Thursday, June 30, 2011

Younger Canadians royally indifferent to tour

The Toronto Star:

Ottawa — The youthful royal newlyweds might be the best hope to revitalize the monarchy with some fresh-faced glamour and enthusiasm, but a new survey suggests younger Canadians are largely indifferent to the upcoming visit.

More than half of young Canadians between 18 and 34 expressed indifference as one of the feelings they associate with the pending visit of William and Kate, according to an Angus Reid Public Opinion poll commissioned by the Star.

That compares to 37 per cent Canadians over the age of 55, and 43 per cent of those 35-54 who feel the same way about the visit, which begins Thursday when Prince William and Catherine — the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge — lay a wreath at the National War Memorial in Ottawa.

Fifty-three per cent of the younger age group disagreed with the idea that Canada should sever all ties with the British monarchy and 43 per cent disagreed with the idea of abolishing institutions like the governor general.

Sixty-four per cent of French-speaking respondents said they agreed with the idea of severing ties with the monarchy and 74 per cent of them agreed with getting rid of the governor general role or the lieutenant-governor of Quebec, compared to 25 per cent and 31 per cent, respectively, of English-speaking Canadians.

Sixty-five per cent of Quebec respondents said they felt indifferent to the royal visit, compared to 44 per cent of the general population.


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U.K. unions gear up for ‘summer of discontent’

General secretary of Unison, Dave Prentis, speaks to delegates at their conference in Manchester last week.

The Associated Press:

London — Thousands of British schools will close and travellers will face long lines at airport immigration this week when three-quarters of a million workers go on strike — the first blast in what unions hope will be a summer of discontent against the cost-cutting government's austerity plans.

The first test comes Thursday, when 750,000 public-sector workers — from teachers to driving examiners to customs officials — walk out for the day, part of a growing wave of opposition to the Conservative-led government's deficit-cutting regime of tax hikes, benefit curbs and spending cuts.

The unions say the strike is just the start of a campaign of labour action on a scale unseen in Britain for three decades
.

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CUPW to challenge back-to-work law in court

The Canadian Press:

Montreal — The union representing Canada Post employees will mount a legal challenge against legislation forcing them back to work.

The back-to-work bill was adopted last weekend following a 58-hour filibuster by the NDP.

Alain Duguay, head of CUPW’s Montreal local, told The Canadian Press the union will seek legal recourse in an effort to overturn the legislation.

He said the decision was made by the union's national executive after a long meeting on Tuesday in Ottawa.

Duguay said details about the effort — such as whether the law will be challenged entirely or in sections — have yet to be determined.


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Workers the scapegoats in Greece’s debt crisis

Thomas Walkom, Opinion, The Toronto Star:

Wednesday’s austerity vote by the Greek parliament solves nothing. The world economy is still on a knife edge. More to the point, the Greek crisis highlights a question being raised across the world. Who should bear the cost of recession?

In Canada, the focus has been on public sector workers. Sharp practices by millionaire bankers in New York and London may have triggered the global slowdown. But in this country, public attention focuses on the pensions of postal workers earning $54,000 a year

So, too, Europe. The root causes of the Greek crisis are complex and stem largely from the adoption of the euro as a common European currency. That encouraged banks to lend more than they should have to weak-sister nations like Greece.

It also has to do with the peculiarities of a country whose previous government falsified economic statistics and whose populace treats tax avoidance as a human right.

But, so far, European public anger has focused almost entirely on Greece’s workers: They make too much money; they retire too early. Who do they think they are?

Austerity packages didn’t solve Ireland’s debt problems. As the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs noted in a report last week, they are unlikely to solve Greece’s.


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Mayor’s snub of Pride gives bigots cover

Marcus Gee, Opinion, The Globe and Mail:

Mayor Rob Ford’s unofficial boycott of Pride Week is having a disturbing and predictable effect. It is emboldening the city’s haters. Since he announced he would be skipping the Pride parade to go to the cottage, they have been scurrying into the open like insects from an upturned rock, cheering the mayor for staying away from the “disgusting” spectacle on Yonge Street and jeering leaders of the gay community for urging him to attend.

“I'm so glad that Toronto has a mayor who can ignore that vulgar and obscene event,” said one comment on The Globe and Mail’s online edition. “I think being gay or lesbian is a disease,” a Globe reader said in an e-mail. “The queers have to be flamboyant and in your face, just to prove they are ‘normal,’” wrote a contributor to another newspaper’s comment page. Editors were kept busy deleting many far worse remarks from their web sites.

No one is saying the mayor deliberately whipped up these ugly sentiments, much less that he shares them. But he should have foreseen the damage his snub of Pride could do. Homophobia is an ancient prejudice, still virulent despite the remarkable advances in gay rights of the past few decades. The events of the past week show how swiftly it can resurface.

By boycotting Pride, declining to attend not just the parade but all other Pride events so far, Mr. Ford is sending the opposite message. He is saying that shunning the gay community is acceptable. He is giving the bigots cover to voice their dark resentments. In effect, if not in intent, he is legitimizing hate.


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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Inside Greece's general strike



As the June 29th Democracy Now! broadcast went to air, lawmakers in Greece were voting on — and later approved — a new round of sweeping austerity measures amidst a general strike that's brought tens of thousands into the streets. Riot police have fired volleys of tear gas, smoke bombs and stun grenades in a bid to clear the masses of Greek protesters surrounding the parliament in Athens. The chaotic standoff began Tuesday when police stormed the adjacent Syntagma Square, where demonstrators have camped for over a month. Democracy Now! producers Aaron Maté and Hany Massoud were there just as the unrest broke out and spoke to many of the demonstrators who refused to leave the square. "They sell our country," said one protester. "They sell our national dignity ... they have signed away ... our constitution!" Another person said, "We need the solidarity of working class people and youth from around the globe. The only way to stop the cuts, the attacks and austerity packages is by struggling, this includes everything, strikes, demonstrations, occupations of squares and uniting the different movements from around the world."

Poor pay higher tax rate than rich in B.C.

CTV:

Wealthy people in B.C. are paying a lower rate of provincial tax than the middle class and the poor when taxes like the HST are included in the calculation, according to a new study.

Middle and low-income people are paying a greater share of their income in taxes thanks to levies like provincial health premiums, carbon taxes on gasoline, property taxes and the harmonized sales tax, according to research from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

"We've turned the tax system on its head," study co-author Seth Klein told CTV News.

"Most British Columbians expect that the wealthier you are, the more taxes you pay. In fact, in practice, what you have is the opposite. The wealthier you are, the lower your overall tax rate."

In 2010, the study found that higher earners pay a much lower rate of tax -- 11.2 per cent -- while middle-earners pay 12.8 per cent and the bottom earners pay the highest tax rate of all, at 14.1 per cent.


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CUPW asked NDP to end filibuster

The NDP filibustered Canada Post back to work legislation for almost 60 hours.

The Hill Times:

NDP filibuster ended early because CUPW concerned postal workers losing money

There were indications as early as Saturday morning that the protest did not have long to go, when one CBC Radio report from the scene ended with a reference to someone from the Canadian Union of Postal Workers saying the longer the 48,000 letter carriers were locked out, the more money they would lose
.

Parliament Hill — A letter from the head of the postal workers’ union to NDP Leader Jack Layton last Saturday was the beginning of the end of the round-the-clock filibuster against back-to-work legislation, ending it so early that a Liberal in the Senate poked fun, comparing the New Democrats to “posers when it comes to filibusters.”

There were outside indications as early as Saturday morning that the protest did not have long to go, when one CBC Radio report from the scene ended with a reference to someone from the Canadian Union of Postal Workers saying the longer the 48,000 letter carriers were locked out, the more money they would lose.

What started as a series of rotating strikes by CUPW turned into a lockout on June 14, when Canada Post locked out the workers. Opposition MPs claim that was under the Harper government’s orders, which critics say was preparing the way for the back-to-work legislation as it intended to use the postal workers as a template for how it will handle program cuts over the next several years and the change in labour relations that might accompany the public service upheaval.


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From a few weeks back:

Taliban claim responsibility for hotel attack



One of Afghanistan's biggest hotels has been attacked by the Taliban. At least ten civilians were killed in the fighting at the Inter-Continental Hotel, in Kabul, on Wednesday. The five-hour siege was finally put to an end by Afghan and international forces. The attack on the Inter-Continental hotel has once again raised doubts about the ability of Afghan forces to secure the country, once foreign troops start leaving.

Howard Dean talks big money in politics

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Majority of Canadians oppose Monarchy

The Huffington Post:

Thirty-nine per cent of Canadians oppose continuing the monarchical tradition; 34 per cent support it. The remaining 26 per cent have no strong opinion either way.

Still, opposition to the monarchy has increased by six percentage points and support has dropped slightly from the end of April, when Abacus asked the same question of Canadians the day before and of the royal wedding.

“The royal wedding in April and the excitement about Kate and William’s trip to Canada have not changed attitudes towards the monarchy in this country,” said Coletto.

“Canada is no longer the monarch-loving nation of the early 1900s. If a debate about the future of the monarchy was started, it would likely divide the country.”

Fully 63 per cent of people in Quebec oppose the monarchy, compared to just 13 per cent in support of it. In the rest of Canada, support stands at 41 per cent, well ahead of the 32 per cent of Canadians outside of Quebec who are opposed to the monarchy.

The Abacus Data poll was conducted between June 23 and 24 and surveyed 1,005 randomly selected adults from an online panel of more than 150,000 Canadians. A random sample of this size has a margin of error of +/- 3.2 per cent, 19 times out of 20.


Continue reading here.

Canada finally has a real opposition

The Ottawa Citizen:

I paid close attention to Bill C-6, the legislation that sent mail carriers back to their routes this week, as it wound its way through the House of Commons and Senate. As the NDP's filibuster extended into its first night, and then through the next day, I watched a lot of CPAC and monitored a lot of Twitter.

When I was in the gallery on the south side of the Commons, it was at least two-thirds full - and even fuller, at times. While there were a few pro-union folks in the crowd, there were also families, complete with at least one crying baby, sitting there, watching intently. And there were no doubt other people like me, who'd made the short walk from their downtown dwellings to watch some history in the making.

Beside me sat a House of Commons page. He'd worked a lot of shifts in recent days, but here he was, off the clock, watching Parliament. He explained quietly to his other neighbour all the intricacies of the House chamber: who did what, what was on that computer screen, what happened next. There was something inspiring about that kid's presence in the gallery.

So there I was, sitting beside an off-duty page, watching two young reporters explain to the country why a full House of Commons was sitting together on a Saturday evening in June.


Continue reading here.

Michelle Bachmann's holy war

Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone:

The Tea Party contender may seem like a goofball, but be warned: Her presidential campaign is no laughing matter

Bachmann is a religious zealot whose brain is a raging electrical storm of divine visions and paranoid delusions. She believes that the Chinese are plotting to replace the dollar bill, that light bulbs are killing our dogs and cats, and that God personally chose her to become both an IRS attorney who would spend years hounding taxpayers and a raging anti-tax Tea Party crusader against big government. She kicked off her unofficial presidential campaign in New Hampshire, by mistakenly declaring it the birthplace of the American Revolution. "It's your state that fired the shot that was heard around the world!" she gushed. "You are the state of Lexington and Concord, you started the battle for liberty right here in your backyard."


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Israel accused of trying to intimidate journalists

Hedy Epstein, a Holocaust survivor who will join the Gaza flotilla.

The Guardian:

Foreign Press Association urges Israel to withdraw threat of 10-year ban against journalists travelling with flotilla

The Foreign Press Association has accused the Israeli government of using "threats and intimidation" to stop media coverage of a 10-ship flotilla due to sail to the Gaza Strip this week.

The ships are sailing to protest against Israeli restrictions on Gaza and to commemorate last year's flotilla, which was intercepted by the Israeli navy, who killed nine of the Turkish participants.

Israel has restricted the supply of goods and the movement of individuals in Gaza since Hamas took control in 2007.

Two of the ships, the Tahrir and the Audacity of Hope, are docked in Athens, where the harbourmaster has banned the latter from leaving port until its seaworthiness is established.


Continue reading here.

Standing up for working American families



As the debate over deficits ramped up in Washington on Monday, Sen. Bernie Sanders laid out the compelling case not to slash programs for working families. Any deficit reduction package must rely on new revenue for at least half the reduction in red ink, he added in a major address in the Senate. Sanders spoke at length about what caused deficits (wars, Wall Street bailouts, tax breaks for the rich) and how to shrink them (more revenue from the wealthiest Americans to match spending cuts). He urged fellow senators not to yield to Republican congressional leaders who "acted like schoolyard bullies" when they walked out of budget negotiations. He summed up the situation in a letter to the president that had been signed by more than 16,000 people by the time he completed his speech.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Horwath ends NDP convention on a high note

The Toronto Star:

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is courting Ontario voters with something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue.

There is the old — effectively putting Ontario Hydro back together again by merging Ontario Power Generation, Hydro One, the Independent Electricity System Operator, and the Ontario Power Authority.

There is the new — a rookie leader unafraid to play the coquette card with Dorothy Parker-like wisecracks, a far cry from her often-dour predecessor Howard Hampton.

There is the borrowed — blending Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty’s 1999 campaign slogan, “Putting People First” with his 2003 motto “Choose Change,” for the NDP’s centre-left manifesto, “Change That Puts People First.”

And there is the blue — populist tax cuts traditionally associated with Conservatives.

With headline-grabbing pledges like gradually reducing the 13 per cent harmonized sales tax on gasoline, eventually eliminating the 8 per cent provincial portion on energy bills, freezing municipal transit fares and raising the minimum wage from $10.25 an hour to $11, she is optimistic about the fall vote.


Continue reading here.

With Ford, city’s reputation for tolerance is strained

Christopher Hume, Opinion, The Toronto Star:

In Rob Ford’s Toronto there is no need for public heath nurses. There are no poor people, no gays, no immigrants, no cyclists, no need for housing and nothing the market can’t fix.

That this is nonsense goes without saying. While Ford’s hordes cheer him on in the most unseemly manner, cutting off their collective nose to spite their collective face, they have little to offer aside from insults and jeers. Not believing themselves a part of Toronto, they are content to watch as it is dismantled by the mayor.

Though it has quickly become predictable, the glee with which Ford’s hordes greet his every bêtise still disturbs.

At first, it seemed Ford, widely dismissed as a buffoon during his decade on city council, would be simply a civic embarrassment. Now he has become a liability.

His refusal last week to accept two provincially sponsored public health nurses demonstrated a shocking contempt for the people who live in this city. Ford sent his favorite “Gino boy,” Giorgio Mammoliti, to do his dirty work in explaining the inexplicable. Beyond doing a brilliant job making a fool of himself, Mammoliti accomplished little.

But many of Ford’s normally docile council concubines responded with disbelief.

Opting out of Gay Pride may play well to Ford’s hordes, but in the wider world it makes him, them and the rest of us look like yokels.


Continue reading here.

US police on trial over Katrina killings



Five police officers in the US city of New Orleans accused of killing civilians in the days following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 are set to go on trial. The police, whose trial begins on Monday, originally contended they had come under fire from someone on a bridge and were defending themselves. Yet no guns were ever found, and the only person charged with attacking the police was cleared of all charges. After a local judge dismissed the charges against six others, the US Justice Department stepped in and is bringing the officers to trial in a federal court. But beyond this case, federal authorities say the police department is riddled with deep-rooted flaws. New Orleans, a city with the highest murder rate in the US, is now struggling to build confidence in the police department it depends on for protection.

NDP stood up to bulldozer without getting crushed

Tim Harper, Opinion, The Toronto Star:

Jack Layton took his NDP gang of rookies and wide-eyed Parliamentarians to the top of the double-diamond ski run over the weekend.

But did Layton cave after 58 hours of debate over legislation forcing postal workers back on the job, as some of the instant analysis would have you believe?

No.

Because sometimes it’s better to make your point, ski off to the side and not break your neck.

Today, all Canadians care about is that their mail will be delivered again.

After the longest filibuster in Canadian history over back-to-work legislation, they will be getting it.

But while they weren’t looking, as the House of Commons calendar stopped at Thursday — even as it became Friday, then Saturday, then Saturday night — Canadians missed something extraordinary.

Real debate broke out in the House of Commons.

But two sides with deeply entrenched ideological views took the concerns of the voters they represent and eloquently, and often passionately, brought those views to the floor of a chamber that has too often in been used for insults and juvenile taunts.

The federal New Democrats stood with workers in this country and they did so knowing full well that — according to one public sounding last week — seven of 10 Canadians backed Harper and just wanted their mail.

But Layton’s caucus did something that a Conservative majority allows them to do.

They stood on principle, without having to factor in the minority mindset about what this might do to them in a campaign that could break out at any time.

They ignored the prevailing view in Ottawa, again brought on by the minority mindset, that there must be a political score at the end of the day, a winner and a loser.


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ICC issues arrest warrant for al-Gaddafi

Amnesty International:

Colonel M’uammar al-Gaddafi and other senior Libyan government figures must be arrested and handed over to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to face trial for alleged serious human rights crimes, Amnesty International said today.

ICC judges today approved warrants for the arrest of al-Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi and military intelligence chief Abdallah al-Sanussi for alleged crimes against humanity, including murder and persecution.

“Justice must be delivered to the victims of serious human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law committed in Libya during and following the brutal repression of pro-reform protests earlier this year,” said Michael Bochenek, Director of Law and Policy at Amnesty International.

“Al-Gaddafi and others who are accused of orchestrating this bloody crackdown must be held to account.”

Al-Gaddafi is accused of ordering a wave of killings and enforced disappearances of suspected critics of the government after protests against his rule began in February in Benghazi, inspired by mass protests across the Middle East and North Africa.


Continue reading here.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Japan's gargantuan clean-up continues



It has been months since Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami, but officials say the clean-up work has only just begun, and will likely go on for years. Reconstruction cannot begin until the rubble and junk swept up by the massive natural disaster are first cleared away.

Five economic lessons from Sweden

The Scandinavian nation of Sweden has accomplished what the United States, Britain and Japan can only dream of: Growing rapidly, creating jobs and gaining a competitive edge. The banks are lending, the housing market booming. The budget is balanced.

The Washington Post:

Stockholm — Almost every developed nation in the world was walloped by the financial crisis, their economies paralyzed, their prospects for the future muddied.

And then there’s Sweden, the rock star of the recovery.

This Scandinavian nation of 9 million people has accomplished what the United States, Britain and Japan can only dream of: Growing rapidly, creating jobs and gaining a competitive edge. The banks are lending, the housing market booming. The budget is balanced.

1. Keep your fiscal house in order when times are good, so you will have more room to maneuver when things are bad.

2. Fiscal stimulus can be more effective when it is automatic.

3. Use monetary policy aggressively

4. Keep the value of your currency flexible.

5. Bankers will always make blunders; just make sure they don’t doom the economy.


Continue reading here.

Philippines moves to green transportation



The Philippines, like many other countries, is turning to green energy as the price of oil remains high. Right now, the country almost entirely depends on petroleum when it comes to transportation. But as Marga Ortigas reports from Manila, the Philippine capital, the government has very ambitious goals to combat rampant pollution and avoid high fuel costs with new electric vehicles that provide public transportation.

This is what a real Parliament looks like

Brian Topp, The Globe and Mail:

Canadians aren't used to parliamentary government, in large part because we aren't used to federal politics built around real differences between our major parties over real issues. Instead, we are used to two conservative parties squabbling over mutual (often accurate) accusations of corruption, and over symbolic issues – most with little meaning to the daily lives of citizens.

Canadians have therefore long tuned out federal politics between elections. But that all changed on May 2nd.

We now have some real choices on offer in federal politics, and real debate over real issues. Like, for example, whether or not people have the right to withhold their labour if they don't like the pay they're being offered by their bosses.

But there's a new sheriff in town – a new, more numerous and more determined New Democrat Official Opposition with some important tools available to it to shine on light on issues like this. A majority government is in place, and it can ultimately get what it wants. But a real opposition, fighting on a real issue, can make things go very slowly indeed – so that Canadians can judge the issues, and see what Mr. Harper's government is doing in the bright light of day.

In short, we finally have an Official Opposition capable of, and willing to, do its job.


Continue reading here.

Poverty worsens Afghan drug abuse surge



Heroin and opium are two of the world's most addictive drugs, and now they have come back to haunt Afghanistan, the country that produces almost all the global supply. The United Nations says Afghanistan produces 90 per cent of the world's opium, most of which goes to Europe and the United States. But the country is also becoming a major consumer of heroin, with just a handful of clinics and little community support for opiate users - estimated to be as many 1.5 million.

Inside Story - Syria: An act of desperation?



Syrian troops have moved close to the Turkish border in a bid to prevent more Syrians crossing into neighbouring Turkey.

Ontario NDP proposes to slash gasoline taxes

Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath says an NDP government would take four percentage points off the HST applied to gasoline.

The Ottawa Citizen:

Toronto – Provincial New Democrats will reduce tax on gas by four percentage points, party leader Andrea Horwath said Friday in an announcement aimed at the pocketbooks of Ontario voters.

The promise would be implemented beginning with a one-point reduction in the HST in 2012-13. The HST on gasoline would fall a further percentage point in each of the next three years.

Horwath said she wasn’t making a more extravagant offer – to cut, for example, the entire eight-per-cent provincial portion of the HST – because she wanted “a platform that’s actually practical and that’s achievable.”

The $500-million annual cost of the measure, once fully implemented, would be financed by raising corporate taxes to 14 per cent.

Ontario’s corporate tax rate is scheduled to fall to 11.5 per cent on July 1 from the current 12 per cent.


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Barney Frank and Ron Paul team up: legalize pot



MPP director of government relations and state campaigns Steve Fox spoke with MSNBC's Martin Bashir about a bill introduced by Rep. Barney Frank and Rep. Ron Paul that would remove the federal government from marijuana policy and enforcement, leaving marijuana policy up to the individual states. He explained the need for sensible regulation and to tax and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol, and debunked claims that marijuana use causes increased rates of mental illness in society.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

NDP platform takes on Hydro, public CEO salaries

The Toronto Star:

Capping public CEO salaries at $418,000 a year and essentially rebuilding the old Ontario Hydro system are two key promises in the New Democratic Party platform.

The NDP told party faithful at their weekend pre-election convention that they are the party to deliver “affordable change” to Ontario voters on Oct. 6.

To do that, they promise to save $80 million over four years by capping government CEO salaries, reversing corporate tax cuts and ending the $1 million a day spent on consultants by government.

The NDP platform was released Saturday and it follows weeks of pocketbook friendly election promises such as freezing municipal transit fares and siphoning one percentage point off the 13 per cent HST on gasoline annually for four years.

The platform is heavy on energy and healthcare promises.

The NDP want to essentially rebuild Ontario Hydro by combining four power houses - Hydro One, the Ontario Power Authority, Ontario Power Generation and the Independent Electricity System Operator into one.


Continue reading here.

Conrad Black back to jail, wife collapses

The Toronto Star:

Chicago — At the front of the court, Conrad Black stood stoically as a judge ruled his debt to America is not yet fully paid. The former press baron barely flinched at being ordered back to prison.

And at that very moment, just a few metres away, unbeknownst to Black, his wife Barbara Amiel lay prostrate, silently collapsing upon hearing U.S. Federal Court Judge Amy St. Eve utter the only words that mattered — “forty-two months.”

Court attendants rushed to Amiel’s aid, but so quietly — and at such a climactic moment— that almost nobody noticed, least of all Black.

For a five anguished minutes, as Black listened with laser focus to the terms of his renewed incarceration, Amiel was horizontal on the hard wooden court bench. When Black finally cast a glance back, his brow furled with sudden worry.


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Friday, June 24, 2011

NDP filibuster stalls Conservative anti-labour law

The Canadian Press:

Ottawa - Were it not for the bags forming under people's eyes, it felt just like a regular day in the House of Commons.

But hours after most MPs believed they'd be on a plane heading off on summer vacations, they sat in Parliament, debating legislation that would end the lockout for thousands of Canadian postal workers.

The bill was introduced on Monday after Canada Post locked out its employees following a series of rotating strikes that began on June 3.

All parties hoped it would spur the two sides to reach a deal on their own, and the New Democrats had vowed to stretch out debate in order to buy them more time.

But talks between Canada Post and the union collapsed late Wednesday night.


Continue reading here.

Gaza nears 'medical crisis'



Health authorities in the Gaza Strip are warning that there is a medical crisis unfolding, following major delays in deliveries of medical supplies from the West Bank. In the past week a humanitarian convoy arrived from Europe and next week the so-called Freedom Flotilla is expected to set sail for the region. Nadim Baba reports from Gaza on how the medical shortages have increased calls for an end to Israel's blockade and to Palestinian disunity.

Support for NDP in Quebec skyrockets

The Huffington Post:

But more than one month after the campaign has ended, the NDP now enjoys the support of a majority of Quebecers.

The poll, reported by La Presse on Thursday, was conducted online by CROP from June 15 to 20 and surveyed 1,000 people in the province.

Since the election, the New Democrats have picked up ten points in Quebec and now lead with a massive 53 per cent. With this level of support, especially considering how the NDP’s voters are evenly spread across regional and demographic lines in the province, the New Democrats would have a good shot at winning up to 70 seats in Quebec.

The Conservatives are holding firm at 18 per cent, but the Bloc Québécois has dropped seven points since the election and now has the support of only 16 per cent of Quebecers. That is still more than the Liberals, however, who are down four more points to only 10 per cent.

Both the Liberals and the Bloc could be completely swept from the province with these numbers.


Continue reading here.

Feeding the homeless is illegal in Orlando


Democracy Now!:

The City of Orlando — the home of Disney World in Florida — is being sued in court today over a city law that has effectively made it illegal for any group to feed more than 25 people at a time in downtown parks without a permit. It also limits groups to no more than two permits per park, per year. The group Food Not Bombs has refused to obey the new law—saying food is a right, not a privilege—and has continued to serve free meals to the poor and homeless. However, over the past month more than 20 members of the organization have been arrested. Keith McHenry, who helped found Food Not Bombs over 30 years ago, was arrested Wednesday and remains in jail. We speak with Benjamin Markeson, an activist involved with Food Not Bombs for several years who was arrested earlier this month; and the group’s attorney, Shayan Elahi.

NDP pledges municipal transit funding, fare freeze

Torontoist.com:

In a move sure to appeal to some municipal voters, the Ontario NDP announced this morning that if it is elected this fall it will substantially ease one major burden cities—and especially Toronto—have been wrestling with: transit operating costs. As we are repeatedly told by the TTC and many frustrated city councillors, our transit system is chronically underfunded, having to rely on the fare box of an exceptionally high percentage of its revenues. Toronto, infamously, gets no stable, ongoing transit funding from the province, and has to depend more heavily on the revenues passenger fares bring in than almost all of the world's large cities.

The NDP proposes to reverse this state of affairs (one that dates back to Harris-era downloading) by having the province pay for 50 per cent of municipal transit operating costs. The caveat: cities would need to promise to freeze fares for four years. This, in part, ensures the NDP would be able to take credit for sparing transit riders' pocketbooks, and it would also ensure that the financial relief cities experience does, in fact, go to transit (as opposed to the province picking up the tab, but cities deciding to spend the money elsewhere and jack transit fares up anyway).

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Protesters occupy Baird’s office in postal dispute

Ottawa police look in on protesters who occupied MP John Baird’s offices on Carling Avenue Thursday in sympathy with locked-out postal workers.

The Ottawa Citizen:

Ottawa — Protesters have occupied federal MP John Baird’s constituency office on Carling Avenue in sympathy with locked-out postal workers.

The group say they aren’t members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, who began rotating strikes against Canada Post before management locked the union out, but are sympathetic to their fight.

“The contract Harper wants to force on CUPW will shortchange postal workers even more than Canada Post would have,” says protester James Meades in a written statement announcing the occupation.

“By passing back-to-work legislation, the Harper government is attacking every worker in the country, both private and public, union and non-union.

Earlier Wednesday, the NDP said the party is ready to use every trick in the book to delay passage of back-to-work legislation, and help ensure locked-out Canada Post employees have as much time as possible to negotiate a settlement with their managers.


Continue reading here.

Prescription drug abuse on rise in US



The UN is to release a report on the fight against illegal drugs like cocaine, hallucinogens and heroin on Thursday. In the US, government surveys have found that hospital admissions for drug abuse have trippled in the past decade. However, it is the abuse of prescription medication that has begun to cause more worry in the US.

Climate of Denial

Al Gore, Rolling Stone:

Admittedly, the contest over global warming is a challenge for the referee because it's a tag-team match, a real free-for-all. In one corner of the ring are Science and Reason. In the other corner: Poisonous Polluters and Right-wing Ideologues.

The referee — in this analogy, the news media — seems confused about whether he is in the news business or the entertainment business. Is he responsible for ensuring a fair match? Or is he part of the show, selling tickets and building the audience? The referee certainly seems distracted: by Donald Trump, Charlie Sheen, the latest reality show — the list of serial obsessions is too long to enumerate here.

But whatever the cause, the referee appears not to notice that the Polluters and Ideologues are trampling all over the "rules" of democratic discourse. They are financing pseudoscientists whose job is to manufacture doubt about what is true and what is false; buying elected officials wholesale with bribes that the politicians themselves have made "legal" and can now be made in secret; spending hundreds of millions of dollars each year on misleading advertisements in the mass media; hiring four anti-climate lobbyists for every member of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. (Question: Would Michael Jordan have been a star if he was covered by four defensive players every step he took on the basketball court?)

This script, of course, is not entirely new: A half-century ago, when Science and Reason established the linkage between cigarettes and lung diseases, the tobacco industry hired actors, dressed them up as doctors, and paid them to look into television cameras and tell people that the linkage revealed in the Surgeon General's Report was not real at all. The show went on for decades, with more Americans killed each year by cigarettes than all of the U.S. soldiers killed in all of World War II.

This time, the scientific consensus is even stronger. It has been endorsed by every National Academy of science of every major country on the planet, every major professional scientific society related to the study of global warming and 98 percent of climate scientists throughout the world. In the latest and most authoritative study by 3,000 of the very best scientific experts in the world, the evidence was judged "unequivocal."


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Help Senator Sanders expose the Koch brothers



EXPOSE THE KOCHS: The Koch brothers fund multiple think tanks and academic centers to promote their ideology and grow their profits, a Brave New Foundation investigation reveals. Let's create an echo chamber of truth by using YouTube's SHARE tools above to protect Social Security and counter the Koch billions.

http://kochbrothersexposed.com/socialsecurity

When less asbestos is best

Editorial, The Globe and Mail:

The federal government was wrong to oppose the modest restrictions on the carcinogen, mined in Canada for export, that were proposed in Geneva on Wednesday.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Free nurses? No thanks, says Mayor Rob Ford

The Toronto Star:

Mayor Rob Ford has rejected the province’s offer to hire two public health nurses for Toronto at no cost to the city, drawing rebukes from both the provincial health minister and a loyal council ally.

Ford’s Monday decision marked the second time he has opposed a provincial health initiative that would not have required any city funding. In February, he was the lone dissenter in a 44-1 vote to accept provincial money for an effort to encourage residents to be screened for HIV and syphilis.

One of the nurses would have worked with new immigrants on disease prevention, said Councillor John Filion, chair of the health board. Another would have worked in a poor neighbourhood to promote health services.

In a statement, health minister Deb Matthews said Toronto is to date the only one of the province’s 36 health units to reject the nurses.

“The rest of Ontario's municipalities are working with us and with our public health units to improve care for all Ontarians. I am very disappointed in the city's decision and I strongly encourage Mayor Ford to reconsider,” Matthews said.

But in a rare display of executive disharmony, budget committee chair Mike Del Grande, public works chair Denzil Minnan-Wong, planning chair Peter Milczyn, and and parks and environment chair Norm Kelly opposed.

Said Minnan-Wong on Tuesday: “The province is paying for two nurses full-time. Why would you say no to additional public health nurses to help out? Why would you say no?”


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Former US attorney backs legalizing cannabis

The Seattle Times:

A coalition that includes former U.S. Attorney John McKay, Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes and travel guide Rick Steves is launching an initiative that would legalize marijuana in Washington state.

The group, led by the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, decided to push the initiative this spring after Gov. Chris Gregoire vetoed most of a medical-marijuana bill that had passed the state Legislature.

The initiative would regulate the recreational use of marijuana in a way similar to how the state regulates alcohol.

It would legalize marijuana for people older than 21, authorize the state Liquor Control Board to regulate and tax marijuana for sale in "stand-alone stores" and extend drunken-driving laws to marijuana, with blood tests to determine how much of the substance's active ingredient is present in a driver's blood.

Taxing sales would bring the state $215 million a year, conservatively estimated, Holmes said.

McKay, who spent five years enforcing federal drug laws as the U.S. attorney in Seattle before he was fired by the Bush administration in early 2007, said he hopes the initiative will help "shame Congress" into ending pot prohibition.

He said laws criminalizing marijuana are wrongheaded because they create an enormous black market exploited by international cartels and crime rings.


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Labour standing up to Harper

CUPW members rally in front of Canada Post office at 1 Dundas St. W., June 22, 2011.

City TV:

Hundreds of union members have gathered for a large rally at Yonge and Dundas Wednesday to protest the federal government’s efforts to legislate postal workers back to work.

The labour rally started at 9 a.m. in front of the legal offices of Canada Post at 1 Dundas Street West and coincides with similar events organized by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) on the East Coast and in Quebec.

Members of several other unions turned up at the event in a show of solidarity. The large turnout prompted police to close a lane on Dundas Street to accommodate the demonstrators.

Back-to-work legislation was tabled in Parliament Monday and the proposed bill sets out wage increases for postal workers that, according to the union, are less than what the Crown corporation included in its final offer.

The government hopes the legislation passes Thursday so mail delivery can resume next week.

Air Canada and the Canadian Auto Workers union managed to come to an agreement after the government tabled back-to-work legislation for the air carrier’s striking counter and sales staff.

The feds stepping in to two labour disputes within a week has raised alarm bells among some union leaders.

Canada Post locked out some 48,000 unionized workers and suspended mail delivery in urban areas on June 15 after 12 days of rotating strikes.


Vancouver today:

Former CIA agent discusses his censored book


Democracy Now!:

We speak with Glenn Carle, who served 23 years in the Clandestine Services of the Central Intelligence Agency. Carle’s book, "The Interrogator," has just been published and tells the story of one of the most secret and sensitive CIA interrogations during the "war on terror." Carle says he took part in the interrogation of a "high-value" al-Qaeda target kidnapped off the streets at an undisclosed site in the Middle East. The book chronicles this interrogation, and Carle says that CIA censors initially tried to redact nearly half of the book’s first draft, which was still published with significant blacked-out omissions.

Harper says no to 'hazardous' listing of abestos

The Star Phoenix:

Ottawa — Canada told the world Wednesday it opposes placing limits on the export of chrysotile asbestos — likely setting the stage for international efforts to list the mineral as a hazardous material to fail.

The head of the Canadian delegation at a UN meeting made the statement after a consensus was starting to emerge to deem the mineral, a known carcinogen which is mined in Quebec, as hazardous, Postmedia News has learned.

If chrysotile asbestos is listed on Annex III of the United Nations' Rotterdam Convention, "Prior Informed Consent" would be required before countries such as Canada can export the mineral.

That would allow importing would be informed of the hazards and could refuse to accept the potentially cancer-causing material if they believe they could not handle it safely.

More than 200 scientists and organizations from around the world, including the Canadian Cancer Society and the Canadian Medical Association, have signed a letter urging the federal government to support the listing of chrysotile asbestos under the UN treaty.


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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Robert Reich solves economy in two minutes



The Huffington Post:

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich knows what's wrong with the economy, and he says he can explain to viewers in less than three minutes.

Since 1980, the American economy has almost doubled in size. But adjusting for inflation, most people's wages have barely increased, a fact Reich notes in a MoveOn.org video on YouTube. Indeed, the average American worker in 2008 earned $400 less than in 1988, when adjusting for inflation.

Concentration of wealth among the richest Americans have also drained the country of its economic resources, consequently dividing the middle class and weakening demand, Reich continues.

"The only way we can have a strong economy," Reich says, "is with a strong middle class."

RCMP to probe $50 million G8 "legacy fund"

Following a complaint by a former Liberal MP, the RCMP has decided to look into allegations the Harper government misappropriated $50 million for the G8 legacy fund.

The Canadian Press:

Ottawa — The RCMP is looking into allegations that the Harper government misappropriated funds in order to lavish $50 million on a cabinet minister’s riding prior to last year’s G8 summit.

The probe comes on the heels of an auditor general’s report earlier this month, which concluded the government “did not clearly or transparently” explain how the money was going to be spent when it sought Parliament’s approval for a G8 legacy fund for Tony Clement’s riding.

The Mounties’ involvement was prompted by a complaint from former Liberal MP Marlene Jennings.

The issue revolves around the way in which the government won parliamentary approval to create the G8 legacy fund in 2009.

The government received approval for an $83-million border infrastructure fund which was supposed to relieve congestion at border crossings. It did not disclose that $50 million of that fund was to be devoted to infrastructure projects in Treasury Board President Tony Clement’s Parry Sound-Muskoka riding, 300 kilometres away from the border.

The legacy fund was supposed to help Clement’s riding prepare for hosting the G8 summit last June. It was spent on 32 projects, including gazebos, parks, public toilets and other beautification projects, many of which were hours away from the summit site in Huntsville.


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Man robs bank for jail health care



The Huffington Post:

James Verone said he walked up to a teller at a Gastonia, N.C. bank and handed her a note.

It said "This is a bank robbery, please only give me one dollar." Verone then told the teller he'd be sitting in a nearby chair, waiting for the police.

The 59-year-old said he did everything he could to get caught so he could receive free health care in jail.

Verone has a growth on his chest, two ruptured disks and a problem with his left foot. With no job, Verone thought his desperate plan was the best way to provide for himself.

Verone was charged with larceny.


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Harper's war on labour begins

The Toronto Star:

Postal workers are up in arms over the Harper government’s proposed back-to-work legislation, which calls for a lower wage settlement than Canada Post’s last offer.

Calling the Bill C-6 “punitive,” the Canadian Union of Postal Workers said in a news release that it would cost the average full-time worker $875.50 over the course of the four-year deal.

“Imposing wage increases that are lower than Canada Post’s last offer punishes postal workers for a disruption that was caused by the corporation’s national lockout,” said national president Denis Lemelin.

“All told, it represents a theft of $35 million from postal workers and their families.”

The legislation also sets out penalties if the union or Canada Post defies the legislation, including up to $50,000 a day for union or company official, and up to $100,000 a day for the company or union. Individuals would face up to $1,000 a day.

The NDP has promised to hold up the bill, which could pass on Thursday
.

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Michael Moore on first new Countdown episode



"[Obama] is not that different from most of the presidents in the modern era. They believe that they have this right as the commander-in-chief. They haven't read the constitution, which is a little strange in his case, since he's a constitutional lawyer."

Monday, June 20, 2011

Jon Stewart takes on Fox News

Shocking: US Supreme Court sides with Walmart



The US Supreme Court ruled for Walmart Stores Inc. in the largest sex-discrimination lawsuit ever, overturning a decision that gave class-action status for female employees seeking billions of dollars. The justices on Monday overturned a US appeals court ruling that more than a million female employees nationwide could join together in the lawsuit accusing Walmart of paying women less and giving them fewer promotions.



Scientists get closer to cancer vaccine

Reuters:

Scientists have developed a technique that uses a library of DNA taken from organs in which tumors can form and harnesses the body's immune response to create a vaccine designed to treat cancer.

In a study published in the journal Nature Medicine on Sunday, researchers from Britain and the United States said that in early tests in mice with prostate cancer, their experimental vaccine was able to shrink tumors, suggesting it could be developed in future into a treatment for cancer patients.

"Using the immune system to treat cancer is a very exciting area at the moment," Alan Melcher of Leeds University, who co-led the study, said in an interview. "What we've done is to develop a new approach which builds on a promising foundation."

He said the method could potentially be used against other forms of cancer such as skin or breast cancer, but added that the research was at an early stage and it would be several years before a vaccine could be developed for testing in humans.


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Inside Story - US talking to the Taliban



Afghan President Hamid Karzai confirms the talks but who is doing the talking and on what conditions?

Death penalty costs California $184 million a year

The Huffington Post:

California has rarely executed convicts since the death penalty was reinstated there in 1978, but the state has managed to spend $4 billion taxpayer dollars on capital punishment since then, according to a new cost analysis.

The study, conducted over three years by a senior federal judge and a law professor, estimates that the 13 executions California has carried out in the past three decades have cost an average of $308 million each in legal fees and death row security costs. According to the L.A. Times, a death penalty prosecution can cost the state up to 20 times more than a life-without-parole case
.

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Iraq to chase missing billions



Iraq's parliament says more than $18bn have gone missing from government coffers. The US facilitated the release of $20bn to Baghdad after the 2003 invasion -- money derived from Iraq's previously frozen assets and oil revenues, which had been withheld from the Iraqi government because of international sanctions. Now Iraqi officials say the US needs to provide answers about where the money has gone.

Fukushima workers speak out



The nuclear plant at Japan's Fukushima may be leaking radiation, but people are still going there daily to look for employment where about 2,200 of the 2,500 working there are subcontractors. In the last three months, at least eight workers have been exposed to high levels of radiation and removed from duty but this has not deterred others. It's a vocation with little job security, few benefits and no insurance for injuries or radiation poisoning but many are still lining up.

Fault Lines - Mexico's Hidden War



The spectacular violence of Mexico's drug war grabs international attention. Some 40,000 people have been killed since 2006, when President Felipe Calderon deployed Mexican military and security forces in the so-called war against the cartels -- often in gruesome and sadistic ways.

But behind the headlines, under cover of impunity, a low- intensity war is being waged.

In the second episode of a two-part series, Josh Rushing and the Fault Lines team travel to the state of Guerrero to investigate claims that Mexican security forces are using the drug war as a pretext to repress indigenous and campesino communities. In one of Mexico's poorest and top drug-producing states, where struggling farmers are surrounded by the narco-economy, we ask about the cost of taking the struggle against dispossession into your own hands.

Inside Story - The King and the constitution

Missing Iraq cash 'as high as $18 billion'

Living wage debate in NY

'Mass grave' discovered in Libyan town

The battle continues in Wisconsin

Fierce fighting for Libya's Nalut

Syrian forces 'storm town' near Turkey border

Friday, June 17, 2011

Broadbent announces new left-wing institute

Former NDP leader Ed Broadbent, left, with NDP Leader Jack Layton. Broadbent will announce a new institute for social democracy Friday.

CBC:

Former NDP leader Ed Broadbent is setting up a new institute to explore social democratic policy and ideas.

The think tank, named for Broadbent, will reach out to social democrat-leaning academics for their ideas, provide education and train activists, but be independent from the party, he announced Friday.

"I have for some time thought we should have something like this," Broadbent said.

"Our founder [Tommy Douglas] well understood a political movement or idea doesn't live in the past."

Broadbent said it's important to New Democrats to have ideas behind the party's leader.


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Joe Scarborough goes off on Newt Gingrich



The Huffington Post:

Joe Scarborough let loose on Newt Gingrich during Friday's "Morning Joe."

Scarborough was eating a bun of some kind when Mika Brzezinski played a clip of Gingrich saying in a speech that President Obama favored "the opposite of freedom." This was too much for him, and, with food still in his mouth, he went on a sarcastic rant about Gingrich.

"It's not the opposite of freedom," he said. "If you're scoring at home, kids, Barack Obama and his sort of mushy progressive but moderate, extending the Bush tax cuts and tripling the number of troops in Afghanistan, that is not left-wing Marxism or socialism. That is not the opposite of freedom. The opposite of freedom would be, oh, I don't know, Gaddafi."

Brzezinski let out a shriek of laughter. "Ok, you can finish your morning bun now," she told Scarborough, who wasn't done.

"Why can't you just say I disagree with his viewpoints?" he shouted. "Instead of bringing up Stalin and Hitler ... why does he keep saying stupid things like that?!"

It's not the first time Gingrich has riled Scarborough up. The MSNBC host lost it over Gingrich's awkward encounter with an Iowa voter in May, and condemned his stance on the proposed Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero.

CBC contributes $3.7 billion to economy: study

The Canadian Press:

Ottawa - Faced with that uneasy feeling of budget cuts on the horizon, the CBC released a study Wednesday that pegs their gross impact on the Canadian economy last year at $3.7 billion.

The analysis by consultants Deloitte and Touche LLP was commissioned by the public broadcaster in connection with their latest five-year strategic plan.

"(It's to) ensure that when we talk about the broadcaster that we have real facts in hand, and we go beyond the anecdotal evidence or the stories or numbers that have been drawn on the corner of a napkin," CBC president Hubert Lacroix said in a conference call.

"Now we have robust conclusions as to what we also bring to Canadians. ... We believe in the concept of a return on investment.

"Canadians give us on average $34 per head. They should hear from us how we use those dollars and whether there's a return for them and to the Canadian economy. That's why we have that report."

Deloitte said that based on CBC expenditures of $1.7 billion in 2010, the gross value added to the Canadian economy was $3.7 billion.


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Almost one in ten Canadians poor: StatsCan

The Canadian Press:

Ottawa — The recession stopped progress on poverty in its tracks, according to new data from Statistics Canada that indicates almost one in 10 Canadians is considered poor.

In its first detailed, national picture of what happened to income in Canada during the recession, the agency says the poverty rate edged up in 2009 to 9.6 per cent — the second straight year that poverty has grown after more than a decade of steady declines.

About 3.2 million people now live in low income, including 634,000 children.

Indeed, children were vulnerable during the recession, with their poverty rate rising to 9.5 per cent in 2009 from 9.0 per cent a year earlier.


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Rachel Maddow furious at Democrats over Weiner



The Huffington Post:

Rachel Maddow went on a tear Thursday, condemning Democrats for forcing Anthony Weiner to resign and warning them that they have damaged themselves "probably for a generation" because of their actions.

Maddow has repeatedly decried what she views as a double standard: Weiner was forced out because of his sexts and pictures, but Republicans like David Vitter and John Ensign managed to stay in office even though they broke the law.

"Democrats have not only refused to hold Republicans accountable for the double standard, but they have joined with Republicans in piling on with the demands that Anthony Weiner had to resign even as David Vitter stays in the Senate," Maddow said. She then went on a long monologue, listing all the Republicans and Democrats who were not forced out of office even after admitting to more serious ethical violations than Weiner.

"Anthony Weiner, who was not accused of corruption, who does not appear to have done anything illegal, who does not even appear to have had sex with any of the women with any of the people with whom he had scandalous talk and picture-taking, for him a line was drawn," Maddow concluded, her voice bristling with anger. She then turned her focus on the media, saying that the story was actually "the media covering the media ending a man's career."

Maddow ended by addressing Democrats. She issued a dire warning.

"Congratulations, Democrats," she said. "In an era of unhinged, ideological, big money conservative media that is wholly and admittedly divorced from the precepts of journalism, in hounding Anthony Weiner into resigning ... you have just fed and unleashed this beast onto yourselves, probably for a generation."

Toronto considers shark fin ban



Coveted by emperors and a staple at weddings, shark fin soup has been a Chinese delicacy for centuries. But stripping sharks of their fins is viewed as barbaric by many people. Often the fins are ripped off and the shark dumped back in the water to bleed to death. Canadian authorities in Toronto are considering a motion to make it illegal to own, sell or consume shark fin.

Formaldehyde and the Koch brothers


Democracy Now!:

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has added formaldehyde to a list of known carcinogens, despite years of lobbying by the chemical industry. Formaldehyde is found in plastics and often used in plywood, particle board, mortuaries and hair salons. The government also said Friday that styrene, which is used in boats, bathtubs and in disposable foam plastic cups and plates, may cause cancer. The conservative billionaire Koch brothers have led the lobbying effort against labeling formaldehyde as a carcinogen, and Georgia-Pacific, a subsidiary of Koch Industries, is one of the country’s top producers of formaldehyde.

Asbestos & Harper: bad for lungs, good for kitchen

The 24 types of Libertarian

Thursday, June 16, 2011

When corporations run and influence the news



"As usual we're here to talk about jobs, about protecting Medicare and protecting the middle class. If you're here to ask a question about Congressman Weiner, I won't be answering any." - Democratic Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi

Guess what all three of the major cable networks (CNN, Fox and MSNBC) did? They cut away from Pelosi's press conference.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

End drug war: Mexican peace caravan in U.S.


Democracy Now!:

A caravan of Mexican anti-violence protesters arrived in the United States over the weekend calling for a massive shift in U.S. drug policy. Mexican poet, Javier Sicilia, led the Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity following the brutal murder of his 24-year-old son by drug traffickers earlier this year. The caravan’s demands include an end to the Merida Initiative, in which the United States provides training and support for the Mexican army in its "war on drugs." We speak to Laura Carlsen, director of the Americas Policy Program of the Center for International Policy, and play an excerpt from her interview with Sicilia as she traveled with him to document the caravan’s journey.

70% of seized guns in Mexico are from U.S.


Democracy Now!:

Some 70 percent of guns seized in Mexico from 2009 to 2010 came from the United States, according to a new report from three U.S. senators. The report finds Mexican drug cartels are arming themselves with U.S. military-style weapons and urges a strengthening of U.S. regulations to stem the flow of guns to Mexico. It comes as lawmakers are holding hearings into a once-secret government plan to encourage U.S. gun shops to sell thousands of guns to middlemen for Mexican drug cartels. The operation, called "Fast and Furious," focused on using middlemen to gain access to senior-level figures within Mexico’s criminal organizations. Run by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the operation has come under severe criticism since hundreds of the guns that were sold to the cartels were later found at crime scenes in both countries, including two at the murder scene of a U.S. border patrol agent. We speak to David Heath at the Center for Public Integrity.

Harper alone on asbestos, world rallies against it

Lab Chrysotile asbestos mining operations in Black Lake Que. December 13, 2010.

The Canadian Press:

Ottawa - The Conservative government continues to claim that Canada's chrysotile asbestos can be used safely "under controlled conditions."

But with a major international conference in Geneva less than a week away, the government is refusing to say what position Canada will take when its global partners ask that the known carcinogen be included on a list of hazardous chemicals.

Canada has twice played a lead role in blocking the inclusion of asbestos under the Rotterdam Convention, which operates by consensus.

Despite effectively banning asbestos domestically -- and spending tens of millions of dollars to have it removed from public buildings, including Parliament -- Canada is one of the world's main exporters.


Continue reading here.