronic Frontier Foundation compiled a list of “common refrains of folks confused, nonplussed, or simply exhausted from the headlines” about NSA surveillance and informed responses that can be used to enlighten a conversation.

Robert Shiller, Nobel-Winning Economist, Warns Of U.S. Stock Market Bubble

BERLIN, Dec 1 (Reuters) - An American who won this year's Nobel Prize for economics believes sharp rises in equity and property prices could lead to a dangerous financial bubble and may end badly, he told a German magazine.

Robert Shiller, who won the esteemed award with two other Americans for research into market prices and asset bubbles, pinpointed the U.S. stock market and Brazilian property market as areas of concern.

The great pension divide: an in-depth look

OTTAWA — Generous public pensions are blowing holes in government budgets, while many private sector retirees are facing bleak financial futures.

A special edition of The West Block with Tom Clark dug into the great Canadian pension divide—a problem politicians can no longer avoid, as many public sector pensions begin to eat up a bigger share of government budgets.

When it comes to retirement, civil servants are in a class of their own, often enjoying generous benefits and the freedom to retire before turning 65.

Why not boycott the NFL?

Black Friday is, without a doubt, a fairly horrid phenomenon in the U.S. (now extended into Canada), wherein consumer culture, corporate greed and anti-labour practices collide. The holiday tradition of over-consumption, beginning on Black Friday and ending at Boxing Day Week in a mountain of things and post-holiday depression, led Adbusters to attach itself to the promotion of "Buy Nothing Day," which takes place the day after American Thanksgiving.

There are a number of smart critiques of Buy Nothing Day (and, more generally, Adbusters' focus on consumption and it's branding of non-consumption) and, while I appreciate the efforts of individuals to avoid participating in the buying frenzy that surrounds the holidays, I find some of these boycotts and actions to be overly simplistic as well as conveniently lacking in gender (and, in fact, class) analysis.

Masked RCMP continue to enforce the violation of treaties and attack Indigenous self-determination

The RCMP turned out in full force again friday to protect SWN Resources corporate interests, stopping traffic on Highway 11 near Rexton due to the ongoing anti-shale gas protest.

One person asked, Is this Canada? where cops protect the corporations that the government is literally paying to steal our resources and put the people who are standing up for their land…..native and non-native in jail. Is this the Canada our grandparents and great grandparents fought for? And why are the RCMP wearing masks when it’s illegal for demonstrators to do same?

Off the cop check list?

While the media were hunkering down outside the mayor’s office last Monday night, November 18, the Police Services Board’s meeting on street checks in another corner of City Hall was far lonelier than it ought to have been.

A shame, really, since it’s showdown time for the civilian oversight agency. In its first major test since the G20, the board is being forced by massive pressure to make a decision on curtailing carding, the notorious police stop-and-question procedure that disproportionately targets youth of colour.

The hope machine

After conceding Monday’s by-election to Liberal Chrystia Freeland, the NDP’s Linda McQuaig took questions in a scrum.

“Is this the end of the Orange Crush?” a reporter asked. It was the first question, and only somewhat less silly than inquiring whether the Liberal’s win had heralded the resurrection of Mountain Dew Code Red.

“This is the best result the NDP’s ever had in Toronto Centre, which is a very difficult riding, a very Liberal stronghold, as you know,” said McQuaig. “And in fact, in 2011 it didn’t go with the Orange Crush. We did better this time than we did in 2011.”

The rise of the far right in Europe

In August 2010, dozens of far-right politicians from across Europe flew to Tokyo for a week of plotting and scheming. They were invited by Japan’s right-wing Issuikai group, famous for its denial of Japanese war crimes during the Nanjing Massacre, in which hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians were murdered, and tens of thousands raped, by Japanese soldiers. The occasion was a conference: “The Future of Nationalist Movements.”

The Pope Versus Unfettered Capitalism

Remember when the Occupy movement demanded that issues like income inequality, race-to-the-bottom globalization and the failures of the free market be placed on the agenda?

Remember the silly critique of Occupy that said the movement’s necessary challenge to austerity lacked specifics?

Problem solved.

The pope has gotten specific.

Condemning the “new tyranny” of unfettered capitalism and the “idolatry of money,” Pope Francis argues in a newly circulated apostolic exhortation that “as long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems.”

New Technology Helps Stores Track Your Every Move This Season

WASHINGTON (AP) — It's a big question for marketers: What kind of a buyer are you? And, as important, what are you willing to pay?

In the search for answers this shopping season, consumer behavior online and off is being tracked aggressively with help from advances in technology.

Egypt: Police Use Tear Gas On Protesters

CAIRO (AP) — Police fired tear gas to drive hundreds of supporters of Egypt's ousted Islamist president from Cairo's famed Tahrir Square on Sunday, as a panel tasked with amending the constitution adopted during his time in office agreed on changes to the text.

The 50-member panel revising the Islamist-tilted charter adopted under former President Mohammed Morsi managed to resolve its differences after two days of clause-by-clause voting on the final draft.

My week as an Amazon insider

The first item I see in Amazon's Swansea warehouse is a package of dog nappies. The second is a massive pink plastic dildo. The warehouse is 800,000 square feet, or, in what is Amazon's standard unit of measurement, the size of 11 football pitches (its Dunfermline warehouse, the UK's largest, is 14 football pitches). It is a quarter of a mile from end to end. There is space, it turns out, for an awful lot of crap.

But then there are more than 100m items on its UK website: if you can possibly imagine it, Amazon sells it. And if you can't possibly imagine it, well, Amazon sells it too. To spend 10½ hours a day picking items off the shelves is to contemplate the darkest recesses of our consumerist desires, the wilder reaches of stuff, the things that money can buy: a One Direction charm bracelet, a dog onesie, a cat scratching post designed to look like a DJ's record deck, a banana slicer, a fake twig. I work mostly in the outsize "non-conveyable" section, the home of diabetic dog food, and bio-organic vegetarian dog food, and obese dog food; of 52in TVs, and six-packs of water shipped in from Fiji, and oversized sex toys – the 18in double dong (regular-sized sex toys are shelved in the sortables section).

Harper to be feted for support of Israel

OTTAWA - For one night, at least, Prime Minister Stephen Harper will set aside the stresses of the Senate expenses scandal and his sagging poll numbers to bask in the adulation of some of his most ardent supporters: Canada's Jewish community.

Harper will be the star attraction Sunday at the annual Negev dinner in Toronto, a gala fundraiser to acknowledge his unabashed friendship and political support of Israel — a noticeable tilt in foreign policy that has sowed resentment in Canada's Arab and Muslim communities.

The National Post reported Friday that Harper will announce at the dinner he finally intends to make his maiden voyage to Israel, a country whose hardline prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, gushes openly with public affection for the friend he simply likes to call "Stephen."

Will Stephen Harper take the Tories down with him?

Last year then-premier Dalton McGuinty did the right thing for himself and his party. Burdened with unravelling scandals and lost by-elections, he resigned. It allowed his Ontario Liberal party to elect a new leader and begin to revitalize itself.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper may have come to the same point in his political career. The never-ending Senate scandal has undermined his personal credibility and is damaging the Conservative brand. The Tory vote was down in all four of last week’s by-elections.

U.S. Border's Canadian Health Records Access Of 'Great Concern' To Privacy Watchdog

TORONTO - Ontario's privacy watchdog is probing reports that private health information is being shared with U.S. border services, saying it's a matter "of grave concern" to her.

Her office "will investigate the matter and ensure that the personal health information of Ontarians is not being compromised by any organizations under my jurisdiction," Information and Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian said in an email to Ontario's New Democrats, who requested her help.

First Nations Relationships Need To Be Fixed For Energy Projects To Move Forward, Forum Hears

LAKE LOUISE, Alta. - Governments and industry must fix their relationships with First Nations communities if large-scale energy projects are to move forward in Canada, speakers at a business forum in Lake Louise, Alta., said Friday.

The warnings, from both First Nations and industry leaders, came as regulators are expected to rule within weeks on a the contentious Northern Gateway pipeline proposal by Enbridge Inc. (TSX:ENB)

Miles Richardson, former president of the Haida Nation in northwestern British Columbia, said aboriginal right and title must be recognized.

Tory Push To Limit Prime Minister's Powers May Not Receive NDP Support

OTTAWA — An NDP MP signalled Friday her party may not support a forthcoming bill aimed at limiting the power of the prime minister. The problems the bill aims to fix — such as curbing the control of party leaders over their MPs — are only found in the Conservative caucus, Edmonton NDP MP Linda Duncan told The Huffington Post Canada.

HuffPost reported Thursday that Tory backbencher Michael Chong plans to bring forward legislation next week to curb the power of all party leaders. The bill is the culmination of months of discussion among a small group of MPs who are hoping to loosen the stranglehold of the prime minister's office on individual representatives, giving MPs more freedom to speak their minds and vote their conscience.

Apache Canada's Zama City Spill Leaks Waste Water; Second Reported

CALGARY - Alberta's energy regulator is investigating another pipeline leak of waste water.

Apache Canada Ltd. reported one of its operator's discovered the leak on Oct. 25 at its Shekilie field northwest of Zama City and the line was immediately shut in.

Thailand Political Protests Turn Violent

BANGKOK (AP) — Aggressive political protests in the Thai capital turned violent late Saturday with at least one man killed and five wounded by gunshots in street fighting between supporters and opponents of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

It was not immediately known who fired the shots or what side the victims were on. National Police Deputy Spokesman Anucha Romyanan said the dead man was a 21-year-old male with two bullet wounds.

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

We spend the hour with the author of a new book, 10 years in the making, that 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: -- 

Golden Dawn Rally: Greece's Ultra-Right Party Holds Protest Outside Parliament

ATHENS, Nov 30 (Reuters) - About 1,000 supporters of Greece's Golden Dawn party gathered outside parliament on Saturday to protest against the pre-trial detention of their leader Nikolaos Mihaloliakos on charges of forming a criminal organisation.

Clad in black clothes, carrying torches and Greek flags, the ultra-right party's supporters shouted slogans such as "hands off Golden Dawn, don't jail nationalists" to the sound of Greek folk and marching songs.

Higher Calling

In 2005, Alaska Airlines fired nearly five hundred union baggage handlers in Seattle and replaced them with contractors. The old workers earned about thirteen dollars an hour; the new ones made around nine. The restructuring was a common episode in America’s recent experience of inequality. In the decade after 2000, Seattle’s median household income rose by a third, lifted by the stock-vested, Tumi-toting travellers of its tech economy. But at the bottom of the wage scale earnings flattened.

Sea-Tac, the airport serving the Seattle-Tacoma area, lies within SeaTac, a city flecked by poverty. Its population of twenty-seven thousand includes Latino, Somali, and South Asian immigrants. Earlier this year, residents, aided by outside labor organizers, put forward a ballot initiative, Proposition 1, to raise the local minimum wage for some airport and hotel workers, including baggage handlers. The reformers did not aim incrementally: they proposed fifteen dollars an hour, which would be the highest minimum wage in the country, by almost fifty per cent. A ballot initiative so audacious would normally have little chance of becoming law, but Proposition 1 polled well, and by the summer it had turned SeaTac into a carnival of electoral competition. Business groups and labor activists spent almost two million dollars on television ads, mailings, and door knocking—about three hundred dollars per eventual voter. (Alaska Airlines wrote the biggest check for the no side.) On November 5th, SeaTac-ians spoke: yes, by a margin of just seventy-seven votes, out of six thousand cast. A reversal after a recount is still possible.

Pro-EU protesters chase police from central Kiev

As many as 100,000 demonstrators chased away police to make way for a rally in the centre of Ukraine's capital on Sunday, defying a government ban on protests on Independence Square, in the biggest show of anger about the president's refusal to sign an agreement with the EU.

Chants of "revolution" resounded across a sea of EU and Ukrainian flags on the square. The crowd was by far the largest since the protests began more than a week ago.