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 23, 2013

First Nations vow to oppose imposed education act

MANITOULIN—The decision of the Harper government to forge ahead with a First Nations Education Act in the face of strong opposition from the political leadership of those communities, despite assurances from the federal government that the legislation would be crafted in concert with First Nations, threatens to ignite another season of escalating anger and Idle No More protests.

Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee said his nation has already rejected the First Nations Education Act. “We have also taken a process that we have been working on for the past 18-19 years on developing an Anishinabek education system to the final stage of going to our communities for ratification,” said Chief Madahbee. “We have developed an education authority, we have developed our local representation on how that will work in terms of regional councils and we have had our educated front-line people, the experts in education, develop this system. We don’t need some bureaucrat in Ottawa who has never been to our communities to come and try to tell us how to operate education services for our community.”

Medical association calls for renewed talks about private health care

A longtime Calgary surgeon’s decision to opt out of the public medical system should reinvigorate discussion about private care and how to deal with long wait lists, empty operating suites and specialists who can’t find work, says the head of the Alberta Medical Association.

“People are waiting too long. We need to talk more,” said Dr. Allan Garbutt, in a letter to the province’s doctors following news of Dr. Robert Hollinshead’s plans to leave the public system as of July 2014 and provide surgeries for a fee.

Religious freedom ambassador not worried about ‘push back’ from abroad

OTTAWA — Andrew Bennett admits some foreign governments don’t necessarily like what he has to say.

Since being named Canada’s first ambassador for religious freedom in March, Bennett has publicly criticized Egypt for failing to protect Coptic Christians, condemned Iran’s treatment of Baha’is, and offered support to Muslims in Sri Lanka.

He has called for reconciliation between Christians and Muslims in the Central African Republic, launched projects in Nigeria, Indonesia and Kazakhstan, and tried to start a “frank and open” discussion on religious freedom with Turkish authorities.

Visa denial for Filipina nurse Blesida Calusa 'frustrating and sad'

A young Filipina nurse might get her chance to study in Canada after a CBC exclusive story revealed "an issue" occurred resulting in a visa refusal.

An earlier version of this story recounted how a retired executive from Halifax, who does charitable work, was upset that his pleas to the government to let Blesida Calusa study in Canada had been ignored.

"There's no accountability. There's nobody to talk to in our government — nobody at all. They will not respond," said John Morehouse, who tried to help Calusa get a student visa.

They’ll keep spending until we learn to love them

Canada has an ad scandal back on its hands — and not just the recent charges against 80 year-old Jacques Corriveau after an 11-year RCMP investigation. This time it’s Stephen Harper helping himself to public dollars in a truly offensive fashion.

The scam is as simple as it is brazen: Harper has spent hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ dollars promoting his government. Often, it’s the highly partisan stuff that should be paid for by the Conservative party. He’s using public money for political gain — and doing it in a time of cutbacks.

The prime minister’s excuse for this raid on the public purse — like his account of the Wright/Duffy affair — depends on the day you ask him.

Territories argue for voice in Senate’s future, may never have a vote in Constitutional amendments

OTTAWA — When the Supreme Court rules next year on whether or how the Senate can be reformed or abolished, Canada’s territories could find themselves shut out of the decision.

The Constitutional amending formula at the heart of the Senate case — which requires unanimous support of all provinces or consent of seven provinces representing 50 per cent of the population — does not give Nunavut, Yukon or the Northwest Territories a voice when it comes to changing the document that outlines how Canada is governed.

Parks Canada plagued by massive repair backlog

OTTAWA—Parks Canada is struggling under a multi-billion-dollar backlog of planned work for the country’s most beloved locations, with some sites putting off hundreds of millions of dollars in needed repairs.

And the agency’s bureaucrats warn that if action isn’t taken soon, the backlog will present a serious risk to preserving Canada’s historic sites and national parks.

Harper government gave big oil and pipeline companies $400M to go green

OTTAWA – Canadian taxpayers have given more than $400 million to some large oil, gas and pipeline companies in recent years to support green projects that are also boosting the industry’s environmental credentials.

An analysis of federal accounting records by Postmedia News shows that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has offered these subsidies to money-making companies such as Shell Canada, Suncor, Husky Energy and Enbridge to pursue projects in biofuels production and wind energy as well as new technology to capture carbon pollution and bury it underground.

What's Driving Chaotic Dismantling of Canada's Science Libraries?

Scientists say the closure of some of the world's finest fishery, ocean and environmental libraries by the Harper government has been so chaotic that irreplaceable collections of intellectual capital built by Canadian taxpayers for future generations has been lost forever.

Many collections such as the Maurice Lamontagne Institute Library in Mont-Joli, Québec ended up in dumpsters while others such as Winnipeg's historic Freshwater Institute library were scavenged by citizens, scientists and local environmental consultants. Others were burned or went to landfills, say scientists.

Food Behind Bars Isn’t Fit for Your Dog

Shares in the Philadelphia-based Aramark Holdings Corp., which contracts through Aramark Correctional Services to provide the food to 600 correctional institutions across the United States, went public Thursday. The corporation, acquired in 2007 for $8.3 billion by investors that included Goldman Sachs, raised $725 million last week from the sale of the stock. It is one more sign that the business of locking up poor people in corporate America is booming.

Aramark, whose website says it provides 1 million meals a day to prisoners, does what corporations are doing throughout the society: It lavishes campaign donations on pliable politicians, who in turn hand out state and federal contracts to political contributors, as well as write laws and regulations to benefit their corporate sponsors at the expense of the poor. Aramark fires unionized workers inside prisons and jails and replaces them with underpaid, nonunionized employees. And it makes sure the food is low enough in both quality and portion to produce huge profits.

Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev Says Britain Profits From Immigration

As tensions heighten over the possible "influx" of Bulgarian and Romanians from next month, Bulgaria's president criticised the fear tactics being used by some politicians.

Rosen Plevneliev told the Observer: "You see, of course, Great Britain will make its planning and will take its decisions.

|But some of them could be right, some of them could be wrong. Some of them are bold and some of them are, I would say, not long-term orientated decisions.

"You want to make a plan for a better future for your citizens in Great Britain.

FED up? Hundred years of manipulating the US dollar

Monday 23 December marks the 100th Anniversary of the creation of the Federal Reserve System - the Central Bank of the United States of America.

The mainstream media are keeping remarkably quiet about this key milestone.

No doubt, they know only too well that growing millions of workers inside and outside the US are realizing that a century of central banking monopoly in the hands of a private clique of usurer banksters is enough. More than enough!

How Canada’s new copyright rules could make your Internet more expensive, censored, and policed

You’ve no doubt heard about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) by now: an international agreement involving 12 nations whose economic output make up 40% of the world’s GDP and 26% of the world’s trade activity. In other words, it’s kind of a big deal.

While the TPP’s international copyright provisions have already come under fire for undermining the free and open Internet, here in Canada our own evolving copyright regime could also hinder our Internet freedom and privacy.

When Canada’s Copyright Modernization Act came into effect, it was heralded as an example of sound and balanced lawmaking - one that took into account Canada’s increasingly digitized cultural and economic landscape. Also known as Bill C-11, it broadened the scope for fair dealing - meaning that it would be considered legal to use copyrighted works for “fair dealing for the purpose of research, private study, education, parody or satire does not infringe copyright.”

Truthdigger of the Week: Judge Jed Rakoff

Two years ago Jed Rakoff, senior judge for the Southern District of New York, embarrassed both the Securities and Exchange Commission and Citigroup by rejecting a deal to relieve the bank of guilt for cheating its customers out of more than $700 million by selling them bad mortgages. This month, in the pages of the Jan. 9 issue of The New York Review of Books, he stepped forward from the bench once again to criticize the mindset that both led to that deal and produced the financial crisis.

“Who was to blame” for the recession that forced “millions of Americans” into “lives of quiet desperation: without jobs, without resources, without hope”? he asked. “Was it simply a result of negligence. … Or was it the result, at least in part, of fraudulent practices?”

This isn't 'feminism'. It's Islamophobia

As a person who writes about women's issues, I am constantly being told that Islam is the greatest threat to gender equality in this or any other country – mostly by white men, who always know best. This has been an extraordinary year for feminism, but from the Rochdale grooming case to interminable debates over whether traditional Islamic dress is "empowering" or otherwise, the rhetoric and language of feminism has been co-opted by Islamophobes, who could not care less about women of any creed or colour.

Egyptian court jails three secular leaders of 2011 uprising

Three of the figureheads of Egypt's 2011 uprising have been jailed for three years, the first secular activists to be sentenced in a crackdown that has previously centred on Islamist supporters of the former president Mohamed Morsi.

Ahmed Maher, Ahmed Douma and Mohamed Adel – all senior members of the 6 April youth movement that stirred dissent during the final years of the Mubarak era – were also fined for flouting a new law that rights groups argue severely curtails the right to protest. They were accused of organising an unsanctioned street protest deemed illegitimate by a controversial new law, and of assaulting a police officer.

Disney And Oil Industry Team Up For 'Rocking In Ohio' Event

Radio Disney, "home of the hottest kids' music," is teaming up with Ohio's oil and gas industry to teach school kids that pipelines are awesome.

"Rocking In Ohio" is an interactive, game show-like presentation entirely funded by the Ohio Oil and Gas Association and presented jointly with Radio Disney. This "special partnership," as they call it, "highlights the importance of Ohio’s oil and gas industry, and why science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) are crucial in developing energy resources in Ohio," according to the association.

Italian Mafia's Toxic Waste Dumping Poisons Farmlands

CAIVANO, Italy (AP) — On Ciro Fusco's farm in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, police swooped down one recent day and planted a warning sign in his broccoli fields, prohibiting any one from harvesting or even setting foot on the plot. Dozens of other fields in the area were sequestered in the same way. Decades of toxic waste dumping by the Camorra crime syndicate that dominates the Naples area poisoned wells, authorities have found in recent months, tainting the water that irrigates crops with high levels of lead, arsenic and the industrial solvent tetrachloride.

The warning came too late: Fusco had already sold some of his broccoli at nearby markets.

Obama's Carbon-Capture Plan For Coal Plants Has Dirty Trade-Off; Oil Production

DE KALB, Miss. (AP) — America's newest, most expensive coal-fired power plant is hailed as one of the cleanest on the planet, thanks to government-backed technology that removes carbon dioxide and keeps it out of the atmosphere.

But once the carbon is stripped away, it will be used to do something that is not so green at all.

It will extract oil.

Why a housing bubble is good (but maybe bad for you)

Rule No. 1: A property bubble isn't a bubble till it pops. Whether it’s Shanghai, London, or Toronto, until the final blow-up, it's just a rising market driven by rising demand.

Just ask the people who sell real estate. They will tell you we are nowhere near a bubble. And lately we've seen a number of opinion pieces by what you might call "bubble scoffers," who are reacting to the loose use of the term that ascribes bubble characteristics to everything from bitcoins to stocks to the boom in technology start-ups.

Elderly patient Tadeusz Czubak discharged to empty house not a ‘one-off' case

The case of an elderly Toronto-area man left by an ambulance service in an empty house was an outrageous mistake, patient advocates say. But it is probably also a harbinger of what Canadians can expect in an overcrowded and uncoordinated health-care system struggling with an influx of seniors.

"This kind of event will happen over and over again," predicts Sholom Glouberman, president of Patients Canada. "The hospitals don’t take responsibility for anything that happens outside the hospital. And that's the way the system has been structured."

Someone needs to fight the selfish, short-sighted old

The interests of the young are at risk of being marginalised, while the old ride proud. It is the new political dividing line that no one acknowledges. British government in the modern age requires middle-aged ministers, but they kowtow to the prejudices of the elderly. This is not just unfair to the young. It is also a potential disaster for our future.

The old are far more likely to vote than the young, and hence hold far greater political sway. According to Ipsos Mori, turnout among the 18-24 age group at the last general election was 44%. Among pensioners it was 76%. The median voting age – the point at which half the voters were above the age, and half below – was 49 years.

Vince Cable warns Tory leaders against stoking anti-immigration panic

The business secretary, Vince Cable, has accused the Conservatives of creating an anti-immigration panic in a doomed and damaging attempt to ward off the UK Independence party. He said the Tories were stoking an atmosphere similar to that created by Enoch Powell with his "rivers of blood" speech in the 1960s.

Cable confirmed the Liberal Democrats would not be supporting a cap on EU migrants coming to Britain, saying the policy was "not only illegal but impossible to implement".

Egypt Jails Activists Known For 2011 Uprising

CAIRO, Dec 22 (Reuters) - Three leading Egyptian activists were sentenced to three years in prison each on Sunday in a case brought over their role in recent protests, escalating a crackdown on dissent by the army-backed government.

Ahmed Maher, Ahmed Douma and Mohamed Adel are symbols of the protest movement that ignited the historic 2011 uprising against President Hosni Mubarak. Each one was also fined 50,000 Egyptian pounds ($7,200) by the court.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Freed Former Russian Tycoon, Challenges Putin Over Political Prisoners

BERLIN/MOSCOW, Dec 22 (Reuters) - Former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky on Sunday promised not to seek power in Russia but said he would fight for the freedom of people he considered political prisoners, challenging Vladimir Putin two days after a presidential pardon freed him from jail.

Khodorkovsky told reporters in Berlin that "the struggle for power is not for me", but made clear he would put pressure on Putin and urged world leaders to do the same, saying his release should not be seen as a sign Russian repression is at an end.

The CIA and NSA Helped Colombia Target and Kill FARC Leaders

A secret “black budget” government project used CIA and NSA resources to help Colombian officials target and assassinate top leaders of the long-running Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), The Washington Post reports.

The assistance, which included pinpointing targets, helped the Colombian government kill at least two dozen rebel leaders, the Post said, citing interviews with some 30 former and current U.S. and Colombian officials. From the Post:

    The secret assistance, which also includes substantial eavesdropping help from the National Security Agency, is funded through a multibillion-dollar black budget. It is not a part of the public $9 billion package of mostly U.S. military aid called Plan Colombia, which began in 2000.

Rob Ford bobble heads make a comeback as elves deliver coal

In case you had any doubts, things are still completely ridiculous at Toronto City Hall.

On Friday, a new wave of Rob Ford bobble heads went on sale with the mayor himself on hand to autograph the dolls for those who waited in line for hours to get one.

“Bobble-head Bedlam II,” as the Canadian Press has dubbed it, saw more than a thousand people who had enough time on a Friday to purchase a $20 bobble head of a crack-smoking mayor.

U.S. sticks it to transit users while gifting drivers a tax cut

WASHINGTON – Just when you thought the United States was beginning to lose its obsession with the automobile – what with climate change and 24-hour traffic jams – it comes up with something totally counter-intuitive: It increases the tax benefit for people who drive to work while reducing it for people who take public transit.

For decades, commuters who take their cars have been able to write off a portion of their monthly parking expenses on their income tax forms. Millions of Americans avail themselves of this tax benefit to help offset the cost of their daily commute to work.

Canada's naked self-interest in foreign policy

Should the primary purpose of Canadian foreign policy be the promotion of corporate interests?

Canada’s business class certainly seems to think so. And with little political or ideological opposition to this naked self-interest, Harper’s Conservatives seem only too happy to put the full weight of government behind the promotion of private profits.

Recently, the Conservatives announced that “economic diplomacy” will be “the driving force behind the Government of Canada’s activities through its international diplomatic network.” According to their Global Markets Action Plan (GMAP), “All diplomatic assets of the Government of Canada will be marshalled on behalf of the private sector to increase success in doing business abroad.”

Northern Gateway approval: When oil industry decisions become the 'public interest'

The National Energy Board has never rejected a major proposal from the oil industry, and so it really comes as no surprise that they have approved the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal.

If there ever was or could be a pipeline that the NEB could have turned away from on the basis of a social consensus of Canadians, surely Gateway was that pipeline.  But the NEB has just proven that it cares not a whit about how Canadians define the public interest.  The NEB really has only one constituency that it considers relevant; that being, of course, the oil and gas industry.

Our silence over Mandela’s support for Palestinians

In the blanket coverage of the Nelson Mandela funeral, the T-word, terrorism, was briefly mentioned. It could hardly have been avoided, given his commitment to armed struggle against the apartheid regime and his steadfast refusal during his 27 years of imprisonment to renounce violence in return for his own freedom.

But the P-word, Palestinian, was studiously avoided, by both our politicians and the media, even though he was an unwavering supporter of the Palestinian cause and Israel was a staunch ally of the apartheid state. Also ignored was Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal to attend the Mandela funeral.

Conservative Party targets media again in latest fundraising pitches

OTTAWA — At the end of a year that has seen the Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government rocked by scandals uncovered by journalists, the Conservative Party is again targeting the media in fundraising pitches to supporters.

Party president John Walsh sent an email to the supporters Friday evening that lumped the media together with the Liberal Party as the Conservatives’ opponents.

“Here’s the bad news — the Liberal fundraising machine is in overdrive, and we need to keep up,” Walsh wrote in the email pitch.

Teck Smelter Lawsuit Alleges Toxins Caused Breast Cancer

VANCOUVER - A Washington state woman has filed a class-action lawsuit against Teck Resources, claiming toxic pollutants from the company's smelter in southeastern British Columbia are to blame for her breast cancer diagnosis and other health ailments.

Barbara Anderson is a longtime resident of Northport, Wash., a small community about 30 kilometres south of Teck's lead and zinc smelter in Trail.

The lawsuit filed in the Eastern District Court says Anderson was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012 and inflammatory bowel disease in 2010.

How A Federal Judge In Utah Adeptly Dismantled All Of The Arguments Against Marriage Equality

Friday’s decision by a federal judge overturning Utah’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage (Amendment 3) represents the first major legal victory for marriage equality since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). In that case, United States v. Windsor, the Court only addressed the question of federal recognition of marriage, and though procedural rulings in cases in other state have cited it, the Utah decision is the first time Windsor was cited to completely overturn a state law banning same-sex marriage. In an extremely readable opinion, Judge Robert Shelby — an Obama appointee whose nomination was supported by both Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Mike Lee (R-UT) — explained not only why Windsor applied, but why the state’s arguments against same-sex marriage fell flat.

Conservative groups spend up to $1bn a year to fight action on climate change

Conservative groups may have spent up to $1bn a year on the effort to deny science and oppose action on climate change, according to the first extensive study into the anatomy of the anti-climate effort.

The anti-climate effort has been largely underwritten by conservative billionaires, often working through secretive funding networks. They have displaced corporations as the prime supporters of 91 think tanks, advocacy groups and industry associations which have worked to block action on climate change. Such financial support has hardened conservative opposition to climate policy, ultimately dooming any chances of action from Congress to cut greenhouse gas emissions that are warming the planet, the study found.

Conditions for Abu Dhabi's migrant workers 'shame the west'

Trade unions, human rights activists and politicians have called for urgent labour reforms to protect the thousands of migrant workers building a complex of five-star hotels and museums on Saadiyat Island in the United Arab Emirates, including a new Louvre and the world's largest Guggenheim.

The International Trade Union Confederation and art activism group Gulf Labor have urged the western institutions involved in the project, including the British Museum, to take active steps to address the workers' welfare and press the UAE government to improve their conditions.

The 13 Most Important Charts Of 2013

As we say goodbye to 2013, the economy is still failing ordinary workers.

What is being done to make it better? Not enough.

Public spending and public investment are too low, wages for increasingly productive workers are flat or falling, and the minimum wage is inadequate.

However, there is hope for 2014.

The policies that created these trends can be reversed. There is a renewed push to raise the federal minimum wage, states are raising their own minimum wages, and more policymakers are coming to terms with the downside of economic inequality.

Covert action in Colombia

The 50-year-old Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), once considered the best-funded insurgency in the world, is at its smallest and most vulnerable state in decades, due in part to a CIA covert action program that has helped Colombian forces kill at least two dozen rebel leaders, according to interviews with more than 30 former and current U.S. and Colombian officials.

The secret assistance, which also includes substantial eavesdropping help from the National Security Agency, is funded through a multibillion-dollar black budget. It is not a part of the public $9 billion package of mostly U.S. military aid called Plan Colombia, which began in 2000.

New York City, Philadelphia, Atlantic City Break Temperature Records During December Heat Wave

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City, Philadelphia and Atlantic City, N.J., have broken temperature records during a brief December heat wave.

The National Weather Service says the temperature in Central Park hit a record-setting 65 degrees Saturday. The previous record was 62, set in 2011 and 1923.

Philadelphia and Atlantic City, N.J., reached 67 degrees on Saturday afternoon. That broke Atlantic City's previous mark of 63 degrees, set in 2011, and bested Philadelphia's previous high of 66 degrees, set in 1895.

The temperature rose to a balmy 68 in Wilmington, Del., beating the previous mark of 65, set in 1895. And the 64 degrees recorded in Newark, N.J. broke the previous mark of 62, set in 2011.

Sunday is supposed to be even warmer in the region. Temperatures could top 70.

Original Article
Author: AP

BP, Chevron Accused Of Illegally Dumping Toxic Radioactive Drilling Waste Into Louisiana Water

The Louisiana parish of Plaquemines is taking on a group of oil and gas giants including BP and Chevron for allegedly dumping toxic waste — some of it radioactive — from their drilling operations into its coastal waters, according to a lawsuit removed to federal court on Thursday.

Plaquemines Parish is claiming the companies violated the Louisiana State and Local Coastal Resources Management Act of 1978 by discharging oil field waste directly into the water “without limitation.” Worse, the companies allegedly failed to clear, revegetate, detoxify or restore any of the areas they polluted, as required by state law. The oil and gas companies’ pollution, along with their alleged failure to adequately maintain their oilfields, has caused significant coastal erosion and contaminated groundwater, the lawsuit said.

Wall Street Journal Op-Ed Bemoans The End Of White Rule In The United States

There are a lot of problems in Washington, D.C these days, but not many solutions to them. Inefficiency, an allergy to cooperation, and stiff resistance to pragmatism have all ground the federal government to a stand-still. But one op-ed contributor to the Wall Street Journal knows what the real problem is: not enough rich, white men.

In Saturday’s paper and online, author Joseph Epstein mourns the collapse of what he describes as the “genuine ruling class, drawn from what came to be known as the WASP establishment,” (WASP, the commonly-held acronym for White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant). Instead, he argues, we are living in a meritocracy, governed not by an elite subset of the uppermost crust of society but rather by a group of people who overcame some kind of adversity and achieved success thanks to their own merits, not based on what family they were born into. This, according to Epstein, is a tragedy.

Your oilsands royalty primer

Bitumen royalties accounted for 10% of total Alberta government revenues in 2010-2011, and that is expected (according to the most recent Alberta Budget) to climb to approximately 20% of total government revenues, or $9.9 billion dollars by 2014-2015.  Both royalty revenue estimates and royalty rates make for contentious subjects in Alberta, and this post is intended to provide a primer into how the royalty regime works and how it impacts investment decisions.  My hope is that every Albertan will become more engaged in how this resource is managed, and the first step in that direction is understanding how it’s managed now, so here you go.

Alberta politics revolves around selling the oilsands

EDMONTON - Everybody in the Alberta government calls the oilsands Canada’s greatest buried treasure or maybe the goose that laid the golden egg and certainly the economic engine of a nation.

Everybody except perhaps provincial cabinet minister Doug Griffiths.

In a moment of unguarded but refreshing candour Griffiths summed up his own conflicted feelings about Alberta’s oilsands by suggesting they’re an economic and social vampire that “sucks the life out of every other aspect of Alberta.”

And he meant it in the nicest way possible.

West Antarctic Ice Loss Speeds Up

LONDON, 20 December – Ice is being lost over the West Antarctic ice sheet at a faster rate. The European Space Agency’s Cryosat – a satellite with a radar altimeter that can peer through the clouds and see in the dark – has confirmed that 150 cubic kilometres of ice are drifting into the Southern Ocean each year: a much faster rate than the calculation for 2010.

After observations between 2005 and 2010, gathered by 10 different satellite missions, Antarctic scientists and oceanographers calculated that the melting of ice from the West Antarctic peninsula was causing global sea levels to rise by 0.28mm a year. The latest survey suggests this rate is 15% higher.

Uganda Passes Anti-Gay Law Punishable By Life In Prison

The Ugandan parliament on Friday passed an anti-homosexuality bill that will see repeat “offenders” jailed for life.

MP David Bahati was behind the bill and told the AFP: “This is a victory for Uganda. I am glad the parliament has voted against evil.

“Because we are a God-fearing nation, we value life in a holistic way. It is because of those values that members of parliament passed this bill regardless of what the outside world thinks.”

"I am officially illegal," Ugandan gay activist Frank Mugisha said after the vote.

China lashes out at Japan defence plans

China's military has condemned Japan's plans to boost defence spending, accusing Tokyo of raising regional tensions under the pretext of safeguarding national security.

In a statement issued on Saturday, Geng Yansheng, defence ministry spokesman, said China "resolutely opposes" Japan's five-year defence plan, accusing its Asian neighbour of maintaining a "Cold War mentality".

Geng accused Japan of manufacturing fears of Chinese aggression and denying responsibility for having invaded China and other countries in the last century.

NSA Arranged Secret Contract With RSA, Security Industry Pioneer

SAN FRANCISCO, Dec 20 (Reuters) - As a key part of a campaign to embed encryption software that it could crack into widely used computer products, the U.S. National Security Agency arranged a secret $10 million contract with RSA, one of the most influential firms in the computer security industry, Reuters has learned.

Documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden show that the NSA created and promulgated a flawed formula for generating random numbers to create a "back door" in encryption products, the New York Times reported in September. Reuters later reported that RSA became the most important distributor of that formula by rolling it into a software tool called Bsafe that is used to enhance security in personal computers and many other products.

Any Hope Of American Equality Died In The 1980s (And Here's Proof)

That growing divide between the rich and you? It's not just in your mind, and it's certainly not just a couple years in the making.

Actually, the average incomes of the top 1 percent of Americans have grown steadily over the last century or so, especially when compared to the flat-lining incomes for the bottom 90 percent of Americans. But as you can see in the above chart, it wasn't until the 1980s that the rich really started to pull away from the normals.

Why Is ‘The New Republic’ Taking Money From an NSA Contractor to Run Defenses of the NSA?

The National Security Agency has a friend at the Harvard Law School. And at the Brookings Institution. And at The New Republic. And at The Washington Post.

Benjamin Wittes, who is not a lawyer, is a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, where he is “Research Director in Public Law, and Co-Director of the Harvard Law School-Brookings Project on Law and Security.” He also has a Web site, Lawfare, where he’s been blogging on the report on the abuses of the National Security Agency just out from the President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communication Technologies, in terms highly favorable to the super-secretive and media-shy agency. He also enjoys extraordinary access to the NSA, for instance in this series of podcasts with its top officials. (“We Brought In a Recoding Device So You Don’t Have To,” the series is titled—cute!)

Northern Gateway Pipeline: Alberta Critics Concerned About Jobs, First Nations Rights

A flurry of criticism has emerged in Alberta after a federal review panel recommended approval for the Northern Gateway pipeline on Thursday.

Critics say the proposed Enbridge pipeline, which would take oil from Alberta to the Pacific to deliver to markets throughout Asia, will take away Canadian jobs. The recommendation for approval prompted several Alberta politicians to speak out about the project's possible repercussions.

"The question for us is not whether or not there are pipelines, but what they carry. And if they are carrying unprocessed bitumen to the United States or China or any other country, they are carrying Alberta jobs with it," said Alberta NDP Leader Brian Mason on Thursday.

Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals Found At Fracking Sites Linked To Cancer, Infertility: Study

Hormone-disrupting chemicals linked to cancer, infertility and a slew of other health problems have been found in water samples collected at and near hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," sites in Colorado, according to a new study published in the journal Endocrinology this week.

Researchers say they found elevated levels of these chemicals -- known as endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) -- in surface water and groundwater samples collected in the state's Garfield County, a fracking hotspot with more than 10,000 natural gas wells.

Northern Gateway is a war that Ottawa can’t win

There was always a strong economic case to be made for the Northern Gateway pipeline. The question facing the National Energy Board panel evaluating its merits was whether those fiscal benefits outweighed the significant environmental risks associated with the project.

In recommending conditional approval for the pipeline, the board’s joint review panel this week decided that the societal and fiscal advantages the project represents to B.C. and the country ultimately trump any potential perils. Now it is up to Ottawa to decide if the panel’s endorsement is enough to proceed in the face of the aboriginal and environmental backlash the decision has already ignited.

Oil tankers, threatened humpbacks on collision course on B.C.’s north coast due to pipeline approval

Oil tankers associated with Enbridge Northern Gateway are on a collision course with threatened humpback whales swimming through federally recognized critical habitat on B.C.’s north coast, researchers warned Friday.

Susan Pinkus, senior scientist with Ecojustice, said the joint review panel’s recommendation that the $6.5-billion Northern Gateway pipeline project proceed with conditions runs smack up against protections afforded under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA).

David Suzuki slams federal review panel as 'rubber stamp' and Enbridge as having 'no credibility'

Canada's preeminent environmentalist, David Suzuki, said Friday that Enbridge is a company with "absolutely no credibility" and that the Joint Review Panel that recommended the Northern Gateway project proceed with conditions is nothing more than a federal "rubber stamp."

"Spills will happen, there is no question about that," the Vancouver-based broadcaster and scientist told The Vancouver Sun. "The question, is what do you do about it?"

He said Enbridge has engaged in a "huge public relations campaign," including expensive TV commercials, to tell British Columbians how much it cares for the environment, when in fact the company has no credibility.

Fracking Fighter Jessica Ernst Appeals Court Ruling

Jessica Ernst, whose landmark multi-million dollar lawsuit challenges the regulation of hydraulic fracturing, has filed an appeal against a court ruling that granted that Alberta's Energy Regulator blanket "immunity" from civil action.

In a lengthy 41-page ruling Alberta Chief Justice Neil Wittmann struck the energy regulator from the lawsuit last September but ruled that the claims against Alberta Environment and Encana Corporation could proceed.

Fix Canada Post? Union Has Its Own Bold Ideas

Rather than hike the price of stamps and phaseout door-to-door mail delivery in urban areas, Canada Post should be expanding services, the head of its biggest union told a House of Commons committee a week before Christmas.

CUPW president Denis Lemelin said Canada Post should get into the banking business, like the national post offices in the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Switzerland.

"Today we have thousands of communities with a post office but no bank; we have hundreds of thousands of citizens without bank accounts," Lemelin told the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities on Dec. 18. "Why is it that the management of all of these other postal administrations has the imagination to expand their financial services and ours does not? We need innovation not excuses for failure."

Complex New Veterans Charter a ‘betrayal,’ say vets

Canadian Armed Forces veterans say they feel “alienated and abandoned” by the seven-year-old New Veterans Charter currently under review by both the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees.

MPs on the House Veterans Affairs committee got an earful from veterans of Canada’s mission in Afghanistan, who say that the New Veterans Charter that was put in place partway through the 10-year conflict has broken the social contract between Canada and its veterans.