Saturday, March 31, 2012

Underground park looks to provide NYC relief

New York City is home to one of the most iconic skylines in the world, but in an area as densely populated as Manhattan, finding space away from the fast-paced metropolis is becoming increasingly difficult. One project is exploring an innovative solution - an underground park in the abandoned Delancy Street subway station. The proposed 60,000 square foot public park, based on a pioneering light technology by architects James Ramsey and Dan Barasch, must first gain the approval of more than a dozen city and state planning authorities before it can be implemented. Al Jazeera's Cath Turner reports from New York.

Tear gas, water cannons on Palestinian protestors

At least one person is reported killed as Israeli police use tear gas and water cannons against Palestinian protesters, marking Land Day. They are remembering the death of six Arabs killed by police in demonstrations against a land grab by Israel in 1976. RT's Paula Slier reports from the scene.

Two-Party Dictatorship: US choosing lesser evil?

Republican candidates continue to battle it out in the primaries across the country in the hopes of challenging Democratic President Obama for the top job. But recent gallop polls suggest American's are not satisfied with having only two choices with around 40 percent considering themselves independents. And RT's Gayane Chichakyan reports, most US citizens believe the bi-partisan system is simply outdated.

Poland to investigate CIA renditions

Poland's Prime Minister vows to find out the truth behind claims that the country was inolved in secret CIA interrogations of al-Qaeda suspects.

George Galloway's victory speech

Bradford 30th March 2012
George Galloway's victory speech

Friday, March 30, 2012

The failure of Reagan and Thatcher

Zombie Reagan and Zombie Thatcher are on the hunt - biting into the wallets of the middle-class. How do we protect ourselves from these money-hungry monsters?

Violence flares during Spain general strike

Spanish workers angry at a labour reform the government calls an "unstoppable" necessity staged a general strike on Thursday, bringing factories and ports to a standstill and igniting flashes of violence on the streets. Tens of thousands of protesters packed a square in central Madrid to vent their anger at the labour reforms and deep spending cuts, while in Barcelona, police fired rubber bullets to disperse a crowd that had set bins ablaze on the sidelines of a demonstration. Thursday's strike was called by trade unions protesting against labour reforms and spending cuts which the conservative government says are needed to save the economy, and has resulted in some mild clashes and detentions of at least 58 people so far. Al Jazeera's Barnaby Phillips reports from Madrid.

iPad factory workers' grievances detailed

The Huffington Post:

The results of an audit of three Foxconn factories that manufacture Apple products has turned up "serious and pressing" violations of Chinese labor laws, according to a report by the Fair Labor Association, a non-profit commissioned by Apple to investigate Foxconn's facilities.

A team of five to seven inspectors from the FLA visited three different Foxconn factories -- two in Shenzhen, one in Chengdu -- and spent up to five days at each conducting hundreds of interviews with workers and managers in an attempt to understand what labor problems existed at the manufacturing facilities of China's largest employer.

According to the FLA's 13 page report, the non-profit "observed at least 50 issues related to the FLA Code and Chinese labor law, including in the following areas: health and safety, worker integration and communication, and wages and working hours."

Continue reading here.

Interview with Trayvon Martin family attorney

Democracy Now!:

Over a month after 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot dead in Sanford, Florida, his gunman George Zimmerman remains a free man despite growing questions over Zimmerman’s claim that he acted in self-defense. A new witness has spoken out saying Zimmerman did not show any signs of injures after he shot Martin, while another has reportedly alleged police pressured him to change his testimony to match Zimmerman’s story. Meanwhile Zimmerman’s family has launched a public effort to defend him, while a white supremacist has apparently hacked into Trayvon Martin’s email and Facebook accounts in an effort to tarnish his image. We speak to Natalie Jackson, an attorney for Trayvon Martin’s family. "Clearly, they are trying to protect their family member," Jackson says of interviews Zimmerman’s relatives have given to the media. "I guess they have a right to do that, but the problem is, they do not have a right to destroy Trayvon’s memory in the process."

George Galloway wins shocking by-election

Respect Party candidate George Galloway gestures from an open top bus outside his campaign office in Bradford, northern England, March 30, 2012. Galloway, an anti-war campaigner in the small, left-wing Respect party, beat Labour's Imran Hussain with more than 18,341 votes in a byelection.

Agence France-Presse:

Bradford - Britain's mainstream parties were reeling Friday after firebrand George Galloway, a fierce critic of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, won a sensational return to parliament.

The Scottish politician becomes his Respect party's only lawmaker after crushing his former party, Labour, in Thursday's by-election in the ethnically mixed city of Bradford in northern England.

Speaking ahead of a celebratory open-top bus tour around the constituency on Friday, Galloway dubbed his victory a "Bradford Spring," akin to the popular uprisings that ousted regimes in Egypt and Tunisia.

"This is the most sensational victory in British by-election history," he said, although the celebrations were marred when a protester threw eggs at his bus before it set off.

Official figures show Galloway secured more than half of the votes cast, on a better-than-expected turnout of just over 50 per cent. He took more than 10,000 more votes than Labour candidate Imran Hussain.

Nicknamed "Gorgeous George," Galloway gained international notoriety in 2005 when he appeared in the U.S. Senate, while in Britain he famously starred on "Celebrity Big Brother," at one point pretending to be a cat lapping up milk.

"This is a rejection of the mainstream parties," he told reporters after his victory. "It was people saying they want political leaders they can believe in, who say what they mean, do what they say and don't lie to people."

Continue reading here.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Cutting off poachers through rhino de-horning

Every day two rhinoceros are killed for their horrns by poachers in South Africa. The animal's iconic keratin-based horn is thought to have medicinal benefits in certain parts of Asia, making them highly valuable commodities on the black market. With 80 dead rhinos already found this year, park rangers in South Africa are taking drastic measures, including sawing off the horn itself in hopes of keeping the heavyweight animal alive. Al Jazeera's Haru Mutasa reports from Mpumalanga.

How Ontario’s budget hurts its poorest citizens

The Globe and Mail:

It’s one short line in the Ontario 2012 Budget that sounds fairly innocent: “The government is not proposing any increases to social assistance rates at this time.” While the media has focused on wage freezes and collective bargaining in the public sector, I have not seen much concern for those who rely on social assistance. Perhaps most people don’t care.

Social assistance rates are not extravagant – they are designed to meet the most basic needs for survival. A single individual in Ontario may receive $599 per month in assistance; a single parent with one child may receive $1,023 per month.

Just like wage freezes, welfare freezes result in a real reduction in living standards if the inflation rate is positive. Those experiencing wage freezes will need to cut back on luxury items. Unlike public sector wage freezes, those experiencing welfare freezes will need to cut back on basics like food.

Think of a basic $100 grocery list – this should buy a week’s worth of basic groceries. This past year, food prices increased by 3.7 per cent, so we might expect that same bag of groceries to cost $103.70 a year from now. But with the welfare freeze, you won’t have an extra $4, so you have to cut something – perhaps eat less meat and more macaroni, or simply skip one more meal a week.

Continue reading here.

Spain strikes over austerity measures

Trade unions in Spain have called a general strike fo the first since 2010. The strike is in part, to protest reforms to Spain's labour laws which will make it easier for companies to fire workers. Al Jazeera's Barnaby Phillips reports.

"Pakistan on the Brink"

Democracy Now!:

Top U.S. and Pakistani military officials meet today in Islamabad for the first high-level talks since NATO air strikes killed two dozen Pakistani soldiers last November. The meeting comes one day after President Obama met with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. Relations between the two countries have soured over the clandestine U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden, an increase in drone attacks, the killing of two Pakistanis by CIA contractor Raymond Davis, and the November attack. We speak with Ahmed Rashid, a veteran Pakistani journalist based in Lahore, about his new book "Pakistan on the Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan, and Afghanistan."

CEO pay rises in 2011, workers struggle for jobs

USA Today:

As companies get healthier, employees' average pay rises and stock prices soar, 2011 brought a year of slight raises for CEOs. While another year of raises comes off one of the biggest increases ever for executive pay in 2010, it wasn't the bonanza CEOs have seen in prior years. Meanwhile, unemployment remains high for most workers.

The annual reporting season for executive pay is in high gear. So far, the tally shows the median CEO pay in 2011 rose 2% to $9.6 million, based on 138 Standard & Poor's 500 companies that have reported CEO pay this year and that had the same CEO for all of 2010 and 2011, according to the USA TODAY analysis of data from GMI Ratings on proxies that have already been filed.

A 2% raise in 2011 might not seem like much, given some of the double-digit raises CEOs have gotten in years past and given that S&P 500 corporate profit rose 15% in 2011. But this latest raise in CEO pay comes just one year after the captains of American business saw their haul climb back toward pre-recession levels thanks to one of their biggest increases in pay in years.

Meanwhile, CEO pay continues to escalate even as companies only slowly add to their payrolls. Despite some hiring growth, the unemployment rate remains stubbornly high at 8.3% in February. Employees are starting to see some wage growth, too. Average weekly earnings for all employees rose 2.7% in 2011, based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Real average weekly earnings, which are adjusted for inflation, though, have fallen 1.2% from the October 2010 peak through February, the latest data available.

Continue reading here.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Inside Story Israel: A 'democratic' violator of rights?

Israel has cut ties with the UN Human Rights Council after its settlement policy was condemned. How can it violate the human rights of Palestinians and claim to be the only democracy in the region? Guests: Jessica Montell, Akiva Eldar, Mark Ellis.

Fault Lines: Occupy WS: Surviving the winter

Fault Lines follows key Occupy organisers through the winter as they continue to build a movement even after violent evictions across the country.

Canadian doctors: legalize, regulate, tax pot


Criminalizing the use of marijuana and other tough on crime approaches haven't worked, say public health doctors from across Canada who propose taxation and regulation instead.

The chief medical health officers in British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan wrote a paper reviewing the evidence on Canada's current illicit drug policies in Wednesday's issue of the journal Open Medicine.

The paper comes as the federal government is set to table its budget amid funding questions for its new anti-crime legislation, which includes mandatory minimum sentences for minor drug offences.

The authors, who were giving their personal opinions, said governments need to consider other approaches that include public health objectives that minimize health and social harms, such as:

• Taxing marijuana as alcohol and tobacco are.

• Licensing cannabis dispensaries and issuing prescriptions for medical marijuana.

• Implementing age limits and other sales restrictions like those used to reduce alcohol use.

• Regulating and controlling the availability of potent substances to reduce the illegal market.

"We're even calling for taxation and regulation of marijuana under a public health framework as a strategy not only to reduce the availability of marijuana to young people, but to get away from all of the public health and organized crime concerns related to all of the gang violence," said Wood.

Continue reading here.

Ex-insurance executive: medicare is the answer

Democracy Now!:

As the Supreme Court examines whether Americans can be penalized if they lack medical coverage, we’re joined by health industry whistleblower, Wendell Potter. A former spokesperson for CIGNA and Humana Insurance, Potter is the author of "Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans." "I, myself, am somewhat agnostic and detached from the outcome of what the justices decide," Potter says. "We eventually have to get the for-profit insurance companies out of providing coverage, and need to move toward a system or systems like in the other developed countries, that don’t permit for-profit companies to run their healthcare systems."

Occupy movement's impact on Wall Street

At this point the Mainstream Media has forgotten all about and have completely given up on covering anything having to do with the Occupy movement. But it turns out Wall Street itself, hasn't forgotten. A new study done by a communications firm called Makovsky took a survey of communications executives at Wall Street firms, and 53% said that Occupy Wall Street had a real impact on their businesses. And 71% expect the movement to continue beyond the Presidential election.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Trayvon Martin's death raises race questions

We examine what many in the US view as institutionalised racism following the killing of Trayvon Martin.

Inside Story - Why do Americans love their guns?

The US has more legally-held guns per person than in any other developed nation but thousands are shot and killed every year. So how did guns become embedded in American culture? Guests: David Burnett, Elliot Fineman, Hubert Williams.

Canadian court decriminalizes sex work

Decision will legalize brothels, allow prostites to work legally and build relationships with police to report dangerous clients.

Debate: does law do enough to fix health crisis?

Democracy Now!:

As the Supreme Court weighs whether the Affordable Care Act goes too far, we host a debate on whether the law goes far enough. The case is reviving the heated tensions that surrounded the healthcare reform law in the debate leading up to its passage two years ago. Although support for the measure is often equated with backing the expansion of health coverage for all Americans, there are some who maintain it didn’t go far enough in helping the uninsured. We speak to Dr. Stephanie Woolhandler, co-founder of Physicians for a National Health Program, and Dr. John McDonough, who played a key role in shaping Mitt Romney’s healthcare reform law in Massachusetts as well as the Affordable Care Act. The new healthcare law is "going to leave tens of millions of Americans woefully underinsured, with gaps in their coverage like copayments and deductibles, so they’ll still be bankrupted by illness. And it’s not going to control cost," Woolhandler argues. "So we still need single-payer national health insurance regardless of what happens at the Supreme Court." But McDonough notes that "the moment when there would be sufficient political will for the Congress and the president to come together and pass meaningful, near-comprehensive reform, that might take another 20 years."

Carter leaves Church over treatment of women

After more than 60 years together, Jimmy Carter has announced himself at odds with the Southern Baptist Church -- and he's decided it's time they go their separate ways. Via Feministing, the former president called the decision "unavoidable" after church leaders prohibited women from being ordained and insisted women be "subservient to their husbands." Said Carter in an essay in The Age:

At its most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities.

And, later:

The truth is that male religious leaders have had -- and still have -- an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world.

After watching everyone from philandering politicians to Iran's president taking a sudden look heavenwards when the roof starts to come down on them, it's refreshing to see Carter calling out the role of religion in the mistreatment of women.

The question for Carter -- and for others who find themselves at odds with leadership -- is, when a group you're deeply involved in starts to move away from your own core beliefs, do you stay and try to change from within or, at some point, do you have to look for the exit? Carter did give the former a shot -- in recent years publicly criticizing and distancing himself from church leadership, while staying involved with his church. Now, he's seeing if absence might do what presence did not.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Inside Syria - Will Syria become a guerrilla war?

We discuss whether the opposition's guerrilla strategy is more effective than organised military tactics. Guests: Joseph Holliday; Yaser Tabbara; and Nicholas Noe.

Israel at forefront of testing medical marijuana

Israel's health ministry says the country now has the world's highest per capita rate of medical marijuana use.

Thousands in US turn out for 'Reason Rally'

Thousands of atheists, secularists and humanists have turned out in the US capital to celebrate their rejection of the idea of God and to claim a bigger place in public life. Protesters in the "Reason Rally" on Saturday demonstrated against what they saw as the imposition of religion in American life and politics. Al Jazeera's John Terrett reports from Washington.

UK Co-operatives prosper in recession

Europe's financial troubles have raised many questions about the economic systems which contributed to the crisis. As part of Al Jazeera's series on co-operatives, Sonia Gallego reports on a grassroots movement in the north of England, that provides an alternative. Its goal: to provide fairness for both buyer and supplier, since it opened 15 years ago, the store has turned out profits and fair business practices as well.

Debate on boycotting Israel

Democracy Now!:

The Park Slope Food Coop, one of the oldest and largest in the country, is set to vote Tuesday on whether to hold a referendum on boycotting goods from Israel to protest the Israeli government’s policies toward Palestinians. We host a debate on the international advocacy effort called the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, or BDS for short, which is inspired by the international boycott movement against apartheid South Africa. "We believe this campaign is for the sake of both Palestinians and the Israelis, because it would help us liberate ourselves from the last segregation and occupation system in the world. And it would help liberate the Israelis from the last colonial settler system in modern history," says Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, a member of the Palestinian Parliament who supports the BDS movement. "The result of the way BDS is framed, on almost everyone I have talked to who feels attracted to it, is that the society, as well as the government, of Israel is wrong, and it must be attacked," says Rabbi Arthur Waskow, who is opposed to BDS. He is founder and director of the Shalom Center in Philadelphia. "That, even using methods that are not outright violence, is not a nonviolent approach." We also discuss the case of Hana Shalabi, the Palestinian hunger striker protesting the Israeli policy of administrative detention. She has been on hunger strike for 39 days. This past weekend, an Israeli military court rejected her appeal.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Peggy Nash has skills, personality, experience

The Toronto Star:

Peggy Nash says when New Democrats look at the field of leadership candidates they will discover she has the perfect combination of experience, qualifications and personality.

“I am that leader,” Nash told the NDP leadership convention Friday.

The 60-year-old Toronto MP, who has deep roots in the labour movement, said despite what the cynics say, the NDP’s time to form Canada’s social democratic government has come.

“Never underestimate the tenacity and determination of a woman leader,” said Nash, who was introduced by former NDP leader Alexa McDonough, who agreed that “for the first time our leader will have a realistic opportunity to serve as Canada’s first New Democrat prime minister.”

Nash, a former assistant to the president of the CAW, said she finds her strength when people say she can’t do something

“There were people who said a woman could never lead major collective bargaining in the auto industry and I did that. We went to the bargaining table and we won,” she told the convention.

Nash said the goal of the new leader, to be picked Saturday, is to broaden the party’s support.

“It is a big challenge. We have to broaden our base and consolidate our gain. To do this we have to use our strengths. These strengths are our values,” she said.

Obama calls Florida teen killing 'tragedy'

Barack Obama has called the killing of an unarmed African-American teenager in Florida a "tragedy". The US President said all people in the US have some soul searching to do. Al Jazeera's Rosiland Jordan reports from Washington.

NDP ties Conservatives in popular support

The Globe and Mail:

The New Democrats will begin their leadership convention on Friday with a remarkable wind filling their sails. For the first time in 25 years, the polling firm Environics has them in first place, tied with the Conservatives.

The survey by Environics Research Group provided to The Globe and Mail has the two parties at 30 per cent support among voters. That’s about the same percentage of the popular vote that the NDP earned in the May 2 general election. For the Conservatives, it represents a drop of 10 points.

The Conservatives are clearly paying a price for the robo-calls affair, plans to increase the qualifying age for Old Age Security, legislation that would give the government information on individual Internet accounts, and increased uncertainty over the costs of new fighter jets.

Environics is not the only pollster ever to have the NDP in first place since the fight over free trade. Last August, shortly after leader Jack Layton died, a Decima poll also had the NDP and Conservatives tied.

Continue reading here.

The dangers of reporting the 'war on terror'

We look at Obama's role in the continued imprisonment of a Yemeni journalist, the relationship between Yemen and the US and the issues behind it.

Canadians trust NDP to govern, poll finds

The Globe and Mail:

Less than a year after they voted to send the federal New Democrats to the benches of the Official Opposition, large numbers of Canadians say an NDP government would be good for the country.

A new poll released Friday by Nanos Research suggests that 49 per cent of Canadians agree or somewhat agree that Canada would be in good hands if the New Democrats were in office.

The number of respondents who said they felt positive about the NDP as a governing party was relatively consistent across all regions of Canada. Men and women agreed in approximately equal numbers. And, although people under the age of 29 were generally more willing than older people to embrace the notion of an NDP government, the opinions did not vary dramatically across the various age groups.

Continue reading here.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Why do 5 banks hold 52% of all banking assets?

Wallace Turbeville, with Demos & Former investment banker who spent 12 years at Goldman Sachs joins Thom Hartmann. Remember when our lawmakers promised they would end "too big to fail"? Well - they didn't. And now - too big to fail is even bigger. Here are the shocking numbers regarding Wall Street's wealth inequality.

Spanish co-op weathers financial storm

Spain is deep in debt, and its economic woes are causing misery for many. But the country is also home to to the world's largest worker co-operative, the Mondragon group, which employs more than 80,000 people across 256 companies and has expanded into 18 countries. The co-operative is owned by its workers, and power is based on the principle of one person, one vote. It is still flourishing half-a-century after critics said it would never survive and, for now, the system appears to be weathering the financial storm. Al Jazeera's Sonia Gallego reports from Mondragon.

Occupy activist: seizure, injuries in NYPD arrest

Democracy Now!:

Occupy Wall Street activist Cecily McMillan suffered a seizure when New York City police officers pulled her from the crowd and arrested her as hundreds attempted to re-occupy Zuccotti Park on Saturday, to mark sixth months since the launch of the movement. In her first interview since her arrest, McMillan says she has decided to speak out because of an outpouring of public support. "I have received so many emails, Twitter messages and phone calls. People are just horrified about what happened to me." McMillan has a black eye and her body is covered in bruises, at least one in the shape of a handprint. She says she was not allowed to contact an attorney while she was taken to the hospital and transferred to a jail cell along with some of the 72 other detained protesters. Facing charges of police assault and obstructing governmental administration, she was released Monday after a judge denied a request that her bail be set at $20,000. McMillan is northeast regional organizer for Young Democratic Socialists of America, and a graduate student at the New School for Social Research. We’re also joined by Meghan Maurus, McMillan’s attorney and mass defense coordinator at the New York City chapter of the National Lawyers Guild.

$20 billion 'theft' from investors?

On February 9th of this year the DOJ, other federal agencies, and 49 state attorneys general announced the largest federal and state settlement agreement in history, a 25 billion dollar settlement that took on the big 5 banks for foreclosure fraud. But it wasn't exactly a good deal for American homeowners. New details about the settlement released only last week tell us where the banks could be getting the other 20 billion dollars, and let's just say it doesn't look good for investors. Reason Foundation's Anthony Randazzo explains.

A Life on Hold: The story of a teenage refugee

'A Life On Hold' brings alive the issues facing refugees in need of resettlement. In association with Marc Silver and featuring music by K'NAAN, the film is set in a refugee camp in Tunisia, a few kilometres from the border with Libya. Through the story of Omar, a 17 year old boy from Somalia, the film offers a powerful perspective from within the camp of the realities of displacement, the effects of war and the emotional waiting game that thousands of people are forced to play whilst awaiting resettlement to a safe country.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The for-profit prison system is immoral

In a slide show intended for investors, Corrections Corporation of America, the largest for-profit prison company, describes why this is a market that you'd want to sink your money into. A 74 billion dollar industry that at the moment is only 10% privatized. It's just another scary reminder that locking people up in this country, is making some people rich. Ana Kasparian of The Young Turks weighs in.

Thomas Mulcair and Israel

The non-partisan human rights organization Independent Jewish Voices doesn't want to see Mulcair as NDP leader, and rightfully so. Principled criticism of Israel is not anti-semitic, but rather a moral imperative.

Is this the NDP we want?

Is this the NDP we want? A party with a leader making spurious claims linking marijuana to mental illness, while omitting the fact that marijuana helps many people cope with mental illness, and opposing decriminalization? The footage of Thomas Mulcair is from March 18th, 2012, and the clip of Bob Rae is from January 15, 2012.

Dallas Federal Reserve: break up big banks

Business Insider:

It's hard not to think it's a big deal when a branch of the Federal Reserve system calls for the breakup of major American banks.

The bank has just released its annual report, and the title of the letter is: Choosing the Road to Prosperity Why We Must End Too Big to Fail—Now.

Here's the full letter from Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher, generally known as one of the most hawkish and conservative Fed Presidents

Continue reading here.

NSA chief denies spying on US citizens

A report in Wired has exposed the NSA's massive new complex they're building in Bluffdale, Utah. Yesterday, NSA chief General Keith Alexander had to face off with members of Congress for questioning, which lead him to say that the NSA does not have the ability to do that within the US. So, do we believe him? Raw Story's Stephen Webster discusses.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What's next for Occupy Wall Street?

Occupy Wall Street, six months on. What has the movement achieved and what needs to change?

Russian corruption 'out of control'

Valery Morozov, a successful Russian businessman has been granted political asylum in Britain after exposing an alleged corruption scandal involving officials and police in Russia. Hoping to build a hotel in time for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, he says he paid about $10.5m in bribes to keep the contract from a competitor with close ties to the government, contributing to an estimated $300bn in bribes paid by Russians every year, according to the anti-corruption organisation Transparency International. Al Jazeera's Charles Stratford reports from Moscow on the corruption that many Russians say is becoming a part of everyday life for them.

Fault Lines - History of an occupation

Fault Lines tells the definitive history of Occupy Wall Street from its early days through the movement's rapid spread up to the brutal crackdown by state authorities.

War Games: Israeli strike on Iran

According to a classified war simulation, if Israel were to strike Iran's nuclear facilities, it would lead to a wider regional war, which could draw in the US and leave hundreds of Americans dead. This is all according to officials familiar with the results of the two week war game called Internal Look, who spoke to the New York Times. It echoes the same warnings we've been hearing from intelligence and military officials but differs sharply from how Israeli officials see it. Should we be concerned that it's already gotten to this point in the discussion? NIAC's Jamal Abdi joins the show.

Inside NSA’s largest secret domestic spy center

Democracy Now!:

A new exposé in Wired Magazine reveals details about how the National Security Agency is quietly building the largest spy center in the country in Bluffdale, Utah, as part of a secret NSA surveillance program codenamed "Stellar Wind." We speak with investigative reporter James Bamford, who says the NSA has established listening posts throughout the nation to collect and sift through billions of email messages and phone calls, whether they originate within the country or overseas. The Utah spy center will contain near-bottomless databases to store all forms of communication collected by the agency. This includes the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails — parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases and other digital "pocket litter." "The NSA has constantly denied that they’re doing things, and then it turns out they are doing these things," Bamford says in response to NSA Director General Keith Alexander’s denial yesterday that U.S. citizens’ phone calls and emails are being intercepted. "A few years ago, President Bush said before camera that the United States is not eavesdropping on anybody without a warrant, and then it turns out that we had this exposure to all the warrantless eavesdropping in the New York Times article. And so, you have this constant denial and parsing of words."

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Picking a winner in the NDP leadership race

Duncan Cameron,

Whether it be in an interview given to the CBC's The Current, Sun News, Post News columnist Barbara Yaffe, Toronto Star feature writer Linda Diebel, or her neighbourhood paper, Peggy Nash gets consistently positive media coverage, not a thing the other candidates have be able to do as well. As the estimable critic John Doyle noted in his Globe column: "There's the air of a woman who has seen and heard plenty of male bluster but knows that bluster doesn't get the job done."

The NDP cannot expect to win a general election without securing a high percentage of support from women voters. The next party leader needs a high gender intelligence quotient: be able to understand and respect issues raised by women, and address the injustices handed out to women.

Electing a women leader is nothing new for the NDP. Electing a third woman as the federal leader, at time when the party is in its strongest position in its history, would send a strong message to those concerned with advancing substantive equality for Canadians that the party puts its beliefs on equality into practice, and will deliver on substantive equality issues for Canadians.

Many members want the party to pick an especially aggressive candidate, one well suited to take on Stephen Harper in the House of Commons. Satisfying as this may seem to NDP members justifiably appalled at where Conservatives are taking Canada, Canadians are not particularly interested in watching two political figures yell at each other in the House of Commons.

Elections are won, and leaders made, outside the House of Commons, through direct contact with people -- retail politics -- and indirect contact through the media. In both cases, the objective is to make connections, impact public opinion and mobilize citizens to vote, the way Jack Layton's NDP did in Quebec in the last election.

Peggy Nash is a francophile, someone who loves to speak French and is prepared to fight to see the language flourish all over Quebec, especially in Montréal, and wants Francophone communities (and French language immersion programs) to be secure across Canada.

The NDP will be well served by a leader who comes to Quebec to enlarge the dialogue with progressives from the women's movement, the labour movement, environmental and peace activists, and the student movement, which is fully engaged in a magnificent battle with the provincial Charest Liberals over the business takeover of universities.

Continue reading here.

Conservatives: Fradulent robocalls were 'mistakes'

Robocalls could have been "mistakes." People are jumping to conclusions, MP Dean Del Mastro says:

LRT means respect for the taxpayers

Karen Stintz, Toronto City Councillor and Toronto Transit Commission Chair, Opinion, The Toronto Sun:

Toronto - For the first time in 25 years Toronto’s transit network is being expanded.

The rate of investment from the Provincial and Federal levels of government has been remarkable. Currently under construction is a subway extension to York region, light-rapid transit on Eglinton Avenue and Finch Avenue and the replacement of the Scarborough RT. These investments will transform our city and begin to address the serious issues of congestion and accessibility without raising our taxes.

So why all the recent fuss?

Toronto relies on many forms of transit to successfully serve people: subways, light-rail, streetcars and buses. Mayor Ford would like to shift resources from light-rail technology expansion to subway expansion specifically on extending the Sheppard subway from Don Mills to the Scarborough Town Centre, a seven kilometre project which would cost at least $3 billion.

Although the Mayor promised this project to Scarborough he simply cannot deliver on that promise without a taxation formula to pay for the $2 billion shortfall. Public-private partnerships (P3) require the government to repay the private sector the money that it invested. If city council wants to extend the Sheppard subway, they must approve new taxes, either through property tax increases or by imposing a new tax.

Even the Mayor’s chosen point person on subway construction, Dr. Gordon Chong, recommends the city should raise taxes to pay for the extension of the subway to Scarborough Town Centre. His report, based on KPMG’s recommendations, summarizes the various taxes that city council could implement to raise money to pay for the Sheppard Subway extension. The taxes openly mentioned include re-instating the vehicle registration tax, a parking tax, a tax on the sale of alcohol and a property tax increase.

Other taxes, such an increase to the harmonized sales tax, would require approval from the Province.

Implementation of these new taxes would be required to build seven kilometres of subway but the Mayor has repeatedly stated that he will not support new taxes. This leaves city council with a choice to build 2.7 kilometres of subway or 13 kilometres of light-rapid transit. Light-rapid transit is a preferred transportation option for areas which require greater capacity and higher quality transit than bus service but do not have enough ridership for a subway to make economic sense.

Continue reading here.

Strategic Directions for Occupy Wall Street

Democracy Now!:

Famed sociologist Frances Fox Piven and labor organizer Stephen Lerner discuss how Occupy Wall Street could grow into a major political movement that draws millions into the streets. "I’m absolutely convinced that Occupy is the beginning of another massive protest movement," Fox Piven says. "Protest movements have a long life—10, 15 years—and they are what we have to rely on to take our country back." Fox Piven is professor of political science and sociology at The Graduate Center, City University of New York, and author of "Challenging Authority: How Ordinary People Change America." Lerner is a labor organizer who was the architect of the Justice for Janitors campaign and is on the executive board of the Service Employees International Union. He has been working with labor and community groups nationally on how to hold Wall Street accountable. "I think there’s never been a more exciting time in my 30 years of organizing to imagine building the kind of movement that can transform the country, that can really talk about redistributing wealth and power. And there’s never a better time to get involved," Lerner says. We are also joined by Guardian reporter Ryan Devereaux, who has been reporting on Occupy Wall Street extensively.

Toronto condo towers slums in the making?

Christopher Hume, Opinion, The Toronto Star:

As residential towers in Toronto grow ever taller, and living units ever smaller, the prospect of a new sort of slum tower looms ever larger.

There’s nothing new about highrise poverty, here or in almost any other city. Since the end of World War II, the idea of housing the poor in towers has been popular with planners, politicians and developers alike — everyone but the poor themselves.

Torontonians may not like to talk about it, but there are more highrise residential buildings here than any other city in North America except New York. Those constructed in the inner suburbs between the 1950s and the ’70s have largely failed to keep up with the times. They are the remnants of a dysfunctional form of urbanism based on flawed notions about how people inhabit space and interact with their surroundings.

Interestingly, the failure was one of planning. The idea that 80 to 90 percent of a site should be left as open space was clearly misguided. Though they are of little architectural merit, the important thing is that they have family-sized apartments.

Ironically enough, the empty space surrounding them will allow for these towers to be rehabilitated and revitalized.

By contrast, the tall, thin glass condo towers now popping up across the city tend to be much better planned; they sit on handsome low-rise podiums full of shops and restaurants. Some have squares, public art, parks and all kinds of amenities. The quality of the architecture has improved dramatically; a few condo towers are quite beautiful.

But so were the grand 19th-century mansions of Jarvis St.; that didn’t keep them from ending up as rooming houses half a century ago. Those that remain have since been cleaned up and reclaimed, but not before hitting rock bottom.

When it comes to condos, the critical factor is neither architecture nor planning, but price. To keep units affordable, developers have made them smaller and smaller; the result is tiny cell-like spaces that resemble a 21st-century monastery.

Continue reading here.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Nash says she can make a difference

The Hill Times:

NDP leadership candidate Peggy Nash says she would make a difference in Canada’s electoral system, economy, environment, foreign policy, social programs.

“I am the only candidate with the perfect combination of skills our party requires in its next leader.

“One distinguishing asset is my extensive background in community building and grassroots organizing. I have been uniting groups and individuals around important issues and campaigns all my life. I know how to bring people together, fight those standing in our way, and win.

“I bring the unique experience of a career based on negotiating the needs of private business and ensuring people prosper in our economy. This, along with the credentials I developed as Industry and Finance Critic, is an asset no other contender has.

“Of critical importance is the ability of our next leader to unite our caucus, team, and membership—I am the one who will do this most effectively. Our party has come too far to risk fractures or compromise who we are. Plus, my tenure as NDP president gave me unique perspective into how we need to improve.

“Lastly, the NDP deserves a leader who will move ideas like proportional representation from the platform into action so that we can inspire the 40 per cent of Canadians who don’t vote.”

Continue reading here.

Joblessness dominates French campaign

At 25 per cent, the high level of youth unemployment in France is a big problem - and it is playing prominently in the election campaign. All the main candidates are trying to convince voters that they have a plan to get young people into jobs. President Nicolas Sarkozy's solution is apprenticeships. But the opposition says that this plan will only sideline troubled teenagers. Al Jazeera's Jacky Rowland reports from the outskirts of Paris.

Russia crackdown: Activists call for legal reform

Hundreds of Russians have taken to the streets, in protest against Vladamir Putin's election victory. But Russian courts have been quick to punish those caught up in the protests. One organiser was jailed for ten days last week - fuelling anger over what Putin's critics say is a judicial system rife with corruption. Al Jazeera's Charles Stratford reports from the Russian capital, Moscow.

Police arrest 73 in Occupy Wall Street crackdown

Democracy Now!:

Michael Moore led hundreds of people from the Left Forum conference to Zuccotti Park on Saturday where hundreds had gathered to reoccupy the park to mark six months since the launch of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which began last September and launched protests around the world that gave voice to "the 99 percent." That night, New York City police officers cleared the park, making at least 73 arrests. Many people reported excessive use of force by officers; several cases were caught on camera. In one widely reported incident, a young woman suffered a seizure after she was pulled from the crowd and arrested. Witnesses say police initially ignored Cecily McMillan as she flopped about on the sidewalk with her hands zip-tied behind her back, but she was eventually taken away in an ambulance. For more, we talk to Guardian reporter Ryan Devereaux, who has been following the Occupy movement closely.

Stephen Harper explains his jail plan

Why build twelve jails and extend jail sentences when crime is at a 40-year low. Stephen Harper Explains His Jail Plan. And boy, is it a doozy.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Time to pull a Saigon & get out of Afghanistan?

Eli Clifton, Think Progress joins Thom Hartmann. The Taliban has ceased talks with US officials in Afghanistan. Should we accept this as the last straw and withdraw from the country?

'The Go-Nowhere Generation'?

According to a Pew Research Center three in ten young adults are living with their parents, the highest rates since the 1950's. According to the Census Bureau, the likelihood of 20 something's moving to another state has dropped over 40% since the 1980's. Some clearly point to the recession, the high levels of unemployment, and the housing crisis. A NYT's op-ed has dubbed this as the "Go-Nowhere Generation". Ana Kasparian, co-host of The Young Turks discusses.

What's next for the Occupy movement

It's been six months since the Occupy Movement set up camp in the United States. From New York and Washington, all the way to Oakland in California, the protest has shed light on issues from wealth inequality, to police brutality. RT's Kristine Frazao looks at the movement through the eyes of a man, who's been on the front lines since the very beginning.

Syrian opposition groups form new coalition

A number of different opposition groups have come together in Turkey's largest city to form a new political coalition against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The groups, meeting in Istanbul, said their yet unnamed coalition would act independently from the Syrian National Council (SNC), the main opposition coalition which was set up in August to challenge Assad's rule. The SNC has emerged as one of the main voices of the opposition, but is often criticised by activists inside Syria who say the mostly exiled leadership has little connection to protesters on the ground. The SNC was dealt a blow earlier this week when three prominent members resigned in frustration. Al Jazeera's James Bays has this report from Istanbul.

Calls for investigation into black teen's death

US civil Rights activists are calling on the federal government to investigate the death of black teenager in southeastern state of Florida. Trayvon Martin was shot in the chest last month, but the man who pulled the trigger was not arrested of because of Florida's unusual interpretation of what it means to act in self-defence. Al Jazeera's Rosiland Jordan explains.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Richard Branson sucks

Criticised: Richard Branson's Virgin Money has faced anger over its decision to hike borrowing rates for 20,000 credit card holders.

The Daily Mail:

Richard Branson's Virgin Money have hiked credit card interest rates by 50 per cent in a fresh blow for customers.

The rise comes after several mortgage lenders increased their rates to the fury of homeowners - despite a record low Bank of England rate.

Virgin Money, who recently bought Northern Rock, has quietly hit around 25,000 existing customers with soaring repayments.

Cardholders have received letters in recent weeks telling them that interest rates on purchases have increased from 16.8 per cent to 24.9 per cent.

Balance transfer rates have also gone up from 18.9 per cent to 27.9 per cent.

Continue reading here.

"The rent is too damn high" for the middle class

As the Middle Class continues to suffer - new numbers suggest many can't even afford to rent a home. Isn't it time we end the failed experiment of Reaganomics and call on the rich to pay their fair share to help this country?

Moroccans call for end to rape-marriage laws

Activists in Morocco have stepped up pressure to overturn laws that allow rapists to marry their victims, after a 16-year-old girl killed herself. Al Jazeera's Tareq Bazley reports.

Court orders return of Nazi-seized art

A court in Germany has ordered a museum to hand over thousands of vintage posters to the son of their original Jewish owner. The artwork - said to be worth millions of dollars - was initially seized by the Nazis. Emma Hayward reports.

ex-Harper aide: robo-calls need ‘huge investigation’

The Globe and Mail:

A former chief of staff to Prime Minister Stephen Harper says last year’s election day robo-calls are of a scale he’s never seen before and warrant a “huge investigation.”

Ian Brodie, who was Mr. Harper’s chief of staff from 2006 to 2008, said revelations from an Elections Canada probe that has centred on the Southern Ontario riding of Guelph and its local Conservative campaign likely indicate “a very devious local effort that could well lead to charges against several campaign volunteers.”

But he didn’t dismiss the possibility of “a national effort at subterfuge.”

“Something seems to have gone on, on a scale I’ve never seen before,” Mr. Brodie wrote in an e-mail.

Mr. Brodie is the second former chief of staff to Mr. Harper to express concern about deceptive robo-calls that directed voters to the wrong polling station in Guelph last May.

Elections Canada has received 700 complaints about misleading calls since reports of its Guelph probe surfaced three weeks ago. Data gathered by media and opposition parties suggest a pattern is emerging across dozens of ridings: Complaints show that Canadians reporting misleading calls had previously been phoned by the Conservative Party to find out how they would vote.

Continue reading here.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Economics 101 to Fox-so-called-News

What's better than watching a bunch of media millionaires yuck it up on a comfy couch and demonize the poorest of the poor in America - including children who don't have enough food to eat each day unless the government steps in to help them? If you watched Fox so-called News this morning - you learned that President Obama is trying to buy votes with food stamps. What you didn't learn though - was basic economics. Well here's a little economics 101 lesson for you...Fox so-called News.

Are we all financial muppets now?

Now that a former Wall Street executive has come clean on Goldman Sachs - what do We The People need to do to make sure banksters don't screw us over again?

In California cooperatives spur economic growth

In Richmond, California, a city with 17 per cent unemployment, the jobless are turning to 'cooperatives' to create new economic opportunities. Al Jazeera's Rob Reynolds reports.

Fraudulent calls lead to the Conservative Party

Election Fraud promoted at conservative campaign school:

A slew of former employees at a call centre in Thunder Bay, Ont., revealed on Monday they were using a script to make live calls on behalf of the Conservative party direction voters to goto wrong polling stations:

Inside Story - Is Wall Street beyond reform?

The damning parting shot of a Goldman Sachs executive has raised serious questions over the practices of the US financial industry. Has Wall Street forgotten the 2008 crisis to maximise profits? Guests: John Berlaw, Marcus Stanley, Felix Salmon.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Syrian torture victim speaks to Al Jazeera

Emad Mahou was arrested and tortured by Syrian military intelligence officials in July last year. He spoke to Al Jazeera from Amman, Jordan.

215 jobs lost, Ontario slams door on raceway slots

Patrons arrive at Windsor Raceway Slots on Tuesday. The slots will be removed from the track and close by April 30, The Windsor Star has learned. It will cost 215 people their jobs. Slot operations in Sarnia and Fort Erie will also close, a source said.

The Windsor Star:

Windsor, Ontario - Windsor Raceway will lose its 750 slot machines and cost 215 people their jobs, The Star has learned.

A source confirmed that the province will close slots at Windsor Raceway, as well as in Sarnia and Fort Erie. The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation will make an official announcement this morning at 9 a.m.

Of the 215 people employed at Windsor Raceway slots, 139 are full time and 76 are part time. There will be a severance package, the source confirmed.

The slot machines will stop operating on April 30, 2012, but the funding to the raceway will continue until March 31, 2013, the source said.

Employees were being called to a general meeting this morning, the source said, to be informed of the move. The raceway slots will also be closed for 24 hours, starting at 9 a.m. today.

The rationale behind removing the slot machines from Windsor Raceway, the source said, is to ensure the longterm viability of Caesars Windsor since the casino employs the largest number of people.

Revenues from the province's casinos have dropped from $800 million a year to $100 million.

Marisa Forsyth, the staff representative for the Ontario Public Sector Employees Union, which represents the 31 security officers employed at the raceway, said she had not received any information from the employer yet and would not comment until she heard from the OLG.

On Monday, the Ontario government announced its plans to overhaul gaming in the province, based on recommendations from a recent OLG report which suggested, among other things, ending the province's practice of sharing slot machine revenues with racetracks, launching online gambling and opening a casino in the Greater Toronto Area.

Continue reading here.

Is it time to decriminalise drugs?

With trafficking-related violence increasing across Latin America, leaders call for policy changes.

In F-35 reversal, Harper admits he was wrong

Prime Minister Stephen Harper looks at a model of a plane during last year's visit to the Heroux-Devtek plant in Montreal, where he defended the F-35 fighter jet deal.

Thomas Walkom, Opinion, The Toronto Star:

For any government, retreat is embarrassing. For Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, it is near-unthinkable.

So the fact that Ottawa is publicly backtracking on plans to buy 65 state-of-the-art F-35 fighter planes is a sign of how truly bad the original decision must have been.

Harper left it to junior defence minister Julian Fantino to mumble his way through the about-face Tuesday.

It’s never been entirely clear what prompted Canada to choose Lockheed Martin’s unproved and uncosted F-35 as a replacement for its aging fleet of CF-18s.

Continue reading here.

Inside Story: minorities being denied voting rights?

More than a dozen US states have passed laws requiring eligible voters to produce photo identification before voting. Critics say it is a deliberate attempt to disenfranchise minorities. Guests: John Nichols, Marcia Johnson-Blanco, Christian Adams.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Sunday's NDP Leadership debate

John Doyle, The Globe and Mail:

Thomas Mulcair, the alleged front-runner, is a bit of an alpha-male politician, cut from the same cloth as so many others. The hint of a short temper emerges in his statements and answers. On TV, affable he ain’t. He’s good with the stinging remark in the House of Commons but that’s meaningless in the glare of a general election campaign. He has the humourless force of a man whose ego has never been pricked.

Peggy Nash’s presence, measured tone and nuanced answers had the strongest resonance. There’s a fortitude and pragmatism projected in her onscreen persona that’s vivid and, memorably, she uses wit, not put-downs. There’s the air of a woman who has seen and heard plenty of male bluster but knows that bluster doesn’t get the job done

Continue reading here.

How corporations have redefined our freedom

Person challenging healthcare law went bankrupt -- with unpaid medical bills.

Poll: Americans oppose military attack on Iran

The Huffington Post:

"Only one in four Americans favors Israel conducting a military strike against Iran's nuclear program," according to a new University of Maryland poll released Tuesday evening. "Nearly seven in ten (69 percent) favor the United States and other major powers continuing to pursue negotiations with Iran, a position supported by majorities of Republicans (58 percent), Democrats (79 percent) and Independents (67 percent)."

I've pasted the full release from the University of Maryland below -- the results are striking:

Consistent with this emphasis on a diplomatic approach, three in four Americans say that the United States should primarily act through the U.N. Security Council rather than by itself in dealing with the problem of Iran's nuclear program.

The University of Maryland Sadat Chair for Peace and Development and PIPA, the University of Maryland-affiliated Program on International Policy Attitudes, conducted the study. The polling project was directed by Steven Kull, PIPA director, and Shibley Telhami, UMD Anwar Sadat Professor.

The poll of 727 Americans has a margin of error of +/-4.5 percent and was fielded between March 3 and 7 by Knowledge Networks.

If Israel acts?

If Israel goes ahead with a military strike against Iran's nuclear program and Iran retaliates - but not against American targets - only 25 percent favor the United States providing military forces should Israel request them (though support is a bit higher among Republicans at 41 percent). Another 14 percent favors the United States providing diplomatic support only.

The most popular position is for the United States to take a neutral stance, which is supported by 49 percent. This figure includes 27 percent who would also favor active efforts to end the hostilities and 22 percent who think the United States should simply not get involved.

Continue reading here.

Police detain six over UK hacking scandal

Police in the UK have arrested Rebekah Brooks, the former News of the World editor and close confidante of Rupert Murdoch, for a second time in the latest round of detentions in Britain's phone-hacking scandal. Police officials confirmed on Tuesday they had detained five men and one woman in dawn raids across the country on suspicion of conspiring to pervert the course of justice, with the woman described as 43 years old and living in Oxfordshire. Al Jazeera's Lawrence Lee reports from London.

Republican war on voting

Democracy Now!:

On Monday, the U.S. Department of Justice’s civil rights division blocked Texas from enforcing a new law requiring voters to present photo identification after ruling that the rule would discriminate against Latino voters. The move follows a similar decision late last year to block another voter ID law in South Carolina, the first such law overruled by the Justice Department in nearly two decades. We speak with Ari Berman, a contributing writer for The Nation magazine, who has been extensively covering the issue of voting rights in the United States. He is the author of the book "Herding Donkeys: The Fight to Rebuild the Democratic Party and Reshape American Politics," just out in paperback.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Afghan killings strain relations with US

President Barack Obama's administration is once again in damage control after a US soldier killed 16 Afghan civilians in Kandahar.

Study: robocalls may have affected election results

Protesters gather and chant at Toronto's Yonge Dundas Square March 11, 2012. An economist says any voter-suppression robocalls during the last federal election may have had a significant effect on turnout.

Postmedia News:

A Simon Fraser University economist says that, if allegations of vote-suppression calls in the last federal election are proven true, they may have had a "statistically significant impact on voter turnout and election results."

In an unpublished discussion paper, Prof. Anke Kessler estimates that a decline in voter turnout due to the so-called robocalls would be between 1,000 and 2,500 votes per average riding, or about three percentage points.

Kessler said this would have been enough to make a difference to election results in five ridings alleged to have been hit with misleading robocalls because fewer than 2,500 votes were needed to ensure a Liberal or NDP victory in these contested ridings.

"I'm fairly confident there is a causal effect from reported robocalls onto voter turnout," Kessler told Postmedia News.

Polling stations with many NDP and Liberal votes in the previous election experienced a decline in voter turnout, she said. This was true in "robocalled ridings or non-robocalled ridings."

What suggests a targeted voter suppression campaign in close ridings, she said, is that voter turnout decline was "harsher" in ridings that were allegedly hit with misleading robocalls.

"One explanation is that robocalls caused it," Kessler said.

Continue reading here.

Afghan massacre: 'we've seen the end of the war'

We'll talk about the gruesome massacre of 16 civilians in Afghanistan by an American soldier. It follows weeks of protests and violence in Afghanistan after the inadvertent burning of Koran's and photos of marines urinating on Taliban corpses at the start of the year. Could this be a turning point or had the public already realized the war effort was doomed? Retired Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Shaffer and freelance war correspondent David Axe discuss.

Toronto too 'dangerous' for Cheney speaking visit

The Canadian Press:

Former U.S. vice-president Dick Cheney has cancelled a Canadian speaking appearance due to security concerns sparked by demonstrations during a visit he made to Vancouver last fall, the event promoter said Monday.

Mr. Cheney, whom the protesters denounced as a war criminal, was slated to talk about his experiences in office and the current American political situation at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on April 24.

Last Sept. 26, Mr. Cheney’s appearance in Vancouver was marred by demonstrators who blocked the entrances to the exclusive Vancouver Club.

The activists, who at one point scuffled with police, called for Mr. Cheney’s arrest for war crimes and booed guests as they arrived at the $500-a-ticket dinner.

Cheney critics accuse him of endorsing the use of water-boarding and sleep deprivation against detainees while serving in former president George W. Bush’s administration.

Before the Vancouver event, Human Rights Watch urged the federal government to bring criminal charges against Mr. Cheney, accusing him of playing a role in the torture of detainees.

Don Davies, the NDP immigration critic, also argued that Mr. Cheney should not have been allowed into Canada

Continue reading here.

Ceasefire, but Israeli air strikes kill 26 Palestinians

Democracy Now!:

As Israel and Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip reportedly agree to a ceasefire after four days of cross-border violence, we speak with Ali Abunimah, co-founder of the online publication, “The Electronic Intifada.” Earlier today, an Egyptian official said both sides have pledged to end current attacks and implement "a comprehensive and mutual calm." Israel’s latest strikes on Gaza killed at least 25 Palestinians. At least 80 Palestinians were also wounded, most of them civilians. At least four Israelis in border towns were wounded in rockets fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza. The rocket attacks began after an Israeli air strike killed Zuhair al-Qaisi, the head of the Popular Resistance Committees, on Friday. Most of the Palestinian victims were killed on Saturday, making it the deadliest 24-hour period Gaza has seen since the Israeli attack in December 2008 and January 2009 when some 1,400 Palestinians were killed, most of them civilians. “Israel presents this as they’re attacking terrorists who are en route to commit some kind of attack, and that’s the claim they always make,” Abunimah says. “But in fact, in almost every case, they’re attacking people in their homes, riding in cars, just walking in the street.”

NAACP slams Fox News attack on Obama

Democracy Now!:

The NAACP’s Benjamin Jealous responds to recent attacks on the late Derrick Bell, the first tenured African-American professor at Harvard Law School. Fox News host Sean Hannity played a video showing then-student Barack Obama hugging Bell during a protest over Harvard’s failure to hire minority faculty. Former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin on Hannity’s program called Bell a “radical college racist professor.” “I think, quite frankly, Sean Hannity was afraid to talk to Derrick Bell directly. Because this [video] has been out there for years,” Jealous says. “If he had, he would have encountered somebody of tremendous compassion, of tremendous intelligence and of tremendous patriotism.”

Monday, March 12, 2012

Scores killed in Syrian flashpoint cities

Dozens of people have been killed in two major Syrian flashpoint cities, opposition activists say, hours after the United Nations special envoy to Syria met with the country's president in an effort to reach a diplomatic solution to end the violence. In the central city of Homs, the Local Co-ordination Committees (LCC) activist network said at least 45 women and children were killed on Monday morning in the neighbourhood of Karm al-Zaytoun. In the northwestern province of Idlib, Syrian government troops shelled several areas as part of a campaign to crush the opposition in its stronghold along the border with Turkey. Al Jazeera's Jamal el-Shayyal reports.

US soldier kills 16 Afghan civilians

The Associated Press:

Balandi, Afghanistan — Moving from house to house, a U.S. Army sergeant opened fire Sunday on Afghan villagers as they slept, killing 16 people — mostly women and children — in an attack that reignited fury at the U.S. presence following a wave of deadly protests over Americans burning Qur’ans.

The attack threatened the deepest breach yet in U.S.-Afghan relations, raising questions both in Washington and Kabul about why American troops are still fighting in Afghanistan after 10 years of conflict and the killing of Osama bin Laden.

The slayings, one of the worst atrocities committed by U.S. forces during the Afghan war, came amid deepening public outrage spurred by last month’s Qur’an burnings and an earlier video purportedly showing U.S. Marines urinating on dead Taliban militants.

According to U.S. and Afghan officials, Sunday’s attack began around 3 a.m. in two villages in Panjwaii district, a rural region outside Kandahar that is the cradle of the Taliban and where coalition forces have fought for control for years. The villages are about 500 metres from a U.S. base in a region that was the focus of Obama’s military surge strategy in the south starting in 2009.

Villagers described cowering in fear as gunshots rang out as a soldier roamed from house to house firing on those inside. They said he entered three homes in all and set fire to some of the bodies. Eleven of the dead were from a single family, and nine of the victims were children.

U.S. officials said the shooter, identified as an Army staff sergeant, acted alone, leaving his base in southern Afghanistan and opening fire on sleeping families in two villages. Initial reports indicated he returned to the base after the shooting and turned himself in. He was in custody at a NATO base in Afghanistan.

Continue reading here.

Death toll climbs after Israeli raids on Gaza

Israel says air strikes on Gaza will go on for as long as necessary. A 12-year-old boy was among those killed on Sunday. The generals would call it 'collateral damage'. His parents called him Ayub. In all, 18 people have died in three days of attacks. Al Jazeera's Paul Brennan reports from Gaza.

Latin America: drug decriminalization, legalization?

Democracy Now!:

As Vice President Joe Biden wraps up a trip to Central America insisting the drug war must continue, a growing number of Latin American leaders are calling for the decriminalization or legalization of drugs. "This debate now is no longer going to be suppressed," says Ethan Nadelmann, founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "Once U.S. officials are obliged to participate in the discussion and to do it in a real way, the smartest among them know there’s no way to defend the current U.S. strategy."

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Republicans waging a war on women? (you think?)

The target of Rush Limbaugh’s anger, and the more controlled chagrin of his conservative fans, was not a high-profile hooker, but a soberly spoken young woman testifying before a congressional panel to oppose a federal health-care exemption that would allow employers with religious beliefs to opt out of covering the cost of contraception.

The Toronto Star:

Even on Rush Limbaugh’s Stage of Rage it was a showstopper.

“What does that make her?” the shock jock fumed into his radio mike. “It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex.”

And the kicker, “if we are going to pay for your contraceptives — and thus pay for you to have sex — we want something for it. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.”

Limbaugh backed off from his tirade against Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke with a vague apology as advertisers cancelled their contracts. But not before a political tornado that had been brewing for the past two years in the United States spiralled out of control.

“This is absolutely a war against women,” said Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, which advocates for women’s equality. “It’s deliberate, intentional and as serious as a heart attack.”

She was talking about a topic that has just begun to sizzle on the political hotplate: a Republican-led campaign to undermine women’s reproductive rights across the states as well as federal jurisdictions.

Using religious rights, fiscal restraint and an ongoing U.S. culture war as weapons, it has targeted abortion, contraception, even rape laws.

Along the way, it has alienated the party’s moderate members, many of them women, and caused internal anguish at a “coup” carried out by extremists on the conservative far right, who have pulled Republicans into a pit they are scrambling to climb out of before the November presidential election.

To activists, and a sizeable number of ordinary American women, the Blunt Amendment — sponsored by Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri — was the latest salvo in an ongoing battle.

And it kept pace with two pieces of Virginia legislation that would have forced women seeking abortion to undergo an invasive vaginal ultrasound scan, and declared a fertilized egg a “person,” with full constitutional rights. “The Republicans want “government small enough to fit in a uterus,” quipped the Blogosphere.

The Blunt Amendment, defeated last week by a wafer-thin 51-48, would have allowed any employer or insurance plan to refuse coverage of any health-care item or service that offended “religious beliefs or moral convictions.”

Continue reading here.

A Message for Kirk Cameron

Michael Cornacchia and Kristina Hayes have a message for Kirk Cameron regarding his views on homosexuality: "I think that it's unnatural, I think that it's detrimental and ultimately destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization."

Thousands rally against Putin

Heavy security presence as thousands take to the treats to protest against Vladimir Putin's election victory.

Palestinian plight no longer on world agenda

At the American Israel Public Affairs Committee or AIPAX conference this week, it was Iran, not Palestine that dominated proceedings. Al Jazeera's Paul Brennan reports from the Occupied West Bank.

Israel pounds Gaza in pre-emptive strikes

Israel has attacked Gaza for a second day on Saturday, after defending its air strikes as a pre-emptive action which left at least 15 people dead. Al Jazeeras Paul Brennan reports from Jerusalem.