Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The truth about the American economy

Robert Reich, Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy, University of California at Berkeley; Author, "Aftershock":

It's vital that we understand the truth about the American economy. How did we go from the Great Depression to 30 years of Great Prosperity? And from there, to 30 years of stagnant incomes and widening inequality, culminating in the Great Recession?

Continue reading here.

Superbug acquired in Ontario

The Canadian Press:

Toronto - Canadian researchers have identified what appears to be the first domestically acquired case of an NDM-1 superbug.

An 86-year-old Ontario man was found to be carrying bacteria resistant to most antibiotics because of NDM-1, or New Delhi metallo-1, an enzyme that alters the DNA of various types of bacteria. NDM-1 is endemic in India and Pakistan and has spread worldwide due to global travel.

But the patient, who was admitted to hospital and then a rehabilitation centre after suffering a stroke last October, had not travelled outside southwestern Ontario for the last decade. None of the man's family members or other close contacts were carrying the superbug, nor had any been to parts of the world where NDM-1 is widespread.

"So it's really unfortunately a mystery in terms of his source, and it certainly suggests that he acquired it here in the southwestern Ontario region," said Dr. Susan Poutanen, an infectious disease physician at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto.

"So whether it was in Toronto, whether it was outside of Toronto, whether it was in hospital or whether it was in the community, at this point we really can't say," added Poutanen, principal investigator of a study describing the case.


Continue reading here.

Canada probes use of toxic chemical



Agent Orange is a chemical that was used extensively by the United States during the Vietnam War to destroy vast areas of jungle.

It can result in a number of serious side effects for those exposed to the chemical for prolonged periods of time; this includes birth defects and even death.

Now, it has been revealed that Agent Orange was used on vegetation in Canada's Ontario province from the 1950s to the 1970s.

This has prompted the Canadian government to open an investigation into the use of the chemical
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Inside Story - The future of nuclear power



Germany's ruling coalition says it has agreed a date of 2022 for the shutdown of all of its nuclear power plants.

Environment Minister Norbert Rottgen made the announcement today, the BBC reported online.

Chancellor Angela Merkel had set up an ethics panel to look into nuclear power following the disaster at the Fukushima plant in Japan. Over the weekend, dozens of environmental activists climbed on top of Germany's landmark Brandenburg Gate demanding a speedy end to the use of atomic energy
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Environment Commissioner: toll roads will cut traffic

The Toronto Star:

Ontario Environment Commissioner Gord Miller says toll roads are the way to go if the province is serious about tackling traffic congestion.

“We have to reduce the number of single-passenger vehicle trips in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area,” Miller said in a report released Tuesday that notes that such trips are already at a higher level than most comparable cities.

“Traffic congestion is more than just an inconvenience; it imposes huge costs on the economy, the environment and public health,” Miller said in the annual Greenhouse Gas Report.

According to the report, single passenger vehicle trips in GTA are projected to increase by 1.4 million additional vehicles by 2031.

The call for road tolls is part of Miller’s attack on the Ontario government for failing to meet its target for reducing greenhouse gases by 2014.

Instead of advocating cleaner ways to travel, he noted that Ontario cancelled a tax credit for fuel-efficient vehicles, as well as the Ontario Bus Replacement Program, and has frozen funding for Green Commercial Vehicle program.


Continue reading here.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Mexico teacher calms children amid shootout

Germany pledges nuclear shutdown by 2022

World's carbon emissions hit record rise

Councillors form own committees, task forces

The Toronto Star:

Mayor Rob Ford’s tight but apparently slipping grip on the city agenda faces a new challenge — councillors launching their own committees and task forces.

Mike Layton, an ardent cyclist, is forming an ad hoc body to replace the cycling advisory committee, which is among the city’s 20 citizen groups Ford is trying to scrap.

The committees, offering input on everything from cleaning up the Don River to child care, are in limbo but council recently voted to have Ford take another look at several, and report back by July. It was one of a handful of recent votes the mayor has lost.


Continue reading here.

Blackwater's private army in the UAE


Democracy Now!:

The United Arab Emirates has confirmed hiring a company headed by Erik Prince, the billionaire founder of the military firm Blackwater. According to the New York Times, the UAE secretly signed a $529 million contract with Prince’s new company, Reflex Responses, to put together an 800-member battalion of foreign mercenaries. The troops could be deployed if foreign guest workers stage revolts in labor camps, or if the UAE regime were challenged by pro-democracy protests like those sweeping the Arab world. Prince has one rule about the new force: no Muslims. We speak to investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill and Samer Muscati of Human Rights Watch.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Student wants to debate Bachmann, gets threats



CBS News:

Several media outlets reported on Myers' challenge. As a result, she said, people have threatened violence against her and threatened to publish her address online, the Courier Post reports. Myers' high school has also reprotedly received inquiries regarding Myers' letter.

"A lot of them are calling me a whore," Myers said of the online remarks against her. Added her father Wayne Myers: "I personally did not think there would be a reaction like actual stalking and the vitriol that's coming out."


Courier Post Online:

Amy and Wayne Myers said the comments on conservative websites alarmed them most. Several commenters threatened to publish the Myers' home address.

Others threatened violence, including rape, they said.

"They're targeting me just because I'm challenging Bachmann," Amy said.

Amy's challenge is arguably unrealistic: Few if any sitting members of Congress would actually agree to debate a teenager.

Bachmann, talked up by the Republican right wing as a 2012 presidential contender, is often the subject of unflattering press. An aide said Tuesday the office would have no response to Myers' challenge.

The Courier-Post had scheduled a video interview with Amy Thursday. On Wednesday, a somewhat panicked-sounding Wayne Myers phoned to cancel, citing the alleged threats.

"I got a call from the principal that the main office received threatening mail," said the computer programmer and single father.

Louisiana high school students oppose creationism

Iraqi refugees leave Syria for home

Gil Scott-Heron dies aged 62

The Guardian:

Poet and songwriter was hailed as 'Godfather of Rap' after penning The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

The musician and poet Gil Scott-Heron – best known for his pioneering rap The Revolution Will Not Be Televised – has died at the age of 62, having fallen ill after a European trip.

Jamie Byng, his UK publisher, announced the news via Twitter: "Just heard the very sad news that my dear friend and one of the most inspiring people I've ever met, the great Gil Scott-Heron, died today."

Scott-Heron's spoken word recordings helped shape the emerging hip-hop culture. Generations of rappers cite his work as an influence.

He was known as the Godfather of Rap but disapproved of the title, preferring to describe what he did as "bluesology" – a fusion of poetry, soul, blues and jazz, all shot through with a piercing social conscience and strong political messages, tackling issues such as apartheid and nuclear arms.


Continue reading here.

The unstoppable march of the tobacco giants

In Indonesia alone there are 21 million child smokers.

The Independent:

How the industry ruthlessly exploits the developing world - its young, poor and uneducated

More than half a century after scientists uncovered the link between smoking and cancer – triggering a war between health campaigners and the cigarette industry – big tobacco is thriving.

Despite the known catastrophic effects on health of smoking, profits from tobacco continue to soar and sales of cigarettes have increased: they have risen from 5,000 billion sticks a year in the 1990s to 5,900 billion a year in 2009. They now kill more people annually than alcohol, Aids, car accidents, illegal drugs, murders and suicides combined.

On Tuesday, people around the globe will mark World No Tobacco Day – a distant hope
.

Continue reading here.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Saudis warned US about oil speculators

New Agent Orange investigation in South Korea

Srebrenica victims react to Mladic capture

Outrage in Syria over killing of teenage boy

Court strikes down Wisconsin anti-union law


Democracy Now!:

A Wisconsin judge has struck down Gov. Scott Walker’s union-busting law because Republican legislators failed to provide sufficient public notice before passing the measure in March. The law sharply curbs nearly all collective bargaining rights of state employees. We speak to John Nichols of The Nation magazine on the future of the bill, Wisconsin’s repressive new voter ID bill, and Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget proposals to overhaul Medicare and Medicaid.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Why New Democrats won’t stop

Brian Topp, Opinion, The Globe and Mail:

Despite the verdict of voters, the establishment still believes only Conservatives or Liberals are entitled to govern.

In as many words, today's editorial in The Globe and Mail suggests that only Canada's Conservative and Liberal parties are entitled to govern our country. Which is an interesting look into the minds of Canada's eastern establishment. It reminds the rest of us of many things.

First, this text reminds us that Canada's establishment doesn't like change very much
.

Continue reading here.

Conservatives initally refuse to help flood victims

The Globe and Mail:

At a time when distressed flood victims in Quebec’s Richelieu Valley were urging the federal government for more troops to help deal with the crisis, Ottawa refused to send in additional soldiers, saying it would put them “in competition with the private sector.”

In a letter sent to the Quebec government last Friday, federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews explained that the Canadian Forces were too busy with “defence activities” to respond to their demands and denied the province’s request for more troops.

The province said more soldiers were needed to help communities deal with water levels that were receding more slowly than expected and also to eventually remove heavy sandbags
.

Continue reading here.

America's prison industry: big business or slavery?

Global Research:

Human rights organizations, as well as political and social ones, are condemning what they are calling a new form of inhumane exploitation in the United States, where they say a prison population of up to 2 million - mostly Black and Hispanic - are working for various industries for a pittance. For the tycoons who have invested in the prison industry, it has been like finding a pot of gold. They don't have to worry about strikes or paying unemployment insurance, vacations or comp time. All of their workers are full-time, and never arrive late or are absent because of family problems; moreover, if they don't like the pay of 25 cents an hour and refuse to work, they are locked up in isolation cells.

There are approximately 2 million inmates in state, federal and private prisons throughout the country. According to California Prison Focus, "no other society in human history has imprisoned so many of its own citizens." The figures show that the United States has locked up more people than any other country: a half million more than China, which has a population five times greater than the U.S. Statistics reveal that the United States holds 25% of the world's prison population, but only 5% of the world's people. From less than 300,000 inmates in 1972, the jail population grew to 2 million by the year 2000. In 1990 it was one million. Ten years ago there were only five private prisons in the country, with a population of 2,000 inmates; now, there are 100, with 62,000 inmates. It is expected that by the coming decade, the number will hit 360,000, according to reports.

What has happened over the last 10 years? Why are there so many prisoners?


Continue reading here.

Chain gangs and the Conservatives' scapegoats

Thomas Walkom, Opinion, The Toronto Star:

Scapegoats are useful political fodder. Former Conservative premier Mike Harris won power by successfully scapegoating the poor. Tim Hudak, the current Ontario Tory leader, hopes to replicate that success by campaigning against prisoners.

How else to explain Hudak’s call for what in effect would be provincial chain gangs?

Read more: Hudak proposes modern day chain gangs

Let’s be clear. The idea of forcing every provincial inmate to clean up highways or scrub down graffiti is potentially a political winner.

Most people have little sympathy for convicted criminals. In hard times, those who work for a living doubly resent anyone who doesn’t or can’t do the same.

That’s why Harris’s attack on welfare recipients was so successful. He picked his fight with the poor during one of the worst economic slumps since the 1930s.

Hudak, in his announcement Thursday, pressed all the usual buttons. He scoffed at those apocryphal prisoners who spend their time in jail watching high-definition television and learning “Zen yoga.” He said anyone in prison should have to work “just like every hard-working family out there.”

But he was also disturbingly vague. Would prisoners picking up garbage along the roadside be shackled? He wasn’t sure. Would young offenders be included? He promised to get back to reporters on that. How would his scheme affect the jobs of workers who are now paid to clean up litter from highways? He didn’t have an answer.


Continue reading here.

Wisconsin anti-union law struck down by judge

The Huffington Post:

Washington - A Wisconsin judge struck down the state's controversial anti-collective bargaining law on Thursday, but Democratic state senators say that doesn't mean the measure won't still go into effect.

Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi ruled that Republican legislators violated Wisconsin's open meeting law when passing the measure, which strips most public employees in the state of collective bargaining rights. A March 9 committee meeting on the measure, concluded Sumi, was "held on less than two hours notice in a location that was not open and accessible to citizens."

Senate Republicans rushed to pass the anti-union bill on March 9, while their Democratic colleagues were still out of town. Democrats had left the state to deny their Republican colleagues the quorum needed to pass budget-related measures. But in an unexpected move, Walker and the Republican lawmakers split their bill into two, allowing the non-budget collective bargaining measure to fly through with no Democrats in the room.

The state Supreme Court has scheduled arguments for June 6 to determine whether it will take the case. If it decides to do so, both Republicans and Democrats widely believe that based on the court's ideological make-up, the law will be upheld.

"If [Republicans] can get a Supreme Court appeal, I know we'll lose on that," said state Sen. Tim Carpenter (D-Milwaukee).

But it may not even make it that far; Republicans may not be able to appeal to higher courts in this instance. That's because, as a Democratic state Senate aide explained, Republicans asserted legislative immunity so they would not be party to the case when it was initially considered. Democrats, instead, took up the defense, so as to allow a legal challenge to come forward.

So without a member of the defense interested in an appeal (the Democrats certainly won't petition for one), it's not entirely clear how the case moves forward.

"They have problems, as I understand it," said the aide.

This doesn't mean that the anti-collective bargaining provision is now dead in the water. Democrats widely expect Republicans in the state legislature to simply attempt to re-pass the measure as law, and this time, the Democratic state senators won't be leaving the state to slow down the process.

"There's nothing that we can do," said state Sen. Jim Holperin (D-Conover). "Republicans have the votes to do this, and if they choose to do it, they can and they will."

"We left the state to slow the bill down and to give the state a chance to be aware of what's in it," explained state Sen. Tim Cullen (D-Janesville). "I guess by any standard we accomplished that. ... That need no longer exists; everyone knows about it."


Continue reading here.

Vermont: first state to enact universal health care


Democracy Now!:

Today Vermont is set to make history by becoming the first state in the nation to offer universal, single-payer healthcare when Gov. Peter Shumlin signs its healthcare reform bill into law. The Vermont plan, called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, will attempt to stem rising medical care prices and provide universal coverage. We speak with Dr. Deb Richter, president of Vermont Health Care for All. She moved from Buffalo, New York, to Vermont in 1999 to advocate for a universal, single-payer healthcare system in the state. Gov. Shumlin calls her the “backbone” of the grassroots effort that helped persuade the Democratic-led state legislature to pass the bill this spring.

US Congress agrees to extend Patriot Act

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Missouri's Joplin search for missing after tornado

Ratko Mladic captured



Vermont Governor signs universal health care law

Reuters:

Brattleboro, Vermont - Vermont became the first state to lay the groundwork for single-payer health care on Thursday when its governor signed an ambitious bill aimed at establishing universal insurance coverage for all residents.

"This law recognizes an economic and fiscal imperative," Democratic Governor Peter Shumlin said as he signed the bill into law at the State House.

"We must control the growth in health care costs that are putting families at economic risk and making it harder for small employers to do business."

Legislators say the plan, approved by the Democratic controlled House and Senate this spring, aims to extend coverage to all 620,000 residents while containing soaring health care costs.


Continue reading here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

“Netanyahu is the main obstacle to peace”


Democracy Now!:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech was warmly received by Democrats and Republicans in Congress on Tuesday. According to ABC News, he received 29 standing ovations during his address—four more than President Obama received during his State of the Union address earlier in the year. However, there was at least one dissenting voice inside the halls of Congress on Tuesday. Rae Abileah, a Jewish-American activist of Israeli descent with the peace group CodePink, disrupted Netanyahu’s speech. Standing in the Congressional gallery, she yelled, “No more occupation, stop Israel war crimes, equal rights for Palestinians, occupation is indefensible.” As she screamed, members in the audience tackled her to the ground, and undercover security forces later dragged her outside. She was taken to George Washington University Hospital where she was treated for neck and shoulder injuries. At the hospital, police arrested Abileah and charged her with disorderly conduct for disrupting Congress. Her protest came as part a week-long series of actions organized by CodePink called Move Over AIPAC. We speak to Abileah about why she used non-violent civil disobedience to disrupt Netanayahu’s speech.

Michael Moore on The Last Word





Michael Moore appeared on MSNBC's The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell last night to discuss Republican Congressman Paul Ryan's budget plan to privatize Medicare and its disastrous results for the Republicans thus far, the spineless Democratic Party, the killing of Osama Bin Laden, and the disappointments and forgotten victories of the Obama administration.

Côte d'Ivoire forces committed war crimes



Forces allied to both former Côte d'Ivoire President Laurent Gbagbo and incumbent Alassane Ouattara committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during six months of deadly violence following disputed elections and the UN failed to protect civilians.

'They looked at his identity card and shot him dead: Six months of post-electoral violence' contains shocking testimonies from victims and witnesses to massacres, rapes and manhunts and concludes that forces loyal to both parties committed serious violations of international humanitarian law
.

Layton excoriates Harper on Senate

The Globe and Mail:

NDP Leader Jack Layton is stressing the life and work backgrounds of his 103 MPs, as the group dominated by political rookies met face to face for the first time on Parliament Hill.

In a speech that was light on specific policy issues, Mr. Layton highlighted his team and then criticized Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s decision to appoint three failed Conservative candidates to the Senate.

“Just look at Stephen Harper’s first act since the election. What was Stephen Harper’s very first priority?” he asked.

“It wasn’t to get down to work on improving health care, was it? It wasn’t to strengthen pensions, was it? And it certainly wasn’t to clean up Ottawa.

“No, Stephen Harper’s very first post-election priority was to reward failed Conservative candidates with high-paying Senate appointments,” he said.

Mr. Layton said the appointments of Larry Smith, Fabian Manning and Josée Verner display a total lack of respect for the voters in Quebec and Newfoundland who rejected those candidates.

“At the start of this new chapter in Canadian political history, Stephen Harper had the chance to turn the page on the old, cynical politics of the past. Instead, he did the opposite,” said Mr. Layton.


Continue reading here.

Warnings of all-out war in fight over Sudan town

Abyei is an ethnically mixed area claimed by both sides.

The New York Times:

Nairobi, Kenya — The Sudanese Army invaded the flashpoint town of Abyei over the weekend, alarming Western and United Nations diplomats who warned Sunday that it was a provocative act that risked all-out war with the southern Sudanese.

The unresolved status of Abyei, the center of an ethnically mixed, oil-producing area of the same name that straddles northern and southern Sudan and is claimed by both sides, has been the thorniest issue confronting Sudan as it prepares to break into two in July. The southern Sudanese have fought for independence for decades, and in January, nearly 99 percent of the region’s voters approved a split from northern Sudan in an internationally backed referendum.

After an air campaign on Friday, the north’s ground forces staged a full-scale invasion of Abyei on Saturday night, with artillery, dozens of tanks and thousands of soldiers sweeping in from several directions.

Four shells struck a United Nations compound there, and southern Sudan called the invasion “a declaration of war.”


Continue reading here.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

"Wall Street has no incentive not to commit crimes"



The Huffington Post:

In a video interview with RT America, Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi, the author of Griftopia, says that as of now, and until the government more aggressively prosecutes financial fraud, Wall Street has a continued incentive to bend the rules in their favor. (Hat tip to Naked Capitalism.)

Since the financial crisis, Taibbi has been one of Wall Street's most outspoken critics. Earlier this month, Taibbi wrote "The People. vs. Goldman Sachs," a sweeping investigation into the Senate report on Goldman Sachs that accused the investment bank of profiting by misleading investors.

"There's really no incentive going forward for people on Wall Street not to commit crimes," Taibbi says in the interview. "The number one thing that came out of this whole period is that there were absolutely no consequences for any of the people that committed this widespread fraud."

Right now, Taibbi continues, Wall Street rightfully sees themselves as above the law, pointing to the billions of dollars in bank bailouts and a lack of prosecution.

Still, with Goldman Sachs last week announcing it is expecting federal subpoenas for its mortgage business, Taibbi sees the current climate as the "last opportunity" for the federal government to take direct action against Wall Street for their role in the financial crisis.

"Personally, I'm hopeful that they actually will do something. It's just too late, but at least it will come eventually," Taibbi said.

Maher calls out Christian hypocrites

Algonquins vs Section 74 of the Indian Act



Barriere Lake Solidarity has produced this video to help bring attention to the current struggle by the Algonquins of Barriere Lake (ABL) against the Canadian Government's imposition of Section 74 of the Indian Act. By enacting this obscure piece of the Act, the Canadian Government is attempting to take control of the community by imposing band council elections on the community. The ABL have always had their own customary government.

For more information, visit:

barrierelakesolidarity.org

Kansas Republican: Women should plan for rape

Think Progress:

The anti-choice tidal wave stemming from the 2010 elections has produced nearly 1,000 anti-choice bills this year alone. When Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) took office last year, he called on the state legislature to create “a culture of life” and, in the last 15 minutes of their annual session, they delivered. The Republican majority passed a law to ban insurance companies from offering abortion coverage in their general health plans, except when a woman’s life is at risk.

However, one pro-choice Republican, state Rep. Barbara Bollier, feared that Republicans were cutting off “a way for women to cover the cost of terminating pregnancies” — particularly when they’re unintended. During the House debate, she “questioned whether women would buy abortion-only policies long before they have crisis or unwanted pregnancies or are rape victims.” But state Rep. Pete DeGraaf (R) was ready with a shocking retort. DeGraaf said women should plan ahead for situations such as rape because, after all, “I have a spare tire on my car“:

During the House’s debate, Rep. Pete DeGraaf, a Mulvane Republican who supports the bill, told [Bollier]: “We do need to plan ahead, don’t we, in life?”

Bollier asked him, “And so women need to plan ahead for issues that they have no control over with a pregnancy?”

DeGraaf drew groans of protest from some House members when he responded, “I have spare tire on my car.”

“I also have life insurance,” he added. “I have a lot of things that I plan ahead for.”


DeGraaf’s belief that women should plan and prepare for their own rape is more than groan-worthy, it’s woefully out-of-touch. As Jezebel’s Margaret Hartmann notes, DeGraaf is basically telling sexual assault victims that “the state isn’t AAA” so a Kansas woman is responsible for the consequences of her attacker. And by comparing it to life insurance, DeGraaf goes further to insinuate that rape is as inevitable as death
.

Continue reading here.

Howard Dean on Republican presidential candidates

Monday, May 23, 2011

Matt Taibbi schools Wall Street apologist



Taibblog, Rolling Stone:

Wanted to post the video for an appearance I did this weekend on "CNN Your Money" with Ali Velishi, in which I was invited to debate the Goldman issue with Megan McArdle of The Atlantic. Megan and I have a long history, which I don't need to get into here, but I'll say this: her ragged intellectual poverty could not possibly have been laid any more bare than it was in this appearance. In it, she actually argues that Goldman did not have any more responsibility to see that their clients made money than, say, The Atlantic magazine has a responsibility to see that Rolling Stone makes money.

I will leave it to the reader to figure out how exact a correlation there might be between a bank that sells a multibillion-dollar pool of mortgages to a client with whom it has an written contractual commercial agreement – an agreement struck under the umbrella of an extensive series of securities laws – and two magazines that have absolutely no business relationship whatsoever.

The rest of this interview is self-explanatory, I think.

Appointments will fuel backlash against Senate

The Montreal Gazette:

Ottawa — Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s decision to appoint to the Senate three failed Conservative candidates — including two senators who quit to run in the election — is reaping growing calls to abolish the upper house since, critics say, it now appears the Tories can’t be trusted to reform the chamber.

Members of all political parties, including a sitting Conservative senator, told Postmedia News they feel the credibility of the Senate is now in disrepute after Harper announced he would re-appoint: a senator, Fabian Manning, who has twice failed to be elected as a member of Parliament in Newfoundland and Labrador; and another senator, Larry Smith, who resigned to run for Parliament in Montreal; and appoint defeated cabinet minister Josee Verner, who was unable to hang on to her seat in Quebec City
.

Continue reading here.

Inside Job trailer



From Academy Award® nominated filmmaker, Charles Ferguson ("No End In Sight"), comes Inside Job, the first film to expose the shocking truth behind the economic crisis of 2008. The global financial meltdown, at a cost of over $20 trillion, resulted in millions of people losing their homes and jobs. Through extensive research and interviews with major financial insiders, politicians and journalists, Inside Job traces the rise of a rogue industry and unveils the corrosive relationships which have corrupted politics, regulation and academia. Narrated by Academy Award® winner Matt Damon, Inside Job was made on location in the United States, Iceland, England, France, Singapore, and China.

Cabinet posts for 39, power for few

The Toronto Star:

Remember Rob Moore and Rob Merrifield?

No, neither do we.

As the only two members of cabinet dropped in Stephen Harper’s shuffle last week, they best illustrate the anonymity in which a federal minister can labour in a bloated 39-member ministry.

The reality is that the Harper majority is being run by no more than 12 men — and, yes, they are all men — only half of whom are in his cabinet.

Beyond Harper, the real power on Parliament Hill is his chief of staff, Onex Corp. executive Nigel Wright, a man who has been given the luxury of spending the political capital of a majority.

He can now steer the government off the shoals of non-stop minority war into the realm of policy planning.

No Harper chief of staff ever had such power.

The most powerful minister under Harper is generally acknowledged to be Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, his reputation burnished by his work in electing new MPs in the GTA, as well as his standing among G8 finance ministers.

But many of this country’s real power brokers are not widely known by Canadians.


Continue reading here.

Mission impossible: keeping Israel happy

Many 'Israel-first' Jewish activists gathered in faux outrage to denounce Obama's Middle East speech - though he said little that should have upset them.

MJ Rosenberg, Opinion, Al Jazeera English:

Outcry from Zionists over Obama's Middle East speech leaves little hope for peace with Palestinians.

There was absolutely nothing about President Barack Obama's Middle East speech to get excited about. And even less in his statement following Friday's meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The president did not even attempt to set out an action plan; he offered broad principles, ones that have been offered before by five previous presidents.

The president said:

The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognised borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their full potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.

Suddenly all hell broke loose. But not immediately. Initially, the right-wing of the "pro-Israel" claque praised Obama for not saying anything that challenged Netanyahu. But then Netanyahu said that he was outraged by the reference to the 1967 lines.


Continue reading here.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

One on One - Jesse Ventura



The former wrestling superstar talks about his journey from the fighting ring to the governor's mansion.

Senate appointments are Harper’s gift to Layton

The Globe and Mail:

On several occasions during last month’s election debate, Jack Layton accused Stephen Harper of no longer being the same person he was back in his opposition days. Considering that the Reform-era version of Mr. Harper had rougher edges and much less mainstream appeal than the new one, having “changed” didn’t seem like much of a vulnerability.

But as others have subsequently noted, Mr. Layton was targeting a very specific audience. It wasn’t swing voters, or erstwhile Liberals who wound up switching to the NDP in large numbers. Rather, it was the populist crowd – particularly in Western Canada – that could potentially move from the Conservatives to the NDP if there’s a sense that Mr. Harper has become too entitled during his time in Ottawa.

There were few signs, on election day, that the message took. But Mr. Layton’s efforts are worth keeping in mind, in light of what the Prime Minister has done very early in his new mandate.

If Mr. Harper was looking to signal once and for all that he’s abandoned his populist roots, he could scarcely have done better than Wednesday’s Senate appointments. Little more than two weeks ago, Josée Verner, Larry Smith and Fabian Manning were all rejected by voters in their ridings – the latter two after biding their time with supposedly temporary gigs in the Red Chamber. Now, all three will have the opportunity to serve in Parliament anyway, at what is theoretically a higher level, courtesy of the leader who only a few weeks ago was still extolling the virtues of an elected Senate.


Continue reading here.

Hawking: 'There is no heaven; it's a fairy story'

Stephen Hawking dismisses belief in God in an exclusive interview with the Guardian.

The Guardian:

A belief that heaven or an afterlife awaits us is a "fairy story" for people afraid of death, Stephen Hawking has said.

In a dismissal that underlines his firm rejection of religious comforts, Britain's most eminent scientist said there was nothing beyond the moment when the brain flickers for the final time.

Hawking, who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease at the age of 21, shares his thoughts on death, human purpose and our chance existence in an exclusive interview with the Guardian today
.

Continue reading here.

Conservatives to heighten web-surveillance powers

Michael Geist, The Ottawa Citizen:

With the new parliamentary session scheduled to kick off within the next few weeks, two major initiatives will dominate the initial legislative agenda: passing a budget and introducing an omnibus crime bill that contains at least 11 crime-related bills. The prioritization of the crime legislation is consistent with the Conservative election platform, which included a commitment to bundle all the outstanding crime and justice bills into a single omnibus bill and to pass it within the new Parliament’s first 100 days.

The Conservatives argue that the omnibus approach is needed since the opposition parties “obstructed” passage of their crime and justice reforms during successive minority governments. Yet included within the crime bill package is likely to be legislation creating new surveillance requirements and police powers that has never received extensive debate on the floor of the House of Commons and never been the subject of committee hearings.

The package is benignly nicknamed “lawful access,” but isn’t benign. If the Conservatives move forward with it, it would feature a three-pronged approach focused on information disclosure, mandated surveillance technologies, and new police powers.

The first prong mandates the disclosure of Internet provider customer information without court oversight. Under current privacy laws, providers may voluntarily disclose customer information but are not required to do so. The new system would require the disclosure of customer name, address, phone number, e-mail address, Internet protocol address, and a series of device identification numbers.

The second prong requires Internet providers to re-work their networks to allow for real-time surveillance. The bill sets out detailed capability requirements that will eventually apply to all Canadian Internet providers. These include the power to intercept communications, to isolate the communications to a particular individual, and to engage in multiple simultaneous interceptions.


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Meet Alex Jones

Rolling Stone:

A stocky 37-year-old with a flop of brown hair and a beer gut, Jones usually bounds into the studio, eager to launch into one of his trademark tirades against the "global Stasi Borg state" — the corporate-surveillance prison planet that he believes is being secretly forged by an evil cabal of bankers, industrialists, politicians and generals. This morning, though, Jones looks deflated. Five days ago, a mentally disturbed 22-year-old named Jared Loughner opened fire on a crowd in Tucson, Arizona, killing six and seriously wounding Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Loughner was reported to be a fan of Loose Change, a film Jones produced that has become the bible for those who believe 9/11 was an inside job.

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FBI lab reports on anthrax attacks: another miscue

Wisconsin Workers protest M&I Bankers

Friday, May 20, 2011

Inside Story: Obama's Middle East address

Obama’s speech: U.S. shift on Israel-Palestine?


Democracy Now!:

In a major speech on the U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and on the Arab Spring, President Obama said a Palestinian state must be based on the 1967 borders, the first time a U.S. president has explicitly taken this position. The Israeli government immediately rejected Obama’s comments, calling the 1967 borders "indefensible." Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in the United States today and will meet Obama at the White House. We host a roundtable with author Norman Finkelstein, Palestinian human rights lawyer Noura Erakat, and Jeremy Ben-Ami, head of the lobby group J Street.

Obama endorses 1967 borders for Israel

The New York Times:

Washington - Seeking to harness the seismic political change still unfolding in the Arab world, President Obama for the first time on Thursday publicly called for a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that would create a non-militarized Palestinian state on the basis of Israel’s borders before 1967.

“At a time when the people of the Middle East and North Africa are casting off the burdens of the past, the drive for a lasting peace that ends the conflict and resolves all claims is more urgent that ever,” he said.

Although Mr. Obama said that “the core issues” dividing Israelis and Palestinians remained to be negotiated, including the searing questions of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees, he spoke with striking frustration that efforts to support an agreement had so far failed. “The international community is tired of an endless process that never produces an outcome,” he said.

A senior administration official said that Mr. Obama’s advisers remained deeply divided over whether he should formally endorse Israel’s pre-1967 borders as the starting point for negotiations over a Palestinian state.

That he did so sent a strong signal that the United States expected Israel — as well as the Palestinians — to make concessions to restart peace talks that have been stalled since September.


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Britain’s "sad and regrettable" legacy in Ireland


Democracy Now!:

Queen Elizabeth II has become the first British monarch in a century to visit Ireland. In an address to the Irish nation on Wednesday, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II expressed regret at the troubled history of England’s relations with Ireland. We get reaction from retired Irish soldier and peace-keeper Col. Desmond Travers.

Parliament doesn't reflect how Canadians voted

Letter to the Editor, The Brandon Sun:

The majority of Canadians did not choose the Conservative Party to represent them. Parties receiving the most votes are highly over represented and minor parties are drastically under represented. First past the post might be great for horse races, but it is not good for democracy.

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Fight for workers, or else

The Huffington Post:

Washington - AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka plans to issue yet another warning to Democrats on Friday, proclaiming that if lawmakers don't push hard enough to stem attacks on labor's interests, workers will abandon the party in the 2012 election.

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Rationalists challenge the influence of churchies

Rep. John Carter reads from the Bible during the National Day of Prayer earlier this month. Secular groups are mounting a campaign to limit the influence of religion in politics and public policy.

Rollcall.com:

A group of self-described Godless Americans is defying predictions of the Rapture to kick off a new campaign this week against the religious right.

As some Christians quit their jobs this week to prepare for the end of the world, the Secular Coalition for America headed to Capitol Hill with an ambitious task: reducing the influence of religious interests on government.

The lobby group — created in 2000 to unite atheists, humanists, nontheists and nonbelievers of all stripes — chose this weekend to meet because of its significance to a small faction of Christians. For followers of religious radio broadcaster Harold Camping, Saturday marks the beginning of the end of civilization and the return of Jesus Christ as predicted in the Bible.

“Faith-based groups for 2,000 years have been preparing for the end times, while reality-based groups such as the Secular Coalition and our allies have been hard at work to improve present times and plan for our nation’s future,” Herb Silverman, president of the Secular Coalition, quipped.


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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The new lending way



The new lending way
By Robert Reich
Marketplace, Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Understanding the U.S budget means taking a look at a change in the way the government is financed


Robert Reich:
Forty years ago, wealthy Americans financed the U.S. government mainly through their tax payments. Today wealthy Americans finance the government mainly by lending it money. While foreigners own most of our national debt, more than 40 percent is owned by Americans -- mostly the very wealthy.

This huge structural change in how America's rich finance government -- from paying taxes to lending money -- has gone almost unnoticed. But it's critical for understanding the budget predicament we're now in.

Over that four decades, tax rates on the very rich have dropped. Between the end of World War II and 1980, the top tax rate remained more than 70 percent -- and even after deductions and credits was well over 50 percent. Capital gains rates were also higher than today.

Not only are rates lower now, but loopholes are bigger. Eighteen thousand households earning more than a half-million dollars last year paid no income taxes at all. In recent years, according to the IRS, the richest 400 Americans have paid only 18 percent of their total incomes in federal income taxes.

Meanwhile, more and more of the nation's income and wealth have gone to the top. We haven't had such a concentration of money at the top since the Gilded Age of the late 19th century.

America's super rich invest their savings all over the world, wherever they can get the best return for any given level of risk. Treasury bills -- essentially loans to the U.S. government -- have proven good and safe investments, particularly during these last few tumultuous years.

You hear a lot of worries about foreigners dumping Treasuries if they lose confidence in the dollar because of our future budget deficits. What you hear less about are these super-rich Americans, who are just as likely to abandon Treasuries if spooked by future budget deficits.

The great irony is if America's super rich financed the U.S. government the way they used to -- by paying taxes rather than lending the government money -- that long-term budget deficit would be far lower.

Three defeated Conservatives appointed to Senate

The Globe and Mail:

Stephen Harper wasted no time in bringing back three defeated candidates, appointing former Quebec cabinet minister Josée Verner to the Senate and reappointing Larry Smith and Fabian Manning.

Minutes after he finished answering questions from reporters about his cabinet shuffle, the Prime Minister’s Office sent out a release announcing the three appointments. So Mr. Harper did not have to address the issue in public.

Mr. Smith and Mr. Manning had served in the Senate, resigning their seats to run in the May 2 campaign.

The appointments were immediately blasted by NDP Leader Jack Layton, who called them a “slap in the face” to voters.

“The ink is barely dry on their rejection notices and they're being appointed to the Senate,” he said. “If you can't get elected, you shouldn't be appointed to the Senate two weeks later.”


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Stewart schools O'Reilly on White House invites

New York investigates banks’ role in financial crisis

Eric T. Schneiderman, New York's attorney general, seems to be acting independently of efforts to seek a settlement with banks.

The New York Times:

The New York attorney general has requested information and documents in recent weeks from three major Wall Street banks about their mortgage securities operations during the credit boom, indicating the existence of a new investigation into practices that contributed to billions in mortgage losses.

Officials in Eric T. Schneiderman’s office have also requested meetings with representatives from Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, according to people briefed on the matter who were not authorized to speak publicly. The inquiry appears to be quite broad, with the attorney general’s requests for information covering many aspects of the banks’ loan pooling operations. They bundled thousands of home loans into securities that were then sold to investors such as pension funds, mutual funds and insurance companies
.

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Blackwater's private army for the UAE


Democracy Now!:

The United Arab Emirates has confirmed hiring a company headed by Erik Prince, the billionaire founder of the military firm Blackwater. According to the New York Times, the UAE secretly signed a $529 million contract with Prince’s new company, Reflex Responses, to put together an 800-member battalion of foreign mercenaries. The troops could be deployed if foreign guest workers stage revolts in labor camps, or if the UAE regime were challenged by pro-democracy protests like those sweeping the Arab world. Prince has one rule about the new force: no Muslims. We speak to investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill and Samer Muscati of Human Rights Watch.

Gay rights protester dumps glitter on Gingrich



Yahoo News:

Could Newt Gingrich's week get any worse?

Just days into his 2012 presidential bid, the former House speaker has been under fire this week from fellow Republicans for trashing Rep. Paul Ryan's proposal on Medicare during his appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday--criticism that forced Gingrich to apologize.

On Monday, an Iowa voter was caught on camera griping him out. And Tuesday, it was revealed that Gingrich at one point owed at least $250,000 to Tiffany's—an embarrassing detail that could potentially come back to haunt the self-described fiscal conservative's 2012 bid.

Last night, Gingrich suffered yet another indignity, when a gay rights protester dumped a box of glitter on him and his wife, Callista, at a conservative fundraiser in Minneapolis.

The Gingriches were signing books ahead of their appearance at fund-raising dinner for the Minneapolis Family Council, a conservative group that has lobbied against gay rights and same sex marriage.

"Feel the rainbow, Newt," the protestor said, as he poured a box of glitter over the former speaker's head. "Stop the hate. Stop anti-gay politics. It's dividing our country, and it's not fixing our economy."

Senate sides with big oil

Vermont's Independent Senator Bernie Sanders:

The Senate on Tuesday rejected a proposal to roll back tax breaks that benefit the largest oil companies. The White House said the country “cannot afford to maintain these wasteful subsidies.” Sen. Bernie Sanders voiced disappointment after the Senate vote. “I voted to end oil company subsidies because we have a $14 trillion national debt, because some of the most profitable corporations in the history of the world don’t need tax breaks, because some oil companies pay no federal income taxes, and because we desperately need to end our dependence on fossil fuels. Congress cannot balance the budget on the backs of middle-class working families without asking the wealthiest Americans and the most profitable corporations for shared sacrifice.” Was the Senate right or wrong? Take the poll »

Sanders last year called for the repeal of $35 billion in oil and gas industry tax breaks over the next decade. His proposal would have devoted $25 billion to deficit reduction and put $10 billion over 10 years into an Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant Program. The vote last June 15 on Sanders' amendment was 35 to 61. At that time, 22 Democrats bucked the wishes of the White House and voted against the repeal.

American taxpayers should not continue throwing $4 billion a year of their hard-earned money at oil companies raking in record profits and charging Americans $4 a gallon at the pump.

We should be using those giveaways to pay down the deficit especially at a time when oil companies are recording record profits, including nearly $36 billion in the first three months of this year alone.

What's more, current and former CEOs for the big oil companies have admitted that they don't even need these subsidies.

Independent studies show eliminating the tax breaks would not raise gas prices.

Nearly three-quarters of Americans support ending these wasteful subsidies.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Solar storms could have 'devastating effects'

The Associated Press:

Geneva - A senior official at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says solar storms pose a growing threat to criticial infrastructure such as satellite communications, navigation systems and electrical transmission equipment.

NOAA Assistant Secretary Kathryn Sullivan says the intensity of solar storms is expected to peak in 2013 and countries should prepare for "potentially devastating effects."

Solar storms release particles that can temporarily disable or permanently destroy fragile computer circuits.

Sullivan, a former NASA astronaut who in 1984 became the first woman to walk in space, told a U.N. weather conference in Geneva on Tuesday that "it is not a question of if, but really a matter of when a major solar event could hit our planet."

Democrats want investigation into gas price fixing

The Huffington Post:

Washington - Keeping the spotlight on the high prices at the pump, Senate Democratic leadership has sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission requesting an investigation into whether oil companies have been deliberately holding down the supply of refined gasoline.

The letter, spearheaded by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), is the latest in a line of politically sharp attempts to turn the screws on Big Oil. Last week, the CEOs of the five biggest oil companies came to the Hill to testify before Sen. Max Baucus’ (D-Mont.) Finance Committee. The topics discussed varied, but focused primarily on why or whether oil companies needed generous tax breaks when oil was selling so high.

A Senate vote on eliminating those tax subsidies is expected shortly, perhaps even as soon as Tuesday. The votes will likely fall short of the 60 needed to reach cloture, with several oil-friendly Democrats raising opposition.

In the meantime, the Department of Justice is looking into the possibility of fraud and manipulation in the oil market. Now, the Senate is pressing the FTC to investigate the possibility that U.S. inventories were being kept artificially low in order to maintain high gas prices
.

Continue reading here.

Big corporate funding if per-vote subsidies ditched

The Hill Times:

Canada's former chief electoral officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley says it's a level playing field right now and warns parties not to change it.

Canada's former chief electoral officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley says if the per-vote public subsidies for federal political parties is scrapped, it may force the parties to return to corporate funding, something Prime Minister Stephen Harper does not support.

Mr. Kingsley, a senior fellow with the University of Ottawa's graduate school of public and international affairs, told The Hill Times last week that if the Conservatives execute their campaign promise if they win a majority government, "[P]arties will have to find ways of getting money. And there may well be pressure to come back to funding from corporate sources—the very things we've attempted to eliminate and have successfully eliminated."

In 2003 and in the wake of the sponsorship scandal, then Liberal prime minister Jean Chrétien effectively initiated the end of corporate, union, and other organizations' donations, limited individual donations to $5,000 per year, and introduced the per-vote subsidy. Any political party that receives more than two per cent of the vote nationally in a general election or five per cent of votes cast in ridings where the party endorsed a candidate receives a $1.75-plus-inflation subsidy (roughly $2 now) for each vote it receives.

When the Conservatives took power in 2006, they totally scrapped corporate, union and association donations and lowered individual donation caps to $1,100 (plus inflation).


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Osama Bin Laden enjoyed porn?

Reuters:

A stash of pornography was found in the hideout of Osama bin Laden by the U.S. commandos who killed him, current and former U.S. officials said on Friday.

The pornography recovered in bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, consists of modern, electronically recorded video and is fairly extensive, according to the officials, who discussed the discovery with Reuters on condition of anonymity.

The officials said they were not yet sure precisely where in the compound the pornography was discovered or who had been viewing it. Specifically, the officials said they did not know if bin Laden himself had acquired or viewed the materials.


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Advice from distinguished NDP elder statesmen

Haroon Siddiqui, Editorial, The Toronto Star:

The media have attributed this sea-change to Jack Layton’s cute moustache and his cane. The triviality fits the times in which the collective political memory extends to yesterday’s TV images. This does an injustice to the NDP’s long and distinguished track record as the single biggest intellectual and practical force for egalitarianism in Canada.

It was Tommy Douglas’s NDP government in Saskatchewan that pioneered medicare. It was the NDP that put pensions and unemployment benefits on the national agenda. It was the NDP in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and British Columbia that ushered in affordable public auto insurance, which we could use in Ontario.

The NDP also has had a solid track record of fiscal prudence.

Allan Blakeney in Saskatchewan (1971-82) produced 12 balanced budgets. When his successor, Tory Grant Devine, left a huge deficit and a $14 billion debt, the NDP’s Roy Romanov (1991-2001) balanced the books. In Manitoba, Ed Schreyer (1969-77) produced surpluses in eight of his nine budgets. When his successor, the Conservative Sterling Lyon, racked up a deficit of $200 million within four years, his NDP successor Howard Pawley cleared it and created a surplus. (Pawley’s memoir, Keep True: A Life in Politics, published by the University of Manitoba Press, has just been released).

By contrast, look at the conservatives’ record — the deficits and debts created by Ronald Reagan, Brian Mulroney, Stephen Harper and Mike Harris.


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NDP tops with all young voters, except Alberta

The Canadian Press:

Ottawa - A new poll suggests the NDP is the hands-down favourite among an increasingly mobilized youth — even though the party did not make a concerted appeal to young voters during the election campaign.

The two-part Internet poll of 18-to-24-year-olds was conducted for the Historica Dominion Institute early in the campaign and then right after the voting.

It suggests that support for the NDP grew by leaps and bounds during the campaign in every region of the country except Alberta
.

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Harper better not ignore NDP: Layton

The Calgary Herald:

NDP Leader Jack Layton has served notice to Prime Minister Stephen Harper that his newly elected majority government will be kept accountable by one of the "strongest and most united" Opposition parties in decades.

Layton said that with 103 MPs, the NDP has representation in the Commons from every region of the country
.

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The great corporate tax swindle

Legendary investor Warren Buffett famously criticised a system that permits venture capitalists to pay less tax than their cleaners.

Richard Wolff, The Guardian:

It's astounding how our politicians have bought in to firms' tax blackmail. But there is an alternative: workplace democracy

More and more, we hear that nothing can be done to tax major corporations because of the threat of how they would respond. Likewise, we cannot stop their price-gouging or even the government subsidies and tax loopholes they enjoy.

Such steps by "our" government are said to be impossible or inadvisable. The reason: corporations would then relocate production abroad or reduce their activities in the US or both. And that would deprive the US of taxes and lose more jobs. In plain English, major corporations are threatening us. We are to knuckle under and cut social programmes that benefit millions of people (such as college loan programmes, Medicaid, Medicare, social security, nutrition programmes, etc). We are not to demand higher taxes or reduced subsidies and tax loopholes for corporations. We are not to demand government action to lower their soaring prices. If we do, corporations will punish us.

One concrete example can illustrate the benefits of this alternative to the threat/counter-threat scenario. Corporations have used repeated threats (to cut or move production) as means to prevent tax increases and to secure tax reductions. Likewise, they have made the same threats to secure desired spending from the federal government (military expenditures, federal road and port building projects, subsidies, financial supports and so on). In effect, corporate boards of directors and major shareholders seek to shift tax burdens onto employees. Their success over the last half-century is clear. Tax receipts of the US government have increasingly come, first, from individual rather than corporate income taxes and, second, from middle and lower individual income groups rather than from the rich.

In worker-directed enterprises, the incentive for such shifts would vanish – because the people who would be paying enterprise taxes are the same people who would be paying individual income taxes. Taxation would finally become genuinely democratic. The people would collectively decide how to distribute taxes on what would genuinely be their own businesses and their own individual incomes.


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Brosseau makes debut in her Quebec riding

The National Post:

Brosseau, 27, was one of the 103 NDP MPs swept into office by the orange wave in last week’s election, when she won the contest in the predominantly French-speaking riding of Berthier-Maskinonge, about halfway between Montreal and Quebec City.Speaking with a local newspaper last weekend, Brosseau admitted she had never been in the riding.

“She is very composed and competent, and expresses herself very well in French,” said Guy Richard, mayor of Louiseville, Que. “I think she wants to do well. We want to see her regularly in the region, but like any new candidate, she’ll have to get used to the job.”


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Monday, May 16, 2011

First visit to Ireland by a British Monarch



Britain's Queen Elizabeth II is set to make a groundbreaking but sensitive visit to the Republic of Ireland. A British monarch's first trip to Ireland has put law enforcement and security services on alert after a dissident Irish group warned of a bomb attack in London.

Will secret documents identify Jack the Ripper?

The Toronto Star:

An investigator fighting a last-ditch battle for the release of 123-year-old files about police informants believes the secret documents could finally solve the mystery of savage serial killer Jack the Ripper.

Trevor Marriott, who has published his own theories about the Victorian-era prostitute murders, has spent three years and thousands of dollars trying to win the release of four dusty ledgers held by London’s Metropolitan Police Service.

If a tribunal that heard his case last week decides against him, Marriott told the Star on Monday, he knows those historic ledgers will be destroyed and the mystery never solved.

“Some of the material is going to impact the Ripper investigation,” Marriott, a former police detective, said. “It will allow me to fully document the whole Ripper mystery.”

The tribunal should deliver its decision in about three or four weeks, Marriott said. He had previously been refused access under the Freedom of Information Act and by the Information Commissioner.


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Princess Diana documentary premieres at Cannes



The Associated Press/Huffington Post:

Cannes, France - According to a provocative new documentary at the Cannes Film Festival, Britain's royals are racist "gangsters in tiaras" and Prince Philip is a womanizing psychopath.

The movie "Unlawful Killing" revives claims that Princess Diana – adored by millions as the "people's princess" but viewed in royal circles as an embarrassing loose cannon – was murdered by the British establishment. The film was screened Friday for the first time at the festival.

The film takes its title from the verdict of an official British inquest into Diana's 1997 death in a Paris car crash. The jury ruled the princess was unlawfully killed, but deflated claims of a conspiracy, blaming "grossly negligent driving" by her drunk and speeding driver and pursuing vehicles.

The film begins with Diana's prediction in a 1995 letter to a friend that "my husband is planning an 'accident' in my car" and attempts to expose holes in the coroner's inquest.

It poses more questions than it answers. Who was in the white Fiat that witnesses saw in the Alma Tunnel just before the crash? Was driver Henri Paul really drunk or did someone tamper with his blood samples? Why did a French ambulance take so long to arrive?

"I didn't want to make a sensationalist film," Allen said, calling the documentary a "forensic account" of a legal process that "doesn't add up."


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