Thursday, March 31, 2011

Layton backs May’s participation in leaders debate

The Globe and Mail:

Jack Layton says he would like Green Party Leader Elizabeth May to take part in the election debate and wants the broadcast consortium that decides who is in and who is out to clarify its criteria.

“We would be fine with her being there and what we think is there needs to be some rules established,” Mr. Layton said on a campaign stop at a cabinet maker in Oshawa east of Toronto on Wednesday.

“Right now there’s no transparency,” he said. “There’s this closed-door decision making process. Canadians don’t know what this consortium is up to when it makes its decisions and we think it would be good if she were to be there.”

Continue reading here.

Elizabeth May shut out of debates by "consortium"

Layton: eliminate federal oil and gas subsidies

The Toronto Star:

Montreal — New Democrat Leader Jack Layton has once again proposed to eliminate federal subsidies to oil and gas companies and use the savings to fund green energy initiatives.

“The result of this subsidy is an increase in the greenhouse gases pumped out in Canada and a competitive disadvantage for businesses looking to build clean solutions and the new energy economy,” Layton said according to an advance copy of his speech.

The NDP proposed getting rid of subsidies to the fossil fuel sector ahead of the U.N. climate change conference in Cancun last November.

The subsidies artificially bring down the cost of production and increase the profit margin of oil and gas companies, the NDP argues, saying the money could be put to better use fostering development of the renewable energy industry.

The program announced Thursday would therefore use the more than $2 billion the NDP estimates the cutting of the subsidies would save the federal government every year to fund initiatives to boost the clean energy economy.

The NDP would use $1 billion annually to provide incentives for companies to invest in renewable energy projects such as solar hot water heaters and wind turbines in remote and Aboriginal communities.

The NDP would devote another $500 million to a green jobs fund to train renewable energy researchers, energy auditors and other people needed to work in the clean energy jobs, leaving a surplus of another $500 million per year from the subsidies savings.

Continue reading here.

The plight of Libya's refugees and rebels

Harper taking only five questions a day from media

The Toronto Star:

Halifax — Stephen Harper is facing questions about his questions.

Namely, how many he’s willing to take each day. And he’s refusing to answer.

Harper takes only five questions from the media each day – four from the reporters on his tour and one from a local reporter – unlike his political rivals, who place no restrictions on how many questions they take.

That’s produced tensions between the Conservative leader and the journalists following his campaign tour as it crisscrosses the country.

The situation boiled over Thursday when Harper was repeatedly asked why he refused to take more a handful of questions each day.

At first, he refused to answer but when pressed, suggested he’d be open to addressing any issues he hadn’t already discussed. But he never explained his rationale for not fielding more questions.

“In terms of questions, is there any specific issue that I haven’t addressed that you want me to address,” Harper said.

“If there’s another subject, I’ll answer,” the Conservative leader said to journalists, who were kept more than 10 metres away, penned in behind a yellow fence.

Later Harper supporter David Cameron came up to the journalists to express his frustration at their questions.

“You guys reporting the news or making it?” he said.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Harper digs a coalition hole

The Globe and Mail:

The more Stephen Harper and his Conservative war room talk about their coalition, the deeper they dig their hole.

Consider the latest as reported by the Globe’s Steven Chase. Mr. Harper, talking in 1997, describes in clear, ordinary language a scenario where the Liberals lose power even though they have won the most seats, but less than a majority. In other words, he describes exactly the scenario he is decrying the Liberals for contemplating in this campaign.

“What will be the test is whether there’s then any party in opposition that’s able to form a coalition or working alliance with the others.”

The others. Plural. Is there any one party (singular) that’s able to form a coalition with more than one additional opposition party. The alternative would have been “with another,” not “with the others” – “the others” is an all-inclusive term – meaning all of the other parties, including … wait for it … the socialists and the separatists.

This is of course logical given that after the 1997 election, the Reform Party had 60 seats and the PCs 20. They were 75 seats away from having a majority of the seats in the House. The notion in 1997 that just joining those two parties alone was sufficient to defeat the Liberals – even if the Liberals fell below a majority – was laughable. The Stephen Harper of 1997 knew that, which is why he was fine with a coalition of multiple parties. The TVO video clearly demonstrates that, regardless of the lame spin that the Stephen Harper of 2011 mustered.

Continue reading here.

Stephen Hypocrite

Conservative candidate lobbied for firm selling F-35s

The Toronto Star:

Ottawa — A Conservative candidate in Ontario lobbied for a firm that is selling Canada a fleet of controversial fighter jets whose disputed cost helped spark the election, the Toronto Star has learned.

Raymond Sturgeon, who is trying to unseat the New Democrats in the northern Ontario riding of Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing, had a long and distinguished career in the Canadian Forces both as a soldier and civilian, before taking up his most recent position.

He is currently employed by CFN Consultants, an Ottawa-based firm that is considered to be the home of the country’s premiere defence lobbyists. Up until last December, Sturgeon was listed as a paid representatives of more than half a dozen companies seeking to sell equipment, weapons and aircraft to the Department of National Defence.

Those companies include Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, Colt Canada Corp., Israel Aircraft Industries Ltd., General Dynamics and Rheinmetall Canada, according to federal government records.

Lockheed Martin has a contract with the U.S. Department of Defense to produce the F-35 Lightning stealth fighter jet, which the Conservative government hopes to sign a contract for in 2014 and begin receiving two years later.

The Liberals got a boost in the final weeks of the last parliamentary session from Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page, whose cost analysis of the fighter jet program came up with a price tag of $29.3 billion.

Continue reading here.

Coalitions: Election letter of the day, March 28

The Globe and Mail:


I am getting very tired of Stephen Harper’s using the word coalition as a bogeyman to scare voters back into the Tory fold.

Anyone who has lived in Germany or Sweden, for instance, knows that the coalitions that usually result from a proportional representation electoral system, have provided stable and effective government for decades, in marked contrast to the opportunism that Canadians have witnessed over the past five years of minority governments.

For one thing, compatible governing partners have to agree in advance on major policy issues, rather than making it up as they go along according to their supposed electoral chances. Moreover, coalitions, under proportional representation and usually even under our skewed first-past-the-post system, have at least the merit of representing more than 50 per cent of the voting population, something that Mr. Harper cannot claim so far and I trust never will be able to.

Christopher Levenson, Vancouver

Momentum in the recall of Wisconsin Republicans

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Layton vows to cap credit-card rates

The Globe and Mail:

NDP targets ballooning household debt with pitch to middle-income earners in suburban Ontario

Jack Layton is making a pitch to middle-income earners in the large suburban sprawl around Toronto, a region that is rich in votes but that has largely eluded the New Democrats in previous elections.

The NDP Leader paid a visit Tuesday to the wartime-era home of Pamela and Reid Newell of Brantford, Ont., an industrial city west of Hamilton that has seen better days.

He talked about the profits of the corporate banks and the burden that household debt places on Canadian families.

With 35 per cent of Canadians unable to pay off their credit-cards every month, and the average unpaid balances standing at $3,700, the NDP wants to cap credit-card rates at five percentage points above prime.

If Mr. Layton was elected to form government, he says he would also give financial regulators new powers to identify and ban excessive fees on credit cards and make mandatory a code of conduct for credit-card companies that is now voluntary.

Continue reading here.

Harper on coalitions when he wanted to form one

We've let Stephen Harper tell it like he sees it. No editing needed, since he believes that "any party in opposition that's able to form a coalition or working alliance with the others," should be able to do so.

Big banks save billions as homeowners suffer

The Huffington Post:

New York - The nation's five largest mortgage firms have saved more than $20 billion since the housing crisis began in 2007 by taking shortcuts in processing troubled borrowers' home loans, according to a confidential presentation prepared for state attorneys general by the nascent consumer bureau inside the Treasury Department.

That estimate suggests large banks have reaped tremendous benefits from under-serving distressed homeowners, a complaint frequent enough among borrowers that federal regulators have begun to acknowledge the industry's fundamental shortcomings.

The dollar figure also provides a basis for regulators' internal discussions regarding how best to penalize Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Ally Financial in a settlement of wide-ranging allegations of wrongful and occasionally illegal foreclosures. People involved in the talks say some regulators want to levy a $5 billion penalty on the five firms, while others seek as much as $30 billion, with most of the money going toward reducing troubled homeowners' mortgage payments and lowering loan balances for underwater borrowers, those who owe more on their home than it's worth.

Continue reading here.

Republican's war against unions, and fighting back

The Huffington Post:

Amanda Terkel, Senior Politics Reporter at The Huffington Post, appeared Monday on 'The Rachel Maddow Show' to discuss new anti-union measures being proposed by Republicans in Congress.

"They're going right now after air and rail workers. The way it works right now is if you want to form a union, you just need to get a majority of the workers who turn out to vote. But the way that Republicans would like to do it, and the way that it's been for many years, is you need to get a majority of all workers, even ones who don't turn out to vote. So if you don't turn out to vote, essentially you're voting no," said Terkel. She continued, "I mean imagine if Mitt Romney runs against Barack Obama and under Republican rules if you don't turn out to vote you're essentially voting for Barack Obama. Imagine how hard it would be for Mitt Romney to win."

Terkel also explained that "right now there is more interest and more focus from the media, from Democrats, from Progressive activists on labor issues than I've seen in years."

Conservative under RCMP probe working in election

The Canadian Press:

The Canadian Press has learned that a former Conservative staffer under RCMP investigation is working on the federal campaign in a key riding.

Sebastien Togneri demanded that government officials block the release of a document and censor it heavily in 2009 while he was a senior aide to a cabinet minister.

Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose called in the Mounties to determine if charges should be laid after an investigation by Canada's information commissioner found that Togneri clearly interfered with the request without legal authority to do so.

Now Togneri has turned up working for the campaign of Ryan Hastman in Edmonton-Strathcona, a riding the Tories are trying to win back from the NDP.

Hastman's campaign manager says Togneri was an old friend who had come around to help and was just putting up campaign signs.

Two sources say Togneri had been seen at a major rally for Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Monday night that Ambrose also attended.

Ambrose says she was not aware Togneri was working on Hastman's campaign.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Poll shows growing voter skepticism about Harper

The Globe and Mail:

A poll conducted for The Globe and Mail and CTV by Nanos Research shows that 41 per cent of Canadians trust the Conservative government less than they did a year ago. Only 6 per cent trust it more. Forty-eight per cent feel about the same, and 5 per cent just don’t know.

“This speaks to the potential vulnerability of the Harper government,” said pollster Nik Nanos. “It speaks to why the opposition parties are so hot to attack the government on trust and ethics.”

This increased skepticism is the legacy of the 2010 prorogation, the (mostly unfounded) allegations about former cabinet minister Helena Guergis, the secretive axing of the mandatory long-form census, sundry hirings and firings of executives in government-funded agencies, RCMP investigations into interference in access-to-information protocols and allegations of illegal lobbying, charges related to election financing, International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda’s testimony about a memo that cut funds to an aid agency, and other controversies and misdemeanours.

“It’s like death by paper cuts,” Mr. Nanos observed. “None of these things by themselves would topple a government, but it could be that there’s an accumulation effect that’s taking place.”

Even those who identified themselves as Conservative supporters are less than happy with the Harper government’s recent behaviour. Twenty-six per cent said the government had become less trustworthy, as opposed to 9 per cent who thought to Conservatives more reliable.

Continue reading here.

500,000 protest corporate tax cuts, spending cuts

Democracy Now!:

As many as 500,000 protesters marched in London on Saturday to protest Britain’s deepest cuts to public spending since World War II. The protests come after U.K. officials estimated corporate taxes would be reduced even as it tackles a $235 billion deficit and plans to cut more than 300,000 public sector jobs. Meanwhile, in the United States protesters gathered in 40 cities on Saturday to oppose tax cuts for the wealthy amid budget cuts to public services. We broadcast a video report from the streets of London and speak to British journalist Johann Hari and Allison Kilkenny of Citizen Radio in New York.

US Supreme Court has denied hearing Troy Davis

Troy Davis faces execution for the murder of Police Officer Mark MacPhail in Georgia, despite a strong claim of innocence.

7 out of 9 witnesses have recanted or contradicted their testimony, no murder weapon was found and no physical evidence links Davis to the crime. The Georgia Board of Pardon and Paroles has voted to deny clemency, yet Governor Perdue can still exercise leadership to ensure that his death sentence is commuted. Please urge him to demonstrate respect for fairness and justice by supporting clemency for Troy Davis.

Act now to demand justice for Troy Davis.

Fix Ottawa, Layton urges

The Edmonton Journal:

One hand gripping a cane, the other hand shaking those of his backers, Layton, who is recovering from recent hip surgery, made his way gingerly through the crowd to tell Edmontonians it was no accident that he came here first.

Calling on voters to "fix" Ottawa, Layton knocked Prime Minister Stephen Harper for failing to support Edmonton's Expo bid last year and its lack of action on the province's ongoing health-care crisis.

"Your health care here in Edmonton is as bad as it's ever been. You've got cutbacks, you've got long waits in the emergency room, you've got doctors being intimidated for defending the patients, and you don't hear a peep about it from Stephen Harper and his Conservatives," said Layton, who promised more family doctors, improved home care and affordable prescription drugs.

"It's time for you to choose a prime minister who will help your family get ahead, put political games aside -well, friends, I'm running to be that prime minister."

Continue reading here.

Harper's coalition attacks come back to haunt him

Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe reads a 2004 letter signed by himself, then-Opposition leader Stephen Harper and NDP Leader Jack Layton asking to form a coalition.

The Toronto Star:

Brampton — Stephen Harper’s bid to stoke election fears about a Liberal-led coalition has been undermined by words from his political past when he joined other opposition leaders in urging the then-governor general to consider “all of your options.”

But it was Harper who was forced to fend off questions about his own “close consultations” in 2004 with opposition leaders in the event that Paul Martin’s minority Liberal government faltered.

Harper denied Sunday he was being a hypocrite for appearing to embrace close collaboration among the opposition parties in 2004 only to campaign against the idea now.

NDP Leader Jack Layton said Harper’s denial of ever discussing a coalition makes it hard to trust him.

“What Mr. Harper was intending to do (in 2004) is absolutely crystal clear to me, (which) was attempt to become prime minister even though he had not received the most seats in the House,” Layton told reporters Sunday after a rally in Surrey, B.C.

He later confirmed the word “coalition” was explicitly mentioned in the talks, even if it was never spelled out in the letter.

“That letter was designed to illustrate that such an option is legitimate in Canadian constitutional traditions and there was no question about it.”

Continue reading here.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Layton launches campaign: focus on families

The Toronto Star:

Ottawa — New Democrat Leader Jack Layton launched his election campaign by promising ways to help Canadian families get by and arguing he is the best bet to stop the Conservatives from returning to power.

“In this election, I will put forward concrete proposals to take the strain off your family budget and make everyday essentials less expensive,” Layton, 60, told a rally at the Chateau Laurier in downtown Ottawa, where he addressed the television cameras with about 150 supporters and a massive Canadian flag as his backdrop.

Better health care, support for small businesses, improved pensions and benefits for seniors, lower household bills and some help for the “sandwich generation” caring for ailing parents while raising their own children – Layton promised plans to deal with all these pocketbook issues his party hopes will bring more middle-class families to their fold while the Liberals and Conservatives battle over more abstract concepts like leadership.

The details of those promised solutions have yet to be released, although the campaign platform is expected to contain at least the four measures Layton had asked Conservative Leader Stephen Harper to put in the budget, including eliminating the federal tax on home heating fuels and doubling pension benefits.

Continue reading here.

Harper started the coalition idea

Letter to the Editor, The Toronto Star:

Re: Former PMO staffer warns of coalition, March 24

According to this article, a Conservative aide claims that a minority government for the Tories would mean a coalition government of the Liberals and NDP and possibly the Bloc Québécois.

I may be missing a point here, but on the televised news Jack Layton stated that in 2004 when Paul Martin led a minority government, Layton was a signatory to a letter of accord led by Stephen Harper, the official leader of the opposition at the time, that a coalition be formed between the two parties to seek a takeover of the government by a coalition. This letter was intended to be presented to Michaëlle Jean, the governor general of the day, and Harper was to be the leader of the government if this was granted.

Now the Tories claim, with no proof of the fact, that a coalition would be in place if they did not win a majority of seats. They accuse Michael Ignatieff of wanting to be prime minister when all along the signs point to the fact that they themselves crave power.

Leonard Moccio, Welland

What the Glenn Beck Channel might look like

The New York Times Op-Art:

It was reported this week that the conservative commentator Glenn Beck may start his own cable channel when his contract with Fox News expires this year. Here’s a preview.

Enough Harper

We've had enough of the games, the secrecy, the circumvention of democracy. We've had enough of the waste, the misguided priorities and the lack of vision for Canada. No wonder Harper hides his real record.

This is what class warfare looks like

This chart puts the class war in simple, visual terms. On the left you have the "shared sacrifices" and "painful cuts" that the Republicans claim we must make to get our fiscal house in order. On the right, you can plainly see WHY these cuts are "necessary."

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Crackdown on Syrian protests continues

Ten reasons to oppose the Conservatives

The following is designed not to insult or ridicule the Harper Conservatives -- it is to show accurately and honestly why the Tories shouldn't run or represent Canada. Stephen Harper promised to "change the face of Canada" so drastically we wouldn't recognize it. He has succeeded and Canadians must decide if that is really what they want.

Money mismanagement

• In 1993, Mulroney's Conservatives chalked up a $38 billion deficit. By 2006, Chretien's Liberals turned this into a $16 billion surplus. Now, Harper has given us a $55-plus billion deficit.

• To raise funds, the Tories promoted the HST, which moves the tax burden from corporations to consumers, increasing the cost of essentials like food and heat. The Ontario government has admitted that this will cost citizens at least $500 a year per family.

• In 2011/12, Harper is introducing more corporate tax cuts which will cost $5.6 billion annually, creating a smaller revenue base for the country. On the other hand, Harper's Income Trust "betrayal," will result in a $2 billion a year tax "leakage."

Continue reading here.

Duceppe says Harper lying

The Globe and Mail:

Bloc Québécois Leader Gillles Duceppe opened his May 2 election campaign Saturday by accusing Conservative Leader Stephen Harper of lying when he denies the Conservatives had a plan to build a coalition government in 2004 against the then-ruling Paul Martin Liberals.

Mr. Duceppe, Mr. Harper and the NDP’s Jack Layton sent a letter to Governor General Adrienne Clarkson in September 2004 urging her to consider options other than calling an election, should Paul Martin’s Liberal minority government fall. The letter pointed out the three opposition parties constituted a majority of the House and had been in close consultation.

Mr. Duceppe’s signature appears just below Mr. Harper’s on the letter, which Mr. Duceppe waved for the cameras at his Saturday press conference.

“When he says only the party that received the most votes can form a government, he said the opposite in this letter. He lied this morning.”

Continue reading here.

Syrian demonstraters regroup

Geraldine Ferraro 1935 - 2011

The Associated Press/The Huffington Post:

Geraldine Ferraro, a Democrat and the first major female vice presidential candidate, passed away on Saturday, according to multiple reports on a statement released by her family.

Jeff Zeleny at the New York Times reports that at the age of 75, Ferraro died of complications from blood cancer at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Ferraro was the first woman and first Italian-American to run on a major party national ticket. According to a statement released by her family, she died surrounded by her loved ones after battling multiple myeloma for twelve years. Her family said of the loss:

"Geraldine Anne Ferraro Zaccaro was widely known as a leader, a fighter for justice, and a tireless advocate for those without a voice. To us, she was a wife, mother, grandmother and aunt, a woman devoted to and deeply loved by her family. Her courage and generosity of spirit throughout her life waging battles big and small, public and personal, will never be forgotten and will be sorely missed."

Continue reading here.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Video games glorify Mexican cartel violence

Japan suspects breach of nuclear reactor core

The Associated Press:

Tokyo - Japanese nuclear safety officials said Friday that they suspect that the reactor core at one unit of the troubled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant may have breached, raising the possibility of more severe contamination to the environment.

"It is possible that somewhere at the reactor may have been damaged," said Hidehiko Nishiyama, a spokesman for the nuclear safety agency. But he added that "our data suggest the reactor retains certain containment functions," implying that the damage may have occurred in Unit 3's reactor core but that it was limited.

Officials say the damage could instead have happened in other equipment, including piping or the spent fuel pool.

Operators have been struggling to keep cool water around radioactive fuel rods in the reactor's core after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami cut off power supply to the plant and its cooling system.

Continue reading here.

Syrian security forces open fire on protesters

Time for a government that puts families first

UFCW Canada:

As Canadians appear to be headed to the polls early in May, perhaps now is the time to reflect on this Parliament, Canada’s 40th Parliament, and determine what needs to be done to prevent a repeat in the 41st Parliament.

Now is the time to ask ourselves:

Do we want a government that chose to prorogate Parliament rather than debate Canada’s treatment of Afghan detainees?

Do we want a government that spends more in one day on the G20 than they are prepared to spend on lifting seniors out of poverty?

Do we want a government that robs provincial governments, academics, business leaders, researchers, and economists of important and necessary research data by scrapping the long-term census?

Do we want a government that – through its actions – brought harm to Canada’s international reputation by failing to gain a seat on the UN Security Council?

Do we want a government that shows it contempt for Parliament and the democratic process by refusing to reveal the costs of its crime bills; that protects a minister who misled Parliament by “Not” telling the truth; a government that low-balled the cost of its new fighter planes by more than $13 billion and tried to hide the real cost from the opposition members and all Canadians?

Stephen Harper has been forced to accept that because of the faults and corruption within his government he lost the confidence of the Canadian people and Parliament, and his latest budget did nothing to regain that confidence. As Globe and Mail columnist Brian Topp wrote on the NDP leader’s choice to add his party’s weight to bring down the government, “Layton is right guy making the right decision.”

Can we afford another Stephen Harper government that cares more about giving more corporate tax cuts than getting unemployed Canadians back to work and ensuring that seniors can retire with dignity and economic security? Isn’t it time to elect a government that has the best interests of working Canadians as its priority?

Harper government defeated: spring election


It's official — the government has fallen from power, clearing the way for a spring election.

The opposition Liberals, NDP and Bloc Québécois came together Friday afternoon in a historic vote to say they no longer have confidence in the Conservative government.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper addressed reporters after the vote and said he would meet with the Governor General on Saturday "to inform him of the situation and to take the only course of action that remains," referring to the dissolution of Parliament and an immediate election campaign.

Only five other non-confidence votes have happened in Canada's history, according to information on the Library of Parliament website. This is the first time it has occurred because a majority of MPs voted that they believed the government was in contempt of Parliament.

The motion said the House agrees with a Commons committee report tabled earlier this week that found the government in contempt of Parliament, "which is unprecedented in Canadian parliamentary history, and consequently the House has lost confidence in the government."

Continue reading here.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Another reason to like Eminem

Detroit Free Press:

Detroit — The delegates attending the United Auto Workers’ three-day bargaining convention in Detroit were treated to a rousing, inspirational message Wednesday from rap star Eminem.

In a moving, three-minute video, Eminem implored UAW members to never give up.

“You took our country from its infancy into industry,” Eminem said in the video. “Your name still carries with it the idea of a nation built on steel, muscle and sweat.”

The video was filled with images of Detroit’s buildings, factories and houses and was narrated by Eminem.

“You know that nothing is accomplished without hard work and sacrifice,” Eminem said. “You’ve built us; you’ve moved us.”

The UAW also replayed the highly acclaimed Chrysler 200 commercial that aired during the Super Bowl. This version of the commercial ended with short appearances from Al Iacobelli, Chrysler’s vice president of employee relations, and UAW Vice President General Holiefield.

Afterwards, hundreds of UAW delegates chanted: “One more time, one more time.”

The UAW replayed the commercial.

Bill Maher on CNN's In The Arena

A great appearance by Bill Maher a few days ago on CNN's In The Arena with Eliot Spitzer.

A break from the depressing news cycle

Thousands protest in Syria after killings

Democracy Now!:

An estimated crowd of more than 20,000 has turned out for the funerals of victims killed in a Syrian government attack on a mosque housing protesters in the city of Daraa, which in recent days has seen some of Syria’s largest demonstrations in decades. Twenty-five people have been confirmed dead, but witnesses say the toll could be far greater. Daraa is under curfew and the Syrian government has reportedly issued announcements telling residents they will be shot if they leave their houses. We speak with prominent human rights attorney Haitham Maleh in Damascus and with his son Iyan Maleh, in Brussels.

Republican bill: cut off food stamps to families

Think Progress:

A group of House Republicans is launching a new stealth attack against union workers. GOP Reps. Jim Jordan (OH), Tim Scott (SC), Scott Garrett (NJ), Dan Burton (IN), and Louie Gohmert (TX) have introduced H.R. 1135, which states that it is designed to “provide information on total spending on means-tested welfare programs, to provide additional work requirements, and to provide an overall spending limit on means-tested welfare programs.”

Much of the bill is based upon verifying that those who receive food stamps benefits are meeting the federal requirements for doing so. However, one section buried deep within the bill adds a startling new requirement. The bill, if passed, would actually cut off all food stamp benefits to any family where one adult member is engaging in a strike against an employer

The bill also includes a provision that would exempt households from losing eligibility, “if the household was eligible immediately prior to such strike, however, such family unit shall not receive an increased allotment as the result of a decrease in the income of the striking member or members of the household.”

Yet removing entire families from eligibility while a single adult family member is striking would have a chilling effect on workers who are considering going on strike for better wages, benefits, or working conditions — something that is especially alarming in light of the fact that unions are one of the fundamental building blocks of the middle class that allow people to earn wages that keep them off food stamps.

With a record 42 million Americans on food stamps during these poor economic times, it appears that the right is simply looking for more ways to hurt working class Americans.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Layton is the right guy, making the right decision

Brian Topp, The Globe and Mail:

Jack Layton made a big decision Tuesday. And there is a ring to that sentence that Canadians are getting increasingly comfortable with. Mr. Layton enters this campaign as the most respected, trusted and effective national leader on the opposition bench. It was therefore fitting that the fate of Jim Flaherty's sixth budget ended up in his hands.

Of all the parties, the New Democrats are the least likely partner for Mr. Harper's government. There is little common ground between this ministry and its most effective opposition. So, for example:

» New Democrats fundamentally reject this government's core economic policy, which would have it that spending well in excess of $20-billion a year on passive tax giveaways to the most fortunate among us will lead to prosperity for the rest.

» New Democrats also fundamentally reject this government's fiscal policy, which is (in our mild Canadian way) reckless spendthriftery on the model of American neo-conservatism. This government is simultaneously aggressively cutting taxes for wealthy Canadians and profitable companies, while increasing its spending by 6 per cent a year.

» The federal government will soon re-negotiate the terms under which it will help fund public health care between 2014 and 2024. New Democrats don't trust Stephen Harper with that critical negotiation.

» Mr. Harper's government has walked away from Canada's obligations on climate change, in order to promote the export of raw bitumen from Alberta to Texas. This is environmental madness, and straight economic theft from the children of all Albertan families as their provincial resources are peddled for a fraction of their worth.

» Mr. Harper's government has greatly harmed Canada's good name in the world on many issues.

» And, last but certainly not least, Prime Minister Harper has presided over what Donald Savoie accurately calls a "court government", while attacking Canada's democracy, its system of responsible government and its parliamentary system at their roots. A remarkable descent by a Conservative leader who built his brand in large part by promising to do better.

Continue reading here.

The Republicans' big lies about jobs

Robert Reich, Former Secretary of Labor; Professor at Berkeley; Author, Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future

What worries me almost as much as the Republican's repeated big lies about jobs is the silence of President Obama and Democratic leaders in the face of them. Obama has the bully pulpit. Republicans don't.

Continue reading here.

Nanos: Conseratives hold tentative lead in polls

Steve Val, Oye! Times:

Don't think I can recall a large 9 point lead being referred to as "tentative" by a pollster, but when you delve into some numbers, Nik Nanos' hesitancy is better explained. What you see is a Conservative strong suit waning, coupled with very troubling numbers on a signature opposition attack line.

First, consider that the economy as a voter priority has no fallen to it's lowest level since the recession began. Ipsos found we care more about good government than economic management, now Nanos pegs economic concern at it's lowest since the last election. Might be time for a rethink on what will or will not be the "defining" election issue. The opposition, particularly the Liberals, have made a big deal about the F-35 purchase.

Sixty-eight per cent of Canadians agreed that “now is not a good time” to proceed with the $16-billion purchase of the F-35 fighter aircraft...

Even a majority (56 per cent) of voters who identified themselves as Conservative supporters oppose the acquisition. And three out of four undecided voters are opposed.

Only 27 per cent of those surveyed thought the federal government should “purchase now to prepare for the future.”

Sticking with the F-35s “is not necessarily a way to grow voter support,” Mr. Nanos concluded, in what might be a bit of an understatement.

Very rare to see a majority of Conservatives oppose a government decision, but this finding speaks to just how overwhelming unpopular the F-35 purchase has become. It gets worse, when you consider that a massive 75% of undecided voters don't want the F-35, suggesting sound ground for the Liberals, potential growth.

The F-35 isn't a complicated issue, the figures are large, the intention is known, this issue can and will resonate. I say will because the Liberals have made the F-35 a cornerstone criticism, it will be raised at every campaign stop, in ads, literature, we will have this discussion in some capacity. Additionally, these type of lopsided findings only serve to embolden the Liberals, very little "risk" in attacking the government on this file.

The polls aren't necessarily showing a shift in opinion (of note though, Harris Decima has moved from a 10% lead, to 8% lead, to 6% lead in the last month), but there is clear evidence of underlying weakness for the Conservatives. This reality might assist in understanding the very real apprehension the Conservatives have shown regarding an election, despite apparently attractive top line numbers.

How TV created & killed Palin's political prospects

John Doyle, The Globe and Mail:

A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll found that her approval ratings among committed Republicans in the U.S. had faded dramatically since previously measured last October. In fact, her “strongly unfavourable” rating has skyrocketed among Republicans. In recent political commentary in the U.S., the talk is of her presidential bid “imploding.”

Then, television duly destroyed the Palin authenticity. The arc of her national political career began with a defining speech at the Republican National Convention in September, 2008, and ended in November, 2010, a few episodes into Sarah Palin’s Alaska. The show, a cringingly inevitable reality-TV series, gave her a huge platform and she blew it. If her exposure on TV in 2008 brought out the authenticity, the show brought out Palin’s inner princess. She talked about being a mom 87 times an episode (I’m exaggerating , but only a little) and made dubious attempts to make political parables linking her family, the outdoors and wildlife. It was ego unbounded. And this after quitting her job as governor of Alaska.

The series had many memorable moments and scenes, but what lingered – and obviously had an impact on Republicans – was the unsubtle undermining of Palin’s assertion that she and her family are “normal, average Americans.” A salmon-fishing trip for the kids involved using a private bush plane to fly to a remote wilderness lake. Palin asserted that such a trip is “an everyday thing” in Alaska, yet any fool watching at home knew the cost had to be in the many thousands. A mountain-climbing trip to Mount McKinley was presented as a trip in the family RV, yet viewers were gobsmacked to find that the vehicle was more like those giant, luxury tour buses used by rock bands.

Continue reading here.

100 years ago this week

The Cloth Inferno - The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

It was the worst factory fire in the history of New York City. Late in the afternoon of Saturday, 25 March 1911, fire broke out at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company, located on the 8th, 9th, and 10th floors of the Asch Building. In less than five minutes fire snuffed out the lives of 146 workers

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Opposition rejects Conservative budget

The Toronto Star:

Ottawa — Stephen Harper’s minority Conservative government is in danger of being toppled after NDP Leader Jack Layton announced his party will not support Tuesday’s budget.

“The NDP will not be supporting the budget in its current form,” Layton said, suggesting his party would be open to amendments.

But he said it is “difficult” to imagine there won’t be an election, saying that the Conservatives appear to have made up their mind on the budget.

Layton, who met with Harper to discuss the budget several weeks ago, said that the budget fell far short of his party’s demands to assist working families.

“He missed that opportunity. He just doesn’t get it,” he said.

Layton’s decision sets up the likely fall of the government later this week, perhaps Thursday. That would set in motion an election and send voters to the polls in early May.

Continue reading here.

Brown breaks with GOP over Planned Parenthood

The Huffington Post:

Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) spoke out against budget cuts proposed by members of his own party that would restrict Planned Parenthood from receiving any federal funding.

The Massachusetts senator addressed Republican efforts in the House to defund the organization in a statement released on Tuesday.

"I support family planning and health services for women," he said of ongoing budget negotiations related to the abortion provider. "Given our severe budget problems, I don't believe any area of the budget is completely immune from cuts. However, the proposal to eliminate all funding for family planning goes too far. As we continue with our budget negotiations, I hope we can find a compromise that is reasonable and appropriate."

Continue reading here.

Bradley Manning's forced nudity to occur daily

Glenn Greenwald,

To follow-up on yesterday's observations about the prolonged forced nudity to which Bradley Manning has been subjected the last two days: brig officials now confirm to The New York Times that Manning will be forced to be nude every night from now on for the indefinite future -- not only when he sleeps, but also when he stands outside his cell for morning inspection along with the other brig detainees. They claim that it is being done "as a 'precautionary measure' to prevent him from injuring himself."

Has anyone before successfully committed suicide using a pair of briefs -- especially when under constant video and in-person monitoring? There's no underwear that can be issued that is useless for killing oneself? And if this is truly such a threat, why isn't he on "suicide watch" (the NYT article confirms he's not)? And why is this restriction confined to the night; can't he also off himself using his briefs during the day?

Let's review Manning's detention over the last nine straight months: 23-hour/day solitary confinement; barred even from exercising in his cell; one hour total outside his cell per day where he's allowed to walk around in circles in a room alone while shackled, and is returned to his cell the minute he stops walking; forced to respond to guards' inquiries literally every 5 minutes, all day, everyday; and awakened at night each time he is curled up in the corner of his bed or otherwise outside the guards' full view. Is there anyone who doubts that these measures -- and especially this prolonged forced nudity -- are punitive and designed to further erode his mental health, physical health and will? As The Guardian reported last year, forced nudity is almost certainly a breach of the Geneva Conventions; the Conventions do not technically apply to Manning, as he is not a prisoner of war, but they certainly establish the minimal protections to which all detainees -- let alone citizens convicted of nothing -- are entitled.

Continue reading here.

Japanese skyscrapers swaying during earthquake

Japan's crisis and rebuilding

Yemen military figures switch sides

CNN reporter rips Fox News over Libya claims

The Huffington Post:

A senior reporter for CNN slammed Fox News for suggesting that he and other reporters who were given a tour of Muammar Gaddafi's compound in Libya were used as human shields by the Libyan government.

Fox News' defense correspondent, Jennifer Griffin, reported on Monday that the British army had been due to fire seven missiles at Gaddafi's compound. But the attack was held off, she said, because Libya had brought journalists from CNN, Reuters, the AP, the Times of London and other news outlets to the compound for what, in the government's words, was a press tour. According to Griffin, the actual reason for bringing the journalists to the compound was to "effectively use them as human shields."

In an interview with Wolf Blitzer later on Monday, CNN's senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, who was one of the reporters on the tour, lashed out at Fox News. He called the report "outrageous and absolutely hypocritical," and said that, when you come to somewhere like Libya, you expect lies and deceit from the dictatorship here. You don't expect it from the other journalists."

He said that Fox News had in fact sent a non-editorial, non-technical member of its team to the tour. And he had harsh words for Harrigan himself. "If they had actually been there, Steve Harrigan the correspondent here is somebody I have known for many years, I see him more times at breakfast than I see him out on trips with government officials here," he said. "...We very rarely see the Fox News team..if I sound angry, it's because I am."

War on women: Arizona's paranoid abortion bill

The Arizona Republic and The Huffington Post:

The Senate has passed a measure that would make it a felony for a doctor to perform an abortion sought based on the sex or race of the fetus, despite ongoing debate over whether such a thing is occurring in Arizona.

The House already has passed House Bill 2443, but because it was amended on the Senate floor to toughen the penalties against the doctor, it must go back to the House for a final vote before heading to Gov. Jan Brewer for consideration.

If it becomes law, Arizona would become the first state in the nation to make sex- or race-selection abortions a crime

Continue reading here.

America's covert war in Yemen

Democracy Now!:

The crisis in Yemen is growing following high-level defections from the regime of U.S.-backed President Ali Abudullah Saleh. On Monday, a dozen top military leaders announced their pledge to protect the protest movement after 45 people were killed and some 350 were wounded when Yemeni forces opened fire on demonstrators in the capital of Sana’a on Friday—after two months of nationwide demonstrations. In recent years, the United States has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in military and security aid to Yemen. “The Obama administration has really escalated the covert war inside of Yemen and has dramatically increased the funding to Yemen’s military, particularly its elite counter-terrorism unit, which is trained by U.S. special operations forces," says Democracy Now! correspondent and independent journalist Jeremy Scahill. "It could get much worse if President Saleh decides to release the U.S. trained counter-terrorism units on his own."

Monday, March 21, 2011

Libya rebels: democracy, not islamist government

The Huffington Post:

Paris - Libya's rebels want to drive Moammar Gaddafi from power and see him tried – not have him killed, a European representative for the leading opposition group said in an interview Monday.

Ali Zeidan, an envoy for the Libyan National Transitional Council, also told The Associated Press that airstrikes led by France, Britain and the United States have helped the rebels, but that the opposition needs more weapons to win.

"Gaddafi must disappear. He should leave as soon as possible," Zeidan said. "We would like to establish a new state on the basis of democracy ... we do not want an Islamist government."

He said his movement's long-term goal is to improve education, health care and bring back 50,000 educated Libyans living in the United States and Europe to Libya to restore the country's intellectual fabric and economy.

Continue reading here.

Bill Maher: 'I just think I'm too controversial'

The L.A. Times:

"Real Time With Bill Maher" is in its ninth season on HBO, the political satirist's happy home since ABC canceled "Politically Incorrect" — a fluffier more-celebrity oriented version of Maher's show featuring panelists tackling the day's topics.

Continue reading here.

Harper has reason to worry: Nanos poll

The Globe and Mail:

A new poll suggests Stephen Harper has reason to worry as Parliament returns amid such tumult that the government could fall within days, forcing a spring election.

Trust in the Prime Minister’s leadership has waned over the past month, amid charges that the Conservative government is in contempt of Parliament for hiding information; after party officials were charged with breaking the election law in 2006; and now with allegations emerging that Bruce Carson, a former confidant of Mr. Harper, sought to win contracts that benefited him and his much, much younger girlfriend

Continue reading here.

Europe divided over Libya mission

Soldiers posed in photos with murdered civilians

The Guardian:

Commanders in Afghanistan are bracing themselves for possible riots and public fury triggered by the publication of "trophy" photographs of US soldiers posing with the dead bodies of defenceless Afghan civilians they killed.

Senior officials at Nato's International Security Assistance Force in Kabul have compared the pictures published by the German news weekly Der Spiegel to the images of US soldiers abusing prisoners in Abu Ghraib in Iraq which sparked waves of anti-US protests around the world.

They fear that the pictures could be even more damaging as they show the aftermath of the deliberate murders of Afghan civilians by a rogue US Stryker tank unit that operated in the southern province of Kandahar last year.

Some of the activities of the self-styled "kill team" are already public, with 12 men currently on trial in Seattle for their role in the killing of three civilians.

Five of the soldiers are on trial for pre-meditated murder, after they staged killings to make it look like they were defending themselves from Taliban attacks.

Other charges include the mutilation of corpses, the possession of images of human casualties and drug abuse.

All of the soldiers have denied the charges. They face the death penalty or life in prison if convicted.

Continue reading here.

MPs' report finds Harper government in contempt


The Conservative government should be found in contempt of Parliament, a committee of MPs decided Monday.

After a morning spent hashing out a draft report and making a series of amendments, the procedure and house affairs committee voted in favour of the contempt finding.

The recommendation to find the government in contempt of Parliament is a historic finding and could ultimately lead to the Conservative government's collapse later this week.

The procedure and house affairs committee began meeting Monday morning to debate and finalize the report that will decide whether the government breached the privilege of MPs by not supplying sufficient data on the estimated costs of corporate tax cuts, proposed crime legislation and the F-35 fighter jet procurement.

Continue reading here.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Japanese doctor boosts morale

Stalemate warning as Gaddafi defiant

Wyclef Jean shot in Haiti, released from hospital

The Associated Press:

Port-au-Prince, Haiti — Musician Wyclef Jean said Sunday that a bullet grazed his hand as he stepped out of a car to make a telephone call, but he said he was only slightly injured.

Jean, who has been in Haiti helping the presidential campaign of his friend and fellow musician Michel "Sweet Micky" Martelly, said the bullet grazed him late Saturday night as he stepped out of his car in the Delmas section of the capital, Port-au-Prince, to make a call on his cellphone.

"The way I can explain it is that the bullet grazed me in my right hand," Jean told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "I heard blow, blow, blow and I just looked at my hand."

Jean, who was with a driver and the Haitian hip-hop singer FanFan at the time, said he doesn't know who fired the shots, or whether they were directed at him.

Continue reading here.

Inside Story - True democracy for Egypt?

Conservatives' handbook on paralyzing Parliament


Ottawa — The Harper government is being accused of a machiavellian plot to wreak parliamentary havoc after a secret Tory handbook on obstructing and manipulating Commons committees was leaked to the press.

Opposition parties pounced on news reports Friday about the 200-page handbook as proof that the Conservatives are to blame for the toxic atmosphere that has paralyzed Parliament this week.

"The government's deliberate plan is to cause a dysfunctional, chaotic Parliament,'' Liberal House Leader Ralph Goodale told the House of Commons.

New Democrat Libby Davies said the manual explodes the Tories' contention that opposition parties are to blame for the parliamentary constipation.

"So much for blaming the opposition for the obstruction of Parliament,'' she said.

"Now we learn, in fact, that the monkey wrench gang have had a plan all along and not just any plan, a 200-page playbook on how to frustrate, obstruct and shut down the democratic process.''

Continue reading here.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Japan begins reconstruction

Millions vote in Egyptian referendum

International forces begin Libya strikes

"Underestimating the seriousness of the problem"

Democracy Now!:

The Japanese nuclear crisis worsens as Japanese authorities race to cool the overheating reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station. Earlier today, Japan raised the nuclear alert level at the crippled plant from a four to a five, on par with Three Mile Island. This decision has shocked many nuclear experts. “Our experts think that it’s a level 6.5 already, and it’s on the way to a seven, which was Chernobyl," says Philip White of the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center in Tokyo. We also speak with Dr. Ira Helfand of Physicians for Social Responsibility about the long-term health effects from radiation exposure from Fukushima.

Warren Christopher 1925 - 2011


Washington - Former U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher, who helped bring peace to Bosnia and negotiated the release of American hostages in Iran, died in California at age 85, news media reported.

Christopher "passed away peacefully, surrounded by family at his home in Los Angeles" of complications from kidney and bladder cancer, KABC-TV quoted his family as saying in a statement late on Friday.

As the top U.S. statesman under President Bill Clinton from 1993 to 1997, Christopher was a behind-the-scenes negotiator. Often called the "stealth" secretary of state, he was known for his understated, self-effacing manner.

"Careful listening may be the secret weapon," the New York Times quoted him as saying in a 1981 speech when he was deputy secretary of state. "I observed some time ago that I was better at listening than at talking."

That "secret weapon" helped Christopher weather diplomatic crises and bring enemies together.

In 1995, he intervened during the crucial final days of the U.S.-brokered Bosnian peace talks at Dayton, Ohio. He had an important role in closing the deal, according to his then deputy, Richard Holbrooke, the force behind the agreement.

Christopher not only spoke the language of diplomacy, he dressed the part. Favoring elegant, tailored suits, he was once named one of the best dressed men in America by People magazine for his "diplomatically dapper" style.

As secretary of state, Christopher devoted much of his time to the Middle East. He made at least 18 trips to the region in pursuit of peace and a ceasefire in southern Lebanon between Israel and the pro-Iranian Islamic group Hezbollah.

In 1994, he witnessed the signing of a peace treaty between Jordan and Israel.

As President Jimmy Carter's deputy secretary of state, he negotiated the release of 52 Americans taken hostage at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979. The hostages were freed on Jan. 20, 1981, minutes after Ronald Reagan was sworn in to succeed Carter.

Christopher received the Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, for his efforts.

He also helped negotiate the Panama Canal treaty, worked on establishing normal relations with China and played a major role in developing Carter's human rights policies.

"Most talking is not glamorous," Christopher said in an address at Stanford University months after the Iranian hostage crisis ended. "Often it is tedious. It can be excruciating and exhausting. But talking can also tame conflict, lift the human condition and move us close to the ideal of peace."

Friday, March 18, 2011

Ex-Goldman Sachs banker behind smear campaign

The Huffington Post:

Washington - A Wall Street Journal editorial writer who has been closely involved with the paper's recent attacks on Elizabeth Warren is a former Goldman Sachs banker. The same editorial writer, Mary Kissel, is readying another piece critical of Warren and the new consumer agency, according to a source familiar with the coming article.

The editorials paint both Warren and the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as an immensely powerful, unaccountable organization. The nascent agency is assuming the consumer protection duties currently exercised by regulators at the Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

The author, Mary Kissel, worked for Goldman between 1999 and 2002 as a fixed income research and capital markets specialist.

On Wednesday, Warren testified before a House subcomittee, providing 34 pages of written answers while submitting to two-and-a-half hours of aggressive questioning from congressional Republicans, who deployed talking points similar to those used in the recent Journal editorials.

"There has definitely been an uptick in attacks on her and on the agency over the past few weeks, it's hard to imagine it hasn't been well-coordinated by somebody," said a source close to Warren. "The smear campaign by The Wall Street Journal's editorial board this week includes the most unfactual and outrageous hit pieces on her yet. If it's true that the author of the editorials and Goldman Sachs coordinated on them, they should both be exposed and called to account."

Continue reading here.

Judge temporarily blocks Wisconsin anti-union law

The Associated Press:

Madison, Wisconsin — A Wisconsin judge issued a temporary restraining order Friday blocking the state's new and contentious collective bargaining law from taking effect, raising the possibility that the Legislature may have to vote again to pass the bill.

Lawmakers had passed Gov. Scott Walker's measure last week, breaking a three-week stalemate caused by 14 Senate Democrats fleeing to Illinois. Demonstrations against the measure grew as large as 85,000 people.

Dane County District Judge Maryann Sumi granted the order in response to a lawsuit filed by the local Democratic district attorney alleging that Republican lawmakers violated the state's open meetings law by hastily convening a special committee before the Senate passed the bill.

Sumi said her ruling would not prevent the Legislature from reconvening the committee with proper notice and passing the bill again.

Continue reading here.

Ralph Nader: phase out nuclear power industry

Democracy Now!:

Former presidential candidate and longtime consumer advocate and nuclear critic Ralph Nader strongly advocates phasing out nuclear power in the United States by calling for public hearings on the status of every single nuclear power plant. "What we’re seeing here is 110 or so operating nuclear plants in the United States, many of them aging, many of them infected with corrosion, faulty pipes, leaky pumps and combustible materials... Why are we playing Russian roulette with the American people for nuclear plants whose principal objective is simply to boil water and produce steam? ... This is institutional insanity, and I urge the people in this country to wake up before they experience what is now going on in northern Japan."

Harper government to be found in contempt

The Globe and Mail:

Opposition parties have agreed they will find the Harper government in contempt of Parliament and have begun efforts to put the matter to a vote in the Commons – a move that would set the stage for an election call as early as next week.

The Liberals, NDP and Bloc Québécois confirmed Thursday they have made up their minds and will work via a committee they control to produce a report for the Commons saying the government’s failure to divulge sufficient cost details about its crime bills “constitutes a contempt of Parliament.”

If this happens this will be the first time in Canadian history a government’s been found in contempt of Parliament.

The battle over whether the Tories are stonewalling on the costs of their justice legislation has morphed into a broader debate over Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s secretive and controlling approach to running government. Last week, Commons Speaker Peter Milliken issued a historic rebuke to the Conservatives for flouting the will and rights of Parliament by refusing to provide sufficient details of its agenda to the Commons.

Continue reading here.

Escort linked to scandal involving ex-PMO official

The Toronto Star:

Ottawa — A former adviser to the Prime Minister lobbied on behalf of a water filtration company that reportedly cut a deal to compensate his fiancée, a 22-year-old one-time Ottawa escort, with a portion of all sales.

The revelation by the Aboriginal People’s Television Network adds a dose of sex — in the form of the 124 lb., 5-foot-6 blonde — to a political scandal that has the Royal Canadian Mounted Police probing a former confidante to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The report said that longtime Tory operative Bruce Carson was an official witness to a deal with an Ottawa firm, H2O Global Group, to provide 20 per cent of all revenues from the sale of water filtration systems to aboriginal reserves across Ontario to Michele McPherson.

McPherson and Carson purchased a $389,500 home in December in Mountain, Ont., south of Ottawa, according to property records.

The sweetheart deal itself is not illegal, but it could help to explain why Carson appears to have so aggressively promoted the firm. He is accused of breaching the rules designed to ban political staffers from lobbying the federal government when they leave Parliament Hill.

“His motivation may have been driven by his love life more than his greed,” suggested New Democratic Party MP Pat Martin.

Continue reading here.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

“Serious danger of a full core meltdown”

Democracy Now!:

Fears of a full-scale nuclear reactor meltdown are increasing as Japanese authorities use military helicopters to dump water on the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station. The water appears to have missed its target and failed to cool the plant’s reactors and spent fuel rods. “The walls of defense are falling, with the melting of the cores, the collapsing of the—we’re expecting the collapsing of the vessels. And then, with these damaged containments, these are all open windows to the atmosphere,” says Paul Gunter of Beyond Nuclear. Some experts say U.S. reactors are safer than those in Japan. But investigative journalist, Karl Grossman, notes a 1985 report by the National Regulatory Commission acknowledged a 50 percent chance of a severe core accident among the more than 100 nuclear power plants in the United States over a 20-year period.