Tuesday, January 31, 2012

US employment rise fails to benefit blacks

Unemployment in the US has dropped to its lowest rate since February 2009, according to recent data. However, joblessness among African Americans is continuing to increase and is now put at 15.8 per cent. The prospects for finding work are even more bleak for black teenagers. Al Jazeera's Cath Turner has been following Kelvin Diggs, 15, around Boston as he tries to find work to keep his family's household afloat.

Universal health care coming to California?

California came just a few votes shy of establishing a single-payer universal healthcare system in the state. Despite receiving a majority of votes in the state Senate - SB-810 - known as the Single Payer Health Care for California act - was two votes shy of the necessary 21 votes needed to pass out of the upper chamber. And it's not because senators were opposed to the measure - but instead because four moderate Democrats decided not to vote at all. State Senators Alex Padilla, Juan Vargas, Michael Rubio, and Rod Wright all abstained from voting on the critical legislation - but all will have another chance on Tuesday when Democrats in the State Senate plan to bring the legislation up again for a vote. So what are the chances now that California could lead the way - and establish a single-payer health care system - in the nation's most populated state? Joining Thom now is the sponsor of this legislation - California State Senator Mark Leno - representing California's District 3.

Drummond to suggest deep cuts in public services

Former bank chief Don Drummond heads a commission that will recommend massive cuts in government spending in Ontario.

Thomas Walkom, Opinion, The Toronto Star:

Don Drummond, the Ontario government’s adviser-on-everything, is still a few days away from officially revealing details of his proposed spending cutbacks. But critics are already weighing in.

Chief among these are the health care unions, who suspect from Drummond’s musings that the former bank economist will propose sweeping measures designed to make Ontario’s non-profit hospitals operate more like profit-maximizing private corporations.

The unions obviously have a monetary interest in this. Private corporations are under tremendous shareholder pressure to reduce costs by whatever means — including the contracting out of good jobs to cheaper, non-union shops.

But the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions, which bargains for 30,000 hospital, long-term care and ambulance workers, also argues that the kinds of free-market measures Drummond has been hinting at won’t save money for taxpayers.

The union analysis rests to a large extent on research done in the U.S. and Britain, where private corporations are far more involved in the delivery of publicly funded health services than in Canada.

Governments interested in reducing health-care costs shouldn’t rely on free-market reforms to do the trick. Health care isn’t a commodity like, say, soap where the normal laws of supply and demand operate.

It is a human necessity where one side — the provider — has all the information and power, while the other — the patient — is far too often acting out of desperation.

Continue reading here.

Occupy Oakland 400 arrested

This weekend, Oakland once again became the scene of a massive confrontation between Occupy protesters and police. After an effort to occupy a former convention center in the city, protesters were later corralled in front of a YMCA, where more than 400 people were arrested. This includes at least 6 journalists known of thus far. Alyona talks to Susie Cagle one of those arrested journalists.

Documentary exposes failure of War on Drugs

Democracy Now!:

This weekend the top documentary prize at the Sundance Film Festival went to “The House I Live In,” which questions why the United States has spent more than $1 trillion on drug arrests in the past 40 years, and yet drugs are cheaper, purer, and more available today than ever. The film examines the economic, as well as the moral and practical, failures of the so-called “war on drugs,” and calls on the United States to approach drug abuse not as a “war,” but as a matter of public health. We need “a very changed dialogue in this country that understands drugs as a public health concern and not a criminal justice concern,” says the film’s Director Eugene Jarecki. “That means the system has to say, ‘We were wrong.’” We also speak with Nannie Jeter, who helped raise Jarecki as her own son succumbed to drug addiction and is highlighted in the film. We air clips from the film, featuring Michelle Alexander, author of “The New Jim Crow;” Canadian physician and bestselling author, Gabor Maté; and David Simon, creator of “The Wire.”

Monday, January 30, 2012

Harper cuts EI staff, leaving jobless in the lurch

Carol Goar, Opinion, The Toronto Star:

An applicant who provides all the information required by Service Canada is supposed to get his or her first benefit payment within 28 days. But thousands of laid-off workers say they’ve been waiting months.

It’s impossible to get though to Service Canada; the phone lines are jammed. It takes hours to get an appointment with a claims officer when they go to the office in person. And when their turn finally comes, they’re often told their claim is “spooling” or “churning” in the computer and won’t be retrievable for three weeks.

Why is the federal agency failing to keep its part of the bargain?

Here is Human Resources Minister Diane Finley’s answer: “Service Canada continues to carefully monitor EI processing to ensure the best possible service is provided to Canadians who are in need of benefits. We all take this matter seriously.”

Her actions don’t suggest that.

Over the course of 2011, she cut Service Canada’s EI staff by 1,000. Last October, when claims spiked, she did nothing. In November, when opposition MPs raised the alarm in the House of Commons, she did nothing. In December, when claimants at a handful of Service Canada offices resorted to violence, she did nothing.

Finally, this month, the minister brought in 165 temporary workers to process EI claims, reassigned 214 Service Canada employees from other duties and boosted the hours of 120 claims processors.

Continue reading here.

Banksters demand "no free speech for mortgage!"

According to BusinessWeek, Bank of America is pushing back when offering loan modifications to people who are complaining publicly. The catch is the borrower must stay quiet and remove any previous criticisms of the bank from public records, like tweets or facebook. According to one borrower the bank included this language, "The borrower "will remove and delete any online statements regarding this dispute, including, without limitation, postings on Facebook, Twitter and similar websites," and not make any statements "that defame, disparage or in any way criticize" the bank's reputation, practices or conduct, according to documents filed in state court in Phoenix."

Apple boycott called over worker abuses in China

Employees work on the Apple assembly line at the Foxconn plant in Shenzhen in southern China.

The Guardian:

US writers attack conditions at Foxconn plant and call for consumers to act

The company's public image took a dive after revelations about working conditions in the factories of some of its network of Chinese suppliers. The allegations, reported at length in the New York Times, build on previous concerns about abuses at firms that Apple uses to make its bestselling computers and phones. Now the dreaded word "boycott" has started to appear in media coverage of its activities.

"Should consumers boycott Apple?" asked a column in the Los Angeles Times as it recounted details of the bad PR fallout.

The influential Daily Beast and Newsweek technology writer Dan Lyons wrote a scathing piece. "It's barbaric," he said, before saying to his readership: "Ultimately the blame lies not with Apple and other electronics companies – but with us, the consumers. And ultimately we are the ones who must demand change."

Forbes magazine columnist Peter Cohan also got in on the act. "If you add up all the workers who have died to build your iPhone or iPad, the number is shockingly high," he began an article that also toyed with the idea of a boycott in its headline.

The New York Times's revelations, which centred on the Foxconn plant in southern China that has repeatedly been the subject of accusations of worker mistreatment, have caused a major stir in the US. Although such allegations have been made before in numerous news outlets, and in a controversial one-man show by playwright Mike Daisey, this time they have struck a chord.

The newspaper detailed allegations that workers at Foxconn suffered in conditions that resembled a modern version of bonded labour, working obscenely long shifts in unhealthy conditions with few of the labour rights that workers in the west would take for granted. It also mentioned disturbing events elsewhere in China among supplier firms, such as explosions at iPad factories that killed a total of four people and another incident in which 137 workers were injured after cleaning iPhone screens with a poisonous chemical.

Continue reading here.

Rights groups slam new US vote restrictions

US civil rights groups have been criticising new laws, backed by Republicans, that could deny millions of people their right to vote in dozens of states in the country. A wave of restrictive laws passed in Republican-held state legislatures will mean that a disproportionate number of ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, the elderly and the young will find voting difficult and in many cases impossible. Among the legislations is a requisite that aspiring voters present a state-issued photo identification card to cast their ballot. That could affect around 21 millions who do not have the necessary ID. The apparent reason for the ID requisite is to prevent voter fraud, yet an extensive analysis by the US Justice Department.found that incidents of vote fraud are exceedingly rare and that the new laws would not solve the registration issues. Some analysts say the restrictions would have a severe impact on the country's presidential vote set for November in the favor of Republicans. Al Jazeera's Rob Reynold traveled to the state of Wisconsin, where he spoke to one American woman whose right to vote may have been stripped by the new restrictions.

Newt Gingrich and casino mogul Sheldon Adelson

Democracy Now!:

Many analysts say Newt Gingrich’s recent rise in the Republican contest would have been impossible without the backing of one man: multi-billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson. Adelson and his wife have donated $10 million to the pro-Gingrich super PAC, Winning Our Future, which has run a series of ads attacking Gingrich’s opponent Mitt Romney. Gingrich has openly admitted Adelson’s support came down to a single issue: Israel. Gingrich has adopted the most extremist anti-Palestinian stance of the Republican presidential field, calling the Palestinians themselves an "invented" people. We speak with Gal Beckerman of the Jewish Daily Forward and Linda Sarsour of the Arab American Association of New York.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Inside Syria - Is Syria sliding into civil war?

As the uprising appears to be entering a new phase, is there still room for a political solution? Guests: Samir al-Taqi, former adviser to Assad; Dimitri Babich, political analyst ; Ambassador David Mack, former US deputy assistant secretary of state.

Exploring a nation’s struggle with nuclear power

Democracy Now!:

Nuclear power has drawn wide support from both sides of the aisle, with both Republicans and Democrats advancing a pro-nuclear agenda even in the aftermath of last year’s Fukushima disaster in Japan. We speak with Sheena Joyce, co-director of the new documentary "The Atomic States of America," which is featured at 2012 Sundance Film Festival. We’re also joined by Kelly McMasters, whose book "Welcome to Shirley: A Memoir from an Atomic Town" inspired the film. Joyce says, "We used Kelly’s book and the town of Shirley as kind of a springboard into the issue, to just talk to people really on both sides, but mainly to speak to the people in reactor communities... We wanted to seek an intelligent dialogue."

Rob Ford had no authority to cancel Transit City

Since the mayor had no legal authority to enter into the memorandum of understanding, it shouldn’t be acted upon until council approves it, say the lawyers.

The Toronto Star:

A report by a respected Toronto law firm says Mayor Rob Ford exceeded his legal authority when he cancelled Transit City without city council approval.

It says the mayor had no business entering into a non-binding memorandum of understanding with the province that authorized a new transit plan, including a Sheppard subway and a longer tunnel on the Eglinton light rail line. It says he further overstepped his powers when he told TTC chief general manager Gary Webster to stop work on Transit City.

Since the mayor had no legal authority to enter into the memorandum of understanding, it shouldn’t be acted upon until council approves it, say the lawyers. Until that happens, it is only an agreement in principle.

Mihevc is calling on the mayor and city manager to bring the transit issue before council immediately.

According to the report by lawyers Freya Kristjanson and Amanda Darrach, Ford “did not follow the proper procedure for obtaining City Council’s authorization to rescind Transit City and develop and approve an alternate plan.”

“Under the City of Toronto Act, the power of the city resides in City Council. The Mayor of Toronto has very little independent authority beyond his role as head of City Council. Unless specific power is delegated to him, the mayor does not have the authority to speak for the city independently,” wrote the lawyers, from Cavalluzzo, Hayes, Shilton, McIntyre & Cornish.

Continue reading here.

Jobs elude Mexican youth

The global economic crisis has left millions of youth unemployed and with few options to improve their lives. In Mexico, more than seven million young people have finished school, but can't find work. These so called Ninis are often stereotyped as lazy kids who live off their parents, but this is not always the case. As part of our series on youth around the world, Al Jazeera's Adam Raney reports from Mexico City.

Lucrative executive payouts at bailed-out firms

Democracy Now!:

New York Daily News columnist and Democracy Now! co-host Juan Gonzalez reports the Treasury Department has approved payouts exceeding $5 million for 49 executives at firms that most benefited from the Wall Street bailout. The executives’ pay came despite the $500,000 salary cap established under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).

Saturday, January 28, 2012

New helmets could prevent hockey head injuries

Ice hockey is a fast and dangerous game - so much that some of the best players have been sidelined after suffering head injuries during mid-game collisions or fights on the ice. But new technology in helmets could detect concussions before accidents cause more serious damage. Al Jazeera's Daniel Lak reports from Peterborough, Canada.

Kazakhstan opposition holds rare rally

Hundreds of anti-government protesters have staged a rare - and unauthorised - opposition rally in Almaty, Kazakhstan's largest city. Demonstrators said the ruling party's victory in this month's parliamentary election was flawed, and they called for the release of jailed opposition activists. Hours later, speakers at Saturday's rally were handed two-week jail sentences for holding the unsanctioned gathering, according to local media reports. Al Jazeera's Robin Forestier-Walker reports from Almaty.

Rupert Murdoch's staff arrested, scandal spreads

The Associated Press:

London — British police searched the offices of Rupert Murdoch's British newspapers Saturday after arresting a police officer and four current and former staff of his tabloid The Sun as part of an investigation into police bribery by journalists.

The arrests spread the scandal over tabloid wrongdoing – which has already shut down one paper, the News of the World – to a second Murdoch newspaper.

London's Metropolitan Police said two men aged 48 and one aged 56 were arrested on suspicion of corruption early in the morning at homes in and around London. A 42-year-old man was detained later at a London police station.

Murdoch's News Corp. confirmed that all four were current or former Sun employees. The BBC and other British media identified them as former managing editor Graham Dudman, former deputy editor Fergus Shanahan, current head of news Chris Pharo and crime editor Mike Sullivan.

A fifth man, a 29-year-old police officer, was arrested at the London station where he works.

Continue reading here.

Rick's Rant: MP Pensions

Rick rants about the trouble in finding good MPs that would be worth their platinum pensions.

The Republican Party's racial politics

From the subtle to the sickening, this Republican primary season has seen a normalizing of racist and racially-coded language. It was not so long ago that the chairman of the Republican National Committee apologized for his party's history of "trying to benefit politically from racial polarization," and told the NAACP, "I am here today as the Republican Chairman to tell you we were wrong." Such leadership cannot be found now.

Newt Gingrich may be the new master of race politics with his efforts to label Barack Obama the "food-stamp president" and his generous offer to lecture African-Americans at the NAACP on why they should demand paychecks instead of food stamps. We know that Mr. Gingrich's claims of being a "historian" for Freddie and Fannie are a strain, but would it be that hard for him to check the history of NAACP's leadership on developing and demanding groundbreaking job creation policies? (Or to note that more food stamp recipients are white than any other race or ethnicity?) But why would a historian let facts get in the way of historical racial prejudice?

ThinkProgress' Jeff Spross has compiled a recent history of the GOP's dehumanizing and divisive language that threatens to plague the primary process for weeks to come.


Friday, January 27, 2012

Low IQ & Conservative beliefs linked to prejudice


There's no gentle way to put it: People who give in to racism and prejudice may simply be dumb, according to a new study that is bound to stir public controversy.

The research finds that children with low intelligence are more likely to hold prejudiced attitudes as adults. These findings point to a vicious cycle, according to lead researcher Gordon Hodson, a psychologist at Brock University in Ontario. Low-intelligence adults tend to gravitate toward socially conservative ideologies, the study found. Those ideologies, in turn, stress hierarchy and resistance to change, attitudes that can contribute to prejudice, Hodson wrote in an email to LiveScience.

"Prejudice is extremely complex and multifaceted, making it critical that any factors contributing to bias are uncovered and understood," he said.

Polling data and social and political science research do show that prejudice is more common in those who hold right-wing ideals that those of other political persuasions, Nosek told LiveScience. [7 Thoughts That Are Bad For You]

Nonetheless, there is reason to believe that strict right-wing ideology might appeal to those who have trouble grasping the complexity of the world.

"Socially conservative ideologies tend to offer structure and order," Hodson said, explaining why these beliefs might draw those with low intelligence. "Unfortunately, many of these features can also contribute to prejudice."

Continue reading here.

The Caterpillar crisis is now Ontario’s crisis

Workers picket at locomotive Electro-Motive in London, Ont., on Jan. 20. The Caterpillar Inc subsidiary locked out some 450 locomotive manufacturing workers in London on Jan. 1 after the Canadian Auto Workers rejected a contract proposal.

Martin Regg Cohn, Opinion, The Toronto Star:

Canada’s union movement faces an existential struggle to protect its members — and rally public support.

London, the sleepy former insurance capital of Canada, is now ground zero for a labour dispute that is shaping up as nasty, brutish and long. It will have ramifications across Ontario’s industrial heartland, which is why all of us — and the politicians who govern us — need to pay close attention.

If London has a problem, we all do.

At the old locomotive plant now owned by U.S.-based multinational Caterpillar Inc., the Canadian Auto Workers union is not even on strike. The CAW has been locked out since New Year’s Day because it refused to sign its own death warrant by agreeing to slash wages in half for most workers from $34 an hour to $16.50.

When a powerful multinational negotiates in bad faith, it becomes a story that governments in Queen’s Park and Ottawa can no longer wash their hands of. To put it in language that resonates with Premier Dalton McGuinty: When a bully tries to humiliate people, you can’t just watch in silence

Continue reading here.

Britain's 'lost generation' of unemployed

Across Britain there are nearly one million unemployed young people. For these youth, finding a job is not merely about income, but also a matter of character. Due to a law aimed to people perceived to be lazy, many of these young people will be forced to work for free. Lacking the money to go to university and the jobs with which to build a CV these young Brits feel at a loss. Al Jazeera's Laurence Lee reports from Leeds.

Caterpillar has huge profits but lockout continues

The Toronto Star:

Smack in the midst of a bitter labour dispute with employees of its London, Ont. subsidiary Electro-Motive, construction equipment giant Caterpillar announced it made a record $4.9 billion last year.

CEO Doug Oberhelman called 2011 “a great year.” Canadian Auto Workers union head Ken Lewenza said the company is making money “hand over fist.”

The Illinois-based firm announced Thursday that annual profits rose 83 per cent, to a record $4.9 billion. In the fourth-quarter alone, the Illinois-based firm earned $1.55 billion (U.S.). Its shares gained $2.30 to $111.35 (U.S.).

That, says Lewenza, makes it all the more “shameful” that the company is trying to squeeze what would amount to a 50 per cent pay cut from its 500 locked out employees.

Caterpillar locked out 500 workers at Electro-Motive after they rejected a contract offer that would have cut average wages at the plant from $35 per hour to $16.50 per hour.

The concessions Caterpillar is trying to get from its workers would make little difference to the company’s bottom line, said Mike Moffatt, an economist at the University of Western Ontario’s Ivey School of Business.

“In the larger Caterpillar picture, Electro-Motive is just so small. The difference they’re talking about with their workers is about $20 million to $30 million. For Caterpillar, that would be like you or I looking between the couch cushions and finding a quarter,” said Moffatt. “This isn’t a situation like the auto manufacturers a few years ago where they were asking for concessions because the survival of the company was at stake. Caterpillar is earning a lot of money,” Moffatt added.

Continue reading here.

Ralph Nader on Obama’s State of the Union

Democracy Now!:

Responding to President Obama’s State of the Union address, longtime consumer advocate and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader says Obama’s criticism of income inequality and Wall Street excess fail to live up to his record in office. "[Obama] says one thing and does another," Nader says. "Where has he been for over three years? He’s had the Justice Department. There are existing laws that could prosecute and convict Wall Street crooks. He hasn’t sent more than one or two to jail." On foreign policy, Nader says, "I think his lawless militarism, that started the speech and ended the speech, was truly astonishing. [Obama] was very committed to projecting the American empire, in Obama terms."

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Listening to the Country: Peggy Nash


Peggy Nash is one of the most prominent candidates in the race to become the next leader of the federal New Democratic Party. There are many reasons to believe that she has the necessary experience and tenacity to handle the job, yet the contest she has entered is politically and emotionally complex. When NDP leader Jack Layton died on August 22nd, 2011, he left a giant void not only at the top of his party, but also at the very heart of Canadian politics. His replacement will have to devise a way to harness the elevated expectations of both party members and the general public.

A lifelong activist, Nash rose to prominence nationally as a senior negotiator with the Canadian Auto Workers. Layton recruited her to run for the NDP shortly after he became party leader in 2003. She was elected to the House of Commons in 2006 as the Member of Parliament for the Toronto riding of Parkdale-High Park. Although she was defeated at the polls in 2008, she ran again and reclaimed her seat in the eventful May 2011 election, which witnessed the NDP vault past the Liberals to become Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. In recognition of her ability to offer incisive analysis, Nash was appointed Finance Critic, charged with the task of identifying perceived shortcomings in the economic policies of the Conservative government.

The next leader of the NDP will be announced March 24th at a convention in Toronto. Frontrunners in the race include the Party President, Brian Topp, as well as Thomas Mulcair, Deputy Leader of the Party and MP for the Montreal riding of Outremont. Another candidate garnering substantial support is Paul Dewar, the Ottawa Centre MP and former foreign affairs critic. For delegates at the convention, there will be many angles to consider. Which candidate will best be able to firm up support for the NDP in Quebec, where extraordinary though perhaps fragile gains were made in the last election? Who is most capable of engaging all the young MPs in the party? Which of the contenders has proposed the most credible policies?

Examining the platform that Nash has put forward, perhaps the most significant measure is her call to strengthen and reform the Investment Canada Act. She believes firmly that, when a foreign company invests heavily here in Canada, the federal government must ensure that Canadian jobs are protected. According to the sixty-year old politician, the Harper Conservatives have failed in this respect. She cites the policy of handing out tax breaks and other incentives without requiring the firms on the receiving end to make corresponding commitments to the communities in which they operate. Her position on this issue demands careful consideration.

Peggy Nash recently had a wide-ranging conversation with Canadian Interviews. She spoke about her proposals for reforming the Investment Canada Act, how to address the issue of offshore tax havens, and what the federal government can do to help develop the renewable energy industry. Not surprisingly, the starting point of the interview is internal party politics. On January 10, 2012, NDP MP Lise St-Denis announced that she was ‘crossing the floor’ to join the Liberals. Speculation has since intensified regarding whether, in the absence of Jack Layton, there may be more NDP MPs reevaluating their commitment to the party.

Continue reading here.

NDP Toronto-Danforth nominee meets party caucus

The Toronto Star:

Ottawa — Craig Scott, 49, was invited to sit in on the NDP caucus strategy meetings Tuesday as the nominated candidate for the party in the upcoming byelection in Toronto—Danforth to fill the vacancy left when Jack Layton died last summer.

“It was . . . a sense of excitement about the possibility, but I am not taking this for granted at all,” Scott, a human rights lawyer and professor at Osgoode Hall said in an interview in Ottawa on Tuesday.

“I’m going to have to work really hard to actually be walking through those doors in another capacity, so excitement, I think, is the right word. If I win the byelection, then it will be more a little bit of a surreal feeling.”

Scott also noted the adjustment to becoming the official Opposition has not been easy for the federal New Democrats — or the media covering them — but watching from the outside he believes the party “has done remarkably well” in both the Commons and the polls considering it had to deal with an unexpected election breakthrough, the death of its leader and the resulting leadership race.

“I wish a wider range of media commentators would recognize what they have accomplished in almost the first year,” Scott said. “I don’t know if the NDP could do anything differently. It’s just waiting for Canada to get used to the idea of the NDP as the official Opposition, because there may not be the full tradition of talking about the NDP in that role and it may still take a few more months of adjustment and it may take until we know our leader.”

Continue reading here.

Bill Maher on Anderson Cooper last night

An examination of mass shootings in the US

Democracy Now!:

Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords resigned her seat this week, roughly a year after she was shot through the head during a meeting with constituents outside a Tucson supermarket. The attack left six people dead and 12 others injured. As Giffords steps down, we look at the iconic semi-automatic Glock pistol used in her attack and a number of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history. Gun-control advocates have had little success calling for restrictions on Glocks or the large-capacity ammunition magazines they can accommodate. We speak with Paul Barrett, who wrote the landmark book about the infamous weapon, "Glock: The Rise of America’s Gun."

State of the Union: the 99% reacts

Last night after Obama's State of the Union address we heard the Republican response delivered by Governor Mitch Daniels. We even heard a Tea party response delivered by Herman Cain. But how do members of the Occupy movement feel? Activist Jesse LaGreca joins the show.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Obama disconnected from the state of the union?

Last night President Obama delivered his State of the Union address. This marks his third State of the Union speech and in it Obama filled Americans with hope and optimism for 2012. Standing ovation over standing ovation, Obama covered many key topics that have been concerning many Americans, but he also ignored other controversial issues. Nomi Prins, author of Black Tuesday, joins us to see if Obama was on point or out of touch with reality.

Ford compares rival councillors to Joseph Stalin

The Toronto Star:

Speaking on the John Oakley show, Ford told the AM640 host that certain councillors are “two steps left of Joe Stalin.”

Ford was being questioned as to whether he had lost support of council’s middle. Oakley pointed to the fact that self-proclaimed centrist Josh Matlow recently stated he would not back Ford’s plan to do away with the land transfer tax.

“I consider him a left-wing NDPer. I’m not surprised. It’s just like saying Adam Vaughan or (Gord) Perks or (Janet) Davis or (Paula) Fletcher is not voting with me,” said Ford.

“These people are all two steps left of Joe Stalin. So I’m not discouraged by that and I don’t expect it. They don’t care about the taxpayers. But I know one person who does, and that’s me.”

Councillor Perks refused to comment on Ford’s words. “I’m trying to do real work,” he responded.

Vaughan chalked it up to Ford being Ford.

“It’s one of those things that Mayor Ford says that no one understands. He’s just lashing out. I don’t think anyone should compare any member of council to Joseph Stalin,” Vaughan said.

Ford’s mouth has got him in trouble before. In 2008 he angered Toronto’s Asian community after telling council “Oriental people work like dogs.”

Continue reading here.

Republicans 'living in Dark Ages' on Cuba

At last night's GOP Debate, there was a lot of big talk about Iran and the dangers of them acquiring a nuclear weapon and what we must do to counter it. As well as a lot of talk about Cuba and the need for sanctions and a travel embargo to stick around. Much of the rhetoric coming from the GOP candidates makes you wonder, if they're living in the past, and refuse to acknowledge that the world has changed. Ret. Col. Lawrence Wilkerson discusses.

Harper branded enviornmental group "enemy"

The Toronto Star:

Ottawa — The Prime Minister’s Office allegedly labelled an environmental group an “enemy” of Canada for opposing a proposed west coast oil pipeline and threatened retribution if its funding was not cut off, according to the affidavit of a former employee.

The group, ForestEthics, operates in both Canada and the U.S. with money from Tides Canada, a charitable group that funds initiatives to tackle poverty, climate change and social problems.

ForestEthics is also a registered intervener at hearings on Enbridge’s planned Northern Gateway pipeline that would pump Alberta oil to freighters on the British Columbia coast destined for China.

But a former communications manager with ForestEthics says that senior federal officials referred to the group as an “enemy of the government of Canada” and an “enemy of the people of Canada” in a private meeting with the president of Tides Canada, Ross McMillan.

Continue reading here.

Former CIA agent charged: leaked torture info

The Justice Department has charged former CIA agent, John Kiriakou with disclosing classified information to journalists about the capture and "enhanced interrogation", or as we call it torture, of suspected Al Qaeda members to members of the press. This is now the 6th time that the Obama administration is going after someone with charges of espionage, before this administration, there were only 3 such cases in history. Emptywheel.net's Marcy Wheeler discusses.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Why I'm Voting Peggy Nash

Nash: Staying connected to the grassroots.

Bill Tieleman, Opinion, TheTyee.ca:

Tenacious and gracious, the NDP leader candidate is Layton's most worthy successor.

My reasons for backing the Member of Parliament for Toronto's Parkdale-High Park riding are both complex and simple.

It's rare to find someone who is extremely tenacious as well as gracious -- two qualities I admire and easily see in Nash.

Nash was the first woman negotiator to lead a union into bargaining with a major auto firm, reaching a deal in 2005 for the Canadian Auto Workers with Ford.

Nash comes unquestionably from a dedicated career in labour, but has the wisdom to understand that Canada is built on a private sector economy whose success helps provide the public sector services that Canadians depend on.

Nash is also a social justice advocate, passionate about ending inequality and defending human rights everywhere, serving as an international observer for South Africa's historic 1994 election that chose Nelson Mandela as president and in the Ukraine.

She is outspokenly supportive of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered rights, has been honoured by the Sierra Club for environmental leadership and by the YWCA for championing women's rights.

Fluently bilingual, tough, experienced, knowledgeable, a powerful speaker, a social democrat who understands the economy and someone who will listen and learn as well as lead, Peggy Nash is my choice.

Nash's biggest advantage may come down to her ability to build an electoral coalition of New Democrats determined to select a progressive leader who can grow the party while still maintaining its core values.

Continue reading here.

More labour leaders endorse Peggy Nash


More labour leaders line up in support of NashOttawa / January 24, 2012 – Presidents of five federations of labour today declared support for Peggy Nash, MP (Parkdale–High Park) in her bid to become the next leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada:

Gil McGowan of the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL)
Sid Ryan of the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL)
Lana Payne of the Newfoundland & Labrador Federation of Labour (NLFL)
Rick Clarke of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour (NSFL)
Mary Lou Cherwaty of the Northern Territories Federation of Labour (NTFL)

The five high-profile labour endorsements come one day after the Steelworkers’ Toronto Area Council announced its support for Nash.

“There is no question that Peggy will make the best leader of the NDP,” said NLFL President, Lana Payne. “At a time when working people – including working people in unions – are under attack, Peggy has been unequivocal in her commitment to fight for workers’ rights and build a just economy for all of us.”

“I am thankful to have the confidence of these labour leaders,” said Nash.

“Across the country, workers need to know their rights are respected and that their jobs are valued and protected,” Nash added. “This is a commitment close to my heart.”

Regional federations of labour are affiliated with the Canadian Labour Congress advocating on behalf of Canada’s workers.

Largest solar storm since 2005 hits Earth Tuesday

Scientific American:

Last night the sun unleashed a flash of radiation called a solar flare, along with a generous belch of ionized matter that is now racing toward Earth at thousands of kilometers a second. The solar storm front from the ionized blast, called a coronal mass ejection (CME), should arrive tomorrow morning, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC). The forecasters called the event the strongest solar storm since 2005.

When a solar storm hits Earth, the impact can have a number of consequences, especially in Earth orbit and at high latitudes, where the planet’s geomagnetic shielding is thin. Solar storms can knock out satellites, cause blackouts, and force aircraft to avoid polar routes. Storms can also bring the aurora borealis, a.k.a. the northern lights, down to unusually low latitudes.

Continue reading here.

Plea deal for Haditha killings sparks outrage in Iraq

Iraqis are angry at how court martial hearings have ended over the killing of 24 civilians in the city of Haditha in 2005. The last of the eight marine defendants is awaiting sentencing after a deal in which he pleaded guilty to reduced charges of dereliction of duty. The charge carries a maximum penalty of three months in a military jail. Al Jazeera's Jane Arraf has more from the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.

"We’ve got to start taxing corporations"

Democracy Now!:

During the GOP primary, Mitt Romney has come under fierce attack for parking millions of dollars of his personal wealth in investment funds set up in the Cayman Islands, a notorious Caribbean tax haven. We speak with Tax Justice Network USA chair Jack Blum, a former top congressional investigator of financial crimes, who says tax evasion could seriously cripple the already struggling economy. Blum appears in "We’re Not Broke," a documentary that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. The film examines widespread corporate tax evasion in the United States and the increasing role of offshore tax havens. "Has [Romney] cheated? No," Blum says. "What he’s done is take full advantage of a system that has been structured the way it is because of political influence and a tremendous amount of lobbying money on Capitol Hill... We must not only rewrite the Internal Revenue Code, but we must get a fair contribution from the very wealthy and from corporations, and that is the only way to balance the budget."

Monday, January 23, 2012

Electro-Motive rally sends message to PM

The Windsor Star:

London, Ontario - Three weeks into a lockout at Electro-Motive Canada, Frank Kearney will tell you there are good days and bad days.

Saturday was a good day, as thousands of protesters filled Victoria Park in the city's downtown core for a boisterous rally in support of Kearney and more than 400 of his fellow workers, who are fighting company efforts to slash wages and benefits by 50 per cent.

"I think the turnout's great, the support - 11 buses have come from Windsor alone. It's a great feeling," said Kearney, a welder at the plant, which assembles locomotives.

The spirited gathering, which drew demonstrators from across Ontario and parts of the U.S., turned into an unrelenting condemnation of the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S.-based Caterpillar Corp., which owns the London plant.

Caterpillar, which reported a 44 per cent surge in its thirdquarter earnings in 2011 and forecast a 2012 sales increase of between 10 per cent and 20 per cent, has become the "poster child for corporate greed in Canada," said Sid Ryan, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour. "We are sending a message to Harper that we are sick and tired of the corporate greed that exists in Canada.

"Caterpillar is getting a wakeup call they never dreamt of."

Electro-Motive locked out the workers New Year's Day after protracted contract talks hit a snag over company demands which would reduce the average hourly wage from $34 to $16.50.

MP Joe Comartin (NDP - Windsor-Tecumseh) reiterated demands that Ottawa impose stricter requirements on companies receiving taxpayer dollars.

"The federal government has to look at the situations in which they give money to a corporation, as they did here, not attaching any strings to it in terms of employment," he said in an interview.

Continue reading here.

Sid Ryan addresses 15,000, locked out workers

Saturday, January 21, 2012 - London, Ontario, Canada

Sid Ryan's speech to over 15,000 at London rally in support of locked out Caterpillar workers, Local 27 of the Canadian Auto Workers' union. Ryan is the President of the Ontario Federation of Labour, uniting workers across the province of Ontario, in Canada.

More info:

Produced with union labour. Video by A. Lisman. Copyright © 2012 Ontario Federation of Labour. All rights reserved

Bolivian president marks six years in power

Bolivian President Evo Morales made history six years ago when he became the country's first indigenous president. Under his rule, indigenous groups have gained more rights, poverty has been reduced and a new constitution has been drafted. But Morales, a former coca farmer, or cocalero, has also enacted policies that many argue have negatively impacted indigenous communities. One of his most controversial stances has been his agreement to work with the United States on monitoring coca cultivation. Al Jazeera's Monica Villamizar reports.

Newt Gingrich is “Racially Coding Poverty”

Democracy Now!:

The new documentary “Finding North” premiering here at the Sundance Film Festival exposes how one in every four American children suffers from hunger, despite living in the wealthiest nation in the world. And, nearly 30 percent of American families, more than 49 million people, often go without meals. While Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich decries President Obama as “the food stamp president,” author Raj Patel says what is really needed is a conversation about poverty and why the need for food stamps is so high. “It is true that disproportionately people of color are affected by food insecurity. What Gingrich is doing is racially coding poverty by calling President Obama the food stamp president,” Patel said. “He is invoking ideas of racialized poverty. Of course when you look at people who’re on the food stamp program, the majority of them are white and poor.” Patel is author of the popular book, "Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System.”

Tea Party Jesus: Sermon on the Mall

Learn more at www.teapartyjesus.org. Read the fully cited and quoted script. Also find full "bios" for all the cast members and watch the movie trailers. Tea Party Jesus is a project of the American Values Network in conjunction with Faithful Media. Learn more at www.americanvaluesnetwork.org.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Time to bring the Robin Hood Tax to America

Even though he's a "conservative" French president Nicholas Sarkozy is pushing for a "Robin Hood Tax" that's infuriating the Banksters. I'll explain what a Robin Hood Tax is, in tonight's Daily Take - & why the U.S must adopt one of its own.

SOPA Blackout 'Resounding Success'

Four sponsors of PIPA have dropped out and on the SOPA side three sponsors have announced they will be removing their names. Many other members of Congress, who are not sponsors or authors of the bills, have also released public statements today signaling their opposition. So in this battle of Hollywood versus the tech industry, are the tables finally beginning to turn? Reddit Co-Founder Alexis Ohanian weighs in.

The Establishment and the NDP

Gerald Caplan, Opinion, The Globe and Mail:

In the May election, the historic Jack Layton election, the NDP got 30 per cent of the vote; Mr. Layton had never gotten more than 18 per cent before that, and the NDP had never gotten more than 20 per cent in its history. Now look at the poll released just this week showing the Conservatives down, the Liberals up at 25 per cent, and the NDP still in second place at 28 per cent. In Quebec the latest poll showed the NDP at 33 per cent and its closest rival, the Bloc, at 20 per cent. These are, by any measure, remarkable results. And they’ve been achieved under an interim leader who never asked for the job and knows perfectly well she’s not a natural. And they’ve been achieved in the face of all the other hurdles that can’t be overcome until the new leader is chosen in March and returns with his/her team of fellow contenders to take on the Harper government.

Continue reading here.

Over 10,000 support locked out Caterpillar workers

The Toronto Star:

London, Ontario — A crowd of more than 10,000 descended upon this city’s Victoria Park to support local workers who have been locked out of their jobs since the new year. They came from all over, from Timmins, Sudbury, and Pennsylvania in scores of buses. They came to protest corporate greed and Stephen Harper.

At issue is a three-week-old lockout at Electro-Motive Canada, a subsidiary of Caterpillar. The company locked out 425 Canadian Auto Workers Local 27 employees when the collective agreement expired on Jan. 1, citing the union’s negotiating flip-flops as the reason for the labour stoppage.

Workers became outraged over the company’s last offer in late December, which they said included wage reductions by as much as 50 per cent for some jobs, and the elimination of pensions, benefits and holidays.

Jeremy Beyea, who took a break from the picket line to join the rally, said the workers’ resolve is strong.

“There is no going back now,” Beyea said. “We’re digging in, here for the long haul.”

Beyea said the community has supported those locked out with food, drink and clothing. His family has also provided support, both moral and financial. But some of his co-workers are struggling.

“Some have lost their homes already and some relationships have already broken down,” Beyea said. “It’s been tough.”

The anti-government and anticorporate sentiment was palpable throughout the park, many waving signs that read, “Harper: stop corporate greed.” Bob Scott, union chair in the negotiations with Electro-Motive, said the union will hold a hard line.

Continue reading here.

Gingrich breaks Republican race wide open

The Toronto Star:

Charleston, S.C. —Sealing a comeback few thought possible even a week ago, Newt Gingrich broke the Republican presidential race wide open in South Carolina Saturday with a crushing double-digit victory over Mitt Romney.

Riding on sheer fiery charisma, the former house speaker turned American voter volatility into an improbable landslide against Romney’s well-oiled electoral machine, claiming a resounding 40 per cent of the vote.

Romney ended the night with a dismal 28 per cent — a collapse that left the moderate former Massachusetts governor’s campaign reeling as the primary race shifts to next-up Florida.

The outcome turned conventional wisdom on its ear, stripping Romney of his front-runner status.

And it turned a sprint into what now is likely to be a marathon — many weeks, months even, before a single candidate can secure enough delegates to become the Republican standard-bearer against U.S. President Barack Obama in November.

Continue reading here.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Chris Hedges: Fighting corporate rape of US

American journalist and Pulitzer winner Chris Hedges told RT the United States has developed a new form of corporate totalitarianism.

PIPA/SOPA Stopped, for now...

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has changed his mind on voting on the Protect IP Act, after 122 congressmen spoke out against the bill and a very successful online protest earlier this week. But Senator Chuck Schumer also took to twitter to tell opponents that Congress is in fact paying attention to its constituents. Its proof that the protest by thousands of websites on January 18th successfully made their point: that Protect IP and SOPA are not the answers to concerns about people stealing music and movies.

Ron Paul's false founding narrative

Robert Parry, Investigative Journalist / Founder-Constortium News joins Thom Hartmann. Ron Paul thinks our nation's founders wanted a weak central government...surely he must be wrong, right? Our guest will tell us what the constitutional framers really intended all those years ago - and what it means for us today with things like Obamacare.

Thousands march in Syrian cities

Thousands of people have held anti-government protests in Syria, chanting for the downfall of the government. At least 12 people were killed by security forces across the country, activists said. The reported violence comes two days before an Arab League meeting in Cairo to decide the future of its observer mission in Syria. Opposition and human rights group say the mission is a failure and want the case referred to the UN. Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr reports.

Soul singer Etta James dies in California

Etta James, a pioneering US blues and soul singer who became a music legend with hits like "At Last" and "Tell Mama", has died at the age of 73 from cancer. She would have turned 74 on Wednesday. Al Jazeera's Tom Ackerman reports.

Friday, January 20, 2012

US shuts down MegaUpload, founders arrested

The US government has shut down one of the world's most popular file-sharing websites for allegedly violating piracy laws, as police arrested MegaUpload.com's co-founders and another staff member in New Zealand. The suspects are accused of engaging in a scheme that cost copyright holders more than $500mn in lost revenue and of generating over $175m in proceeds from subscriptions and advertising, Al Jazeera's Matt Moore reports.

Toronto is bigger than its mayor

The Grid:

A new coalition of councillors rewrote the budget over the mayor's objections. It could represent a new era of democracy at City Hall.

It all seems kind of inevitable, now that it’s done: How city council took control of the budget presented by Rob Ford and his budget chief Mike Del Grande yesterday and rewrote it, restoring close to $20 million worth of cuts to services that had provoked the rage of Torontonians.

Politically, it represented a thundering defeat for the mayor (despite his insistence that he carried the day)—a vote of non-confidence in his government, really—and a recalibration of the governing math at City Hall. Policy-wise, it represented a shift in the momentum, a slowing down of the childish, intentional crapification of the city, hinting perhaps at a deliberate turn towards city building. On the process front, it represented a victory for democracy, the culmination of a months-long protest effort by citizens to get the message through the uncomprehending skulls of Team Ford that the people of Toronto considered some—in fact most—services provided by the government to be sacrosanct, and that the mayor did not have a mandate (as another poll overwhelmingly demonstrated yesterday) to cut services, since he had explicitly campaigned on a guarantee he would not cut services.

Continue reading here.

Canadians, nature vs. Enbridge pipeline

Day 4 of the National Energy Board's Joint Review Panel Hearings for the proposed Enbridge northern gateway pipeline project take place in Smithers, BC where a standing room only crowd hears oral evidence from the Wet'suwet'en First Nation and Stikine MLA Doug Donaldson.
*Music: Broken Social Scene & Blockhead

Scott Olsen: Casualty of the Occupation

Scott Olsen in a neck brace after being shot.

Mark Binelli, Rolling Stone:

A little more than six weeks after being shot in the head, Scott Olsen boarded a BART train and rode it across San Francisco Bay to Oakland. Olsen can't say for sure who shot him, or what with, but all evidence suggests it was probably a tear-gas canister fired by riot police as they cleared out the Occupy Oakland encampment last October.

The projectile that struck Olsen fractured his skull and left him in critical condition. More crucially for the narrative, Olsen turned out to be a 24-year-old ex-Marine who'd survived two tours of duty in Iraq. For a movement supposedly without leaders, this sort of compelling personal story was enough to make him an overnight icon, the perfect almost-martyr. Though he couldn't even speak for days, a shaky video of other protesters carrying him to safety got endless replays.

Continue reading here.

Foreign companies treatment of Canadian workers

Rio Tinto and Caterpillar Electro Motive are newly minted Canadian corporate citizens who have locked their workers out to freeze and starve. These corporate muggers were allowed into Canada and encouraged in their anti Canadianism by the Harper Junta. It's going to be a cold winter and a hot summer in Canada...

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Egyptian activists in information war

Egyptian activists say they are fighting an information war with the country's military rulers. They say state media has not been reporting truthfully about what they call the army's brutal handling of protests. To counter the official narrative, a grassroots campaign called Kazeboon, or Liars, has now been launched. By setting up screenings in streets and squares across Egypt, activists say they want their message to be heard in every home. Al Jazeera's Rawya Rageh reports from Cairo.

Warning: You may find some of the images in the report disturbing

The Occupy movement is mutating

Ben Manski, Democracy Advocate & Ben Zucker, participant-Occupy DC tenter join Thom Hartmann. The "Occupy" movement is mutating - it's no longer just parks and tents. The Occupy Wall Street movement - the granddaddy of them all - turned 4-months old Tuesday - and celebrated by occupying Congress. Over a thousand people swarmed Capitol Hill yesterday as part of a "day of action against a corrupt political institution" Peaceful patriots swung by the offices of Members of Congress - and demonstrated outside on the Capitol grounds. Later in the evening - roughly 1,500 patriots marched to the Supreme Court building to demonstrate against corporate personhood and the Citizens United ruling. And then the crowd marched to the White House to protest the new indefinite detention law the President signed.

1 million sign Scott Walker recall petition

Opponents of Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker have submitted more than a million signatures seeking his recall in a statewide vote. The million-plus signatures amount to nearly double the required number of 540,000 and may mark the largest recall effort in U.S. history. Walker is being challenged for pushing through a controversial law ending collective bargaining rights for most public workers. "Most people do not realize that those one million signatures represent almost a half of the electorate in Wisconsin," says John Nichols of The Nation magazine. "[Walker] will be forced to face a new election because he adopted the austerity measure of the Republican leadership of Washington and try to balance budgets on the back of public employees, tried to destroy their unions, try to cut school funding, and succeeded in cutting funding, and we are going to have a referendum on the most fundamental of economic issues."

Obama rejects Canada pipeline plan

The White House has rejected a proposal to extend a multi-billion dollar pipeline to bring Canadian oil to US refineries. Stephen Harper, Canada's prime minister, says he is profoundly disappointed by the decision. However, environmentalists had argued it will cause major problems for several states and labour unions say the project would create thousands of jobs. Al Jazeera's Rosiland Jordan reports from Washington.

New Hampshire: weaken domestic assault laws?

The Huffington Post:

The bill would prevent law enforcement from being able to immediately arrest an abuser who has assaulted his partner unless the officer has actually witnessed the crime take place. Under current law, the police can arrest an abuser based on probable cause.

Continue reading here.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Obama grows a pair, rejects Keystone pipeline

The Huffington Post:

Washington - The State Department on Wednesday recommended that President Obama deny a permit for the Keystone XL, arguing the pipeline does not serve the national interest.

"The President concurred with the Department's recommendation, which was predicated on the fact that the Department does not have sufficient time to obtain the information necessary to assess whether the project, in its current state, is in the national interest," the State Department wrote in a statement to the media on Wednesday afternoon.

Author and environmentalist Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org who spearheaded the movement against the pipeline, reacted to the news in a statement on Wednesday afternoon.

Assuming that what we're hearing is true, this isn't just the right call, it's the brave call. The knock on Barack Obama from many quarters has been that he's too conciliatory. But here, in the face of a naked political threat from Big Oil to exact 'huge political consequences,' he's stood up strong. This is a victory for Americans who testified in record numbers, and who demanded that science get the hearing usually reserved for big money.

We're well aware that the fossil fuel lobby won't give up easily. They have control of Congress. But as the year goes on, we'll try to break some of that hammerlock, both so that environmental review can go forward, and so that we can stop wasting taxpayer money on subsidies and handouts to the industry. The action starts mid-day Tuesday on Capitol Hill, when 500 referees will blow the whistle on Big Oil's attempts to corrupt the Congress.

Continue reading here.

1 million signatures filed for Walker recall

Petitions to recall Gov. Scott Walker are delivered Tuesday to the Government Accountability Board headquarters in Madison. Recall supporters filed about twice as many signatures as they needed. Republicans, meantime, are mobilizing thousands of people to look for flawed signatures.

The Journal Sentinel:

Madison - Democrats seeking to recall Gov. Scott Walker filed more than a million signatures Tuesday, virtually guaranteeing a historic recall election against him later this year.

It would mark the first gubernatorial recall election in Wisconsin history and only the third one in U.S. history. Organizers Tuesday also handed in 845,000 recall signatures against Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, as well as recall petitions against four GOP state senators, including Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau.

The sheer number of signatures being filed against Walker - nearly as many as the total votes cast for the governor in November 2010 and about twice as many as those needed to trigger a recall election - ensure the election will be held, said officials with the state Democratic Party and United Wisconsin, the group that launched the Walker recall.

Democrats said they removed an undisclosed number of signatures that were duplicates, illegible or seemingly fake. They acknowledged other problem signatures likely will still turn up, but they expect the effort to hold up easily.

The filing marks a milestone following Walker's controversial legislation last year ending most union bargaining for most public workers. However, Democrats have huge logistical hurdles: There is no candidate yet for them to rally around, and Walker has been able to raise unlimited funds from supporters across the country since the recall effort began.

The governor was scheduled to have a New York City fundraiser Tuesday afternoon hosted by Maurice Greenberg, the founder of troubled financial services corporation American International Group. Walker said through a spokeswoman he was too busy for interviews - although he made time for supportive national and local talk show hosts.

Continue reading here.

Romanian health care reform debate continues

In Romania, the government has reinstated a popular health official whose resignation sparked a wave of anti-austerity protests. Raed Arafat had quit over a controversial privatisation law. Nick Spicer spoke to him in the Romanian capital, Bucharest.

Chris Hedges sues Obama: indefinite detention

Democracy Now!:

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges has filed suit against President Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to challenge the legality of the National Defense Authorization Act, which includes controversial provisions authorizing the military to jail anyone it considers a terrorism suspect anywhere in the world, without charge or trial. Sections of the bill are written so broadly that critics say they could encompass journalists who report on terror-related issues, such as Hedges, for supporting enemy forces. "It’s clearly unconstitutional," Hedges says of the bill. "It is a huge and egregious assault against our democracy. It overturns over 200 years of law, which has kept the military out of domestic policing." We speak with Hedges, now a senior fellow at the Nation Institute and former New York Times foreign correspondent who was part of a team of reporters that was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for the paper’s coverage of global terrorism. We are also joined by Hedges’ attorney Carl Mayer, who filed the litigation on his behalf in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Council reverses cuts, passes anti-Ford budget

The crowd in the gallery "applauds" with wiggling fingers as Toronto City Council begins debate on a motion put forward by Councillor Josh Colle to take to 15 million of the city's year-end surplus to prevent some cuts to transit and social programs.

The Toronto Star:

Mayor Rob Ford’s drive for significant budget cuts was solidly rebuffed Tuesday by a city council that put back about $19 million to fund previously threatened pools, arenas, transit service and child care centres.

The result was hailed by Ford opponents as a victory for the people, who came out in droves to say they wanted municipal services retained.

Left-wingers opposed to Ford’s budget-slashing agenda were pleased with the outcome, which saw many proposed cuts defeated by a vote of 23-21.

“Torontonians won this,” said Councillor Joe Mihevc. “He (Ford) lost every single vote today that was put on the table, save one around contracting out janitors,”

“So there’s no way you can say that he saved the day, that he won the day. He frankly lost the day quite miserably. They were working it all weekend, they were working it weeks beforehand, and they weren’t able to pull it off at the end.”

“The majority of councillors at the end listened to their constituents, their bosses, who were saying it’s intolerable to hurt the quality of life of Torontonians.”

The audience in the council chambers burst into applause when the motion by Councillor Josh Colle was passed to take $15 million of the 2011 year-end surplus and plunk it into restoring services.

The money will increase youth programming in priority centres; keep arenas open weekdays; save pools and homeless shelters threatened with closure; reverse planned cuts to transit service; and continue special mechanical leaf pickup in parts of Etobicoke and Scarborough.

Continue reading here.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Bob Rae and the Liberal identity crisis

Karl Nerenberg, Parliament Hill correspondent, Rabble:

The Liberals are the party that took health and social transfers to the provinces to their lowest level in half a century.

They are the party that, once the economy started to grow, decided that a high priority was to cut corporate taxes. Of the $120 billion in federal revenue redirected to corporate profits through federal corporate income tax cuts since 2000, $100 billion are the responsibility of the Liberals!

The Liberals of the 1990s wouldn't consider throwing the beleaguered Rae NDP government a lifeline, even though they knew that in the event of a national unity crisis they could count on the Ontario Premier's eloquence, bilingualism and unwavering commitment to Canada. Instead, Liberal insiders of that time mocked Bob Rae for having "cleaning ladies" in his cabinet

Continue reading here.

Striking Greeks bring transport to a halt

Striking Greek workers have brought the Athens metro to a standstill and kept ferries docked in protest against austerity measures, as the country's lenders visited the capital to try to avert a debt default.Al Jazeera's Andrew Simmons reports from Athens.

Councillors of all stripes collaborate to stop cuts

The Toronto Star:

A loose-knit coalition of councillors of all political stripes will start this week’s big budget battle trying to halt many of Mayor Rob Ford’s most contentious cuts.

Left, centre and some right-wing councillors worked together furiously in recent days in cut-specific groups — those trying to head off the imminent closing of homeless shelters, for example — through shared online documents, BlackBerry messages and meetings in and out of City Hall.

Kristyn Wong-Tam (Ward 27, Toronto Centre Rosedale) said the “left and centre came together and decided council should lead the city, not the mayor ... Even right-wing councillors are rethinking some of the extreme cuts they know in their hearts are not best for the city.”

Wong-Tam was cautiously optimistic most of the motions would garner the necessary 23 votes to pass, even as Ford’s staff stalked councillors’ offices on the second floor of City Hall, trying desperately to ensure they don’t.

The proposed operating budget passed by Ford’s executive last week would, for the first time since amalgamation, cut Toronto’s gross spending through a mix of belt-tightening, almost 1,200 layoffs and cuts to pools, homeless shelters, TTC routes, daycares, zoos and more.

Continue reading here.

Wikipedia, Reddit protest Stop Online Piracy Act

Democracy Now!:

Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia and sixth most visited site in the world, will join websites like the content aggregator Reddit to "go dark" on Wednesday in opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and its companion bill, the Protect IP Act (PIPA), which are currently being debated in Congress. "What these bills propose are new powers for the government and also for private actors to create, effectively, blacklists of sites that allegedly are engaging in some form of online infringement and then force service providers to block access to those sites," says Corynne McSherry, intellectual property director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "What we would have is a situation where the government and private actors could censor the net." Chief technology officials in the Obama administration have expressed concern about any "legislation that...undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet." But the bills’ main backers—Hollywood movie studios and music publishers—want to stop the theft of their creative content, and the bills have widespread bipartisan support. A vote on SOPA is on hold in the House now, as the Senate is still scheduled vote on PIPA next Tuesday.

Canadian premiers reject Flaherty's health plan


Canadian premiers have unanimously rejected Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's take-it-or-leave-it plans for health transfer payments to the provinces, B.C. Premier Christy Clark said Monday.

Continue reading here.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Martin Luther King you don't see on TV

Fair: Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting:

But after passage of civil rights acts in 1964 and 1965, King began challenging the nation's fundamental priorities. He maintained that civil rights laws were empty without "human rights" — including economic rights. For people too poor to eat at a restaurant or afford a decent home, King said, anti-discrimination laws were hollow.

Noting that a majority of Americans below the poverty line were white, King developed a class perspective. He decried the huge income gaps between rich and poor, and called for "radical changes in the structure of our society" to redistribute wealth and power.

"True compassion," King declared, "is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring."

In his last months, King was organizing the most militant project of his life: the Poor People's Campaign. He crisscrossed the country to assemble "a multiracial army of the poor" that would descend on Washington — engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience at the Capitol, if need be — until Congress enacted a poor people's bill of rights. Reader's Digest warned of an "insurrection."

King's economic bill of rights called for massive government jobs programs to rebuild America's cities. He saw a crying need to confront a Congress that had demonstrated its "hostility to the poor" — appropriating "military funds with alacrity and generosity," but providing "poverty funds with miserliness."

Continue reading here.

King's legacy: workers' rights

The Concord Monitor:

At a time when workers are struggling to find decent jobs and local legislators are debating whether to strip public sector workers of their rights to form unions, we would do well to consider that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his life standing up for better jobs and workers' rights.

Continue reading here.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his own words

Democracy Now!:

Today is the federal holiday that honors Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was born January 15th, 1929. He was assassinated April 4, 1968, at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. He was just 39 years old. While Dr. King is primarily remembered as a civil rights leader, he also championed the cause of the poor and organized the Poor People’s Campaign to address issues of economic justice. Dr. King was also a fierce critic of U.S. foreign policy and the Vietnam War. We play his “Beyond Vietnam” speech, which he delivered at New York Citys’s Riverside Church on April 4, 1967, as well as his last speech, “I Have Been to the Mountain Top,” that he gave on April 3, 1968, the night before he was assassinated.

How fares the dream?

Paul Krugman, Opinion, The New York Times:

King — who was campaigning for higher wages when he was assassinated — would surely have considered soaring inequality an evil to be opposed. [And today] King would see a nation that judges people by the size of their paychecks.

Continue reading here.