Monday, April 30, 2012

Harper announces two-tiered wage system

Temporary workers, such as those who work in Ontario's farms, can now be paid 15 per cent less than the average wage.

Editorial, The Toronto Star:

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has always vehemently denied bringing cheap foreign labour into Canada. Employers had to pay foreign temporary workers “the prevailing wage,” he pointed out.

That indeed is what the rules said – until Wednesday, when Human Resources Minister Diane Finley quietly changed them. Employers will now be allowed to pay foreign temp workers 15 per cent less than the average wage.

“We are taking action to ensure that the temporary foreign worker program support our economic recovery and effectively responds to local labour market demands,” she said at a manufacturing plant in Nisku, Alta.

Business leaders, eager to recruit low-cost workers abroad, were delighted. Immigrant support groups, already fighting to protect temporary foreign workers from exploitation, were heartsick. And labour leaders warned that the wage cut would bring down the pay scale for all workers and make it harder for Canadians to compete for jobs in their own country.

Under the new rules, foreign temporary workers will still covered by provincial employment standards, meaning they must be paid the minimum wage. But in booming Alberta, the minimum wage ($9.40) is a far cry from the average wage ($26.03).

Despite her 15-per-cent wage cut, Finley expects the influx of foreign temporary to swell. She’s undoubtedly right. Employers will always be ready to find workers overseas who are eager to come to Canada and willing to work long hours for low pay. And under the Conservatives, boosting economic growth will always eclipse protecting workers’ rights.

Since Prime Minister Stephen Harper assumed power in 2006, the number of foreign temporary workers admitted into Canada has grown by 40 per cent. The temporary worker stream is now larger than the stream of permanent workers intending to set down roots and become citizens.

Continue reading here.

Australia 'failing to protect koalas'

In a recent move by the government, Australia now considers koalas to be a threatened species, but only in some areas of the country. In the last 20 years, the koala population has dropped by 40 per cent in the state of Queensland and by a third in New South Wales. It is in those states, as well as the Australian Capital Territory, that they are deemed to need protection. Conservationists say the move is only a partial victory, and have accused the ministry of the environment of introducing half-measures. Tony Burke, the federal environment minister, has said the decision is justified because koala numbers are stable in other parts of the country. The ruling was made after a three-year study by the Threatened Species Scientific Committee. Al Jazeera's Florence Looi reports.

May Day: from Occupy to the Paris Commune

Democracy Now!:

On Tuesday, May 1st, known as May Day or International Workers Day, Occupy Wall Street protesters hope to mobilize tens of thousands of people across the country under the slogan, "General Strike. No Work. No Shopping. Occupy Everywhere." Events are planned in 125 cities. We speak with leading social theorist David Harvey, distinguished professor of anthropology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, about how Occupy Wall Street compares to other large-scale grassroots movements throughout modern history. His most recent book is "Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution."

Canadian banks got $114B bailout in recession


Canada's biggest banks accepted tens of billions in bailout funds during the recession, according to a report released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. 

Canada's banking system is often lauded for being one of the world's safest. But an analysis by CCPA senior economist David Macdonald found that Canada's major lenders were in a far worse position during the downturn than has ever been previously believed. 

Macdonald pored over data provided by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions and the big banks themselves for his report published Monday. 

It says support for Canadian banks reached $114 billion at its peak. That works out to $3,400 for every man, woman and child in Canada, and also to seven per cent of Canada's gross domestic product in 2009.

 The figure is also 10 times the size of the amount Canadian taxpayers spent to bail out the auto industry in 2009.

One of the most well-known ways in which policymakers helped the banks during the crisis is through a $69-billion CMHC program whereby the housing agency took mortgages off the balance sheets of big Canadian banks.

"The federal government claims it was offering the banks ‘liquidity support,’ but it looks an awful lot like a bailout to me," says Macdonald. "Whatever you call it, Canadian government aid for the country’s biggest banks was far more indispensable than the official line would suggest.

"The support for Canadian banks was much more substantial than Canadians were led to believe," Macdonald said.

Continue reading here.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Final battle of French presidential elections

French president Nicolas Sarkozy has again denied accusations that he accepted campaign funds from former Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, for the 2007 French presidential race. Just a week before second-round presidential elections, Sarkozy spoke to voters in Toulouse, who backed far right candidate Marine Le Pen in the first round of voting. Socialist challenger Francois Or-lond has been rallying his supporters in the suburbs of Paris. Al Jazeera's Charlie Angela reports from Paris.

Billionaire take over of American democracy?

Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN, 5th District) joins Thom Hartmann. A new study of SuperPAC donations finds that just ten donors are responsible for one-third of the $202 million of SuperPAC money so far this election. We'll talk about who these oligarchs are - and what Congress can do to stop the billionaire takeover of the American Democracy.

Syrian opposition sceptical of UN observer mission

As the death toll in Syria's uprising continues to rise despite a UN-backed ceasefire, opposition activists have little hope that the deployment of international observers will make a difference. Al Jazeera's Steve Chao reports.

Harper government most secretive, journalists say

Stephen Harper's Conservative government has won this year's Code of Silence Award from the Canadian Association of Journalists.

The annual award recognizing Canada's most secretive government or publicly funded agency was handed out in Toronto Saturday evening.

The federal government was named for keeping information out of public hands on files such as the F-35 program, avoiding questions at media events and for restricting both public and media access to contentious information.

Association president Hugo Rodrigues said the Harper government was the overwhelming choice of the CAJ's 600 members across the country.“The death grip on information has long frustrated journalists in this country, but it may now be reaching a point where the public at large is not only empathetic, but shares it,” he said.

The CAJ said federal government departments now deal with media almost exclusively by e-mails.

UK missiles on rooftops to guard Olympics

Residents of an upscale apartment development near London's Olympic Park have been told of plans by Britain's military to install a missile battery on top of a tower within their housing complex to defend the 2012 Games this summer. The site is one of a number around the capital the army is considering as bases for surface-to-air missiles to protect the London games from an aerial attack, the Ministry of Defence said. Peter Sharp reports.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The UK in a double-dip recession

Professor Richard Wolff, New School University NYC joins Thom Hartmann. Bad news for European economies...With the UK in a double-dip recession - the Dutch government disbanding - and countless other nations in turmoil - where is the world headed if it continues with the trickle-down austerity experiment?

Gaddafi bankrolling Sarkozy's campaign?

In the last days of campaigning for a second term as president of France, documents have surfaced which suggest Libya's Gaddafi regime donated millions of dollars to Sarkozy's 2007 election campaign. It's not the first time that claim's been made, and the French President's camp has rejected it as "ridiculous." Sarkozy's Socialist challenger Francois Hollande is demanding an explanation. Al Jazeera's Charlie Angela reports from Paris.

Minimum-wage misconceptions


Contrary to right-wing propaganda, decent pay for workers helps the economy and boosts job creation.

Sen. Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, has introduced a bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $9.80 from its present level of $7.25. Polls are showing many voters in favor, though they are confused about what it would mean for the job market. The truth is that a move would be good for a slow economy and have a positive impact on the job crisis. Naturally, this has led to the usual cries of opposition, largely based on the notion that raising the minimum wage hurts the very people it is supposed to help.

Business will not hire more workers until it has more sales. Consumers will not spend more until they’ve got more jobs. A private-sector recovery requires 300,000 new jobs every month. But the private sector doesn’t need 300,000 new workers per month until there exists sufficient spending power in the economy to induce them to hire those workers. How is retaining a static, or reduced minimum wage, going to achieve this?

Higher wages means higher income and thus higher consumption spending, which induces firms to employ more labor. So the truth is that economic theory does not tell us that raising the minimum wage will lead to more unemployment; indeed, theory tells us it can go the other way — raising the minimum wage could increase employment. That’s one of the reasons Henry Ford believed in paying his workers a decent wage: so that they could buy his product.

The truth is, if you earn your money through wages (unlike many of the 1 percent, who earn through things like investments and a tax system biased in favor of capital gains over income) then a higher wage, minimum or otherwise, would mean that you’d spend the additional dollars, creating jobs for other workers. You’d pay down your mortgages and car loans, getting yourself out of debt. You’d pay more taxes — on sales and property, mostly — thereby relieving the fiscal crises of states and localities. More teachers, police and firefighters would keep their jobs. America would get a virtuous cycle toward higher employment and, more importantly, the cycle would be based on a policy that creates higher incomes, not higher debt via credit expansion.

As far as the minimum wage goes, the jobs we’re talking about are in non-traded services like checkout clerks, hair cutters, domestic help and food-service workers. When checkout clerks and cooks earn more in wages, then businesses start getting the sales required to induce them to hire more workers. And if sales are robust enough, then guess what? Even more workers will be hired, or wages will be increased.

The point is that wages are a source of demand, as well as a cost input. Reduce wages and demand plummets, which more than overrides any cost savings derived from paying less to workers (especially given today’s paltry minimum wage, which is hardly a living wage for any American).

Continue reading here.

Quebec protests against tuition increases continue

Students in the Canadian province of Quebec have been protesting against a government move to raise higher education costs by 50 per cent for three months. The Quebec government has now offered a compromise but the dispute remains unsettled as students are not accepting compromise with any tuition increase. Al Jazeera's Daniel Lak reports.

The Jesus Budget: A conservative miracle

The top economic minds in the country can't get enough of this bestseller. A look at morality in budgeting, cuts and fighting the deficit.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Europe's struggling workers turn to Argentina

Europe's economic downturn has forced many workers to search for a new life in South America.

Austerity = more unemployment in Spain

More than five million people were unemployed in Spain last year. The country's latest unemployment figures were to be released on Friday. The ratings agency Standard & Poor's announced on Thursday that it had downgraded the country's credit rating. With 38,769 people having lost their jobs in February, and the new rating indicating an unlikely loan repayment for the country, trade unions are gravely concerned about an increase in unemployment. Al Jazeera's Sonia Gallego reports from Madrid.

Canadian history according to Stephen Harper


Given the growing speculation that the government may be considering an extension to the current mission in Afghanistan, it's a safe bet that Prime Minister Stephen Harper was fully prepared to be grilled on the subject when he headed into the House yesterday afternoon.

But when NDP Leader Tom Mulcair made a third attempt to elicit a simple yes or no answer to his question of whether the PM intends to keep Canadian troops on the ground after 2014, the PM, it seemed, had had enough.

Instead of simply repeating his previous response -- in which he noted that his government has every intention of continuing its policy of bringing "military missions" to the House of Commons -- Harper accused one of Mulcair's predecessors of insufficient opposition to Hitler.

(Yes, really.):

Mr. Speaker, I have made myself very clear. Unlike the NDP, we are not going to ideologically have a position regardless of circumstances. The leader of the NDP, in 1939, did not even want to support war against Hitler.

Not surprisingly, the NDP benches erupted in outrage over the drive-by retro-slur, although Hansard records the words of just one unnamed MP who tried to draw the PM's attention to a potential flaw in his analogy:

There was no NDP.

Which was, of course, correct: the leader in question was J.S. Woodsworth, the party was the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation and Woodsworth, a pacifist, was also the only member of that caucus to vote against Canada's entry into World War II, which was supported by every one of his CCF colleagues.

The prime minister, however, seemed unpersuaded:

Okay, it was the CCF, same difference. Parties do change their names from time to time.

And thus, a satirical hashtag was born.
Continue reading here.

Walmart Bribery Scandal

Walmart is in the middle of a huge bribery scandal in Mexico. The company allegedly paid government officials as much as $24.5 million to provide faster access to store-building permits. But why does the US care about what Walmart is doing in Mexico? It's a question a lot of people have been asking these days, so we'll take a good look at the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. A lot of business groups complain that it puts them at a disadvantage in competing with other companies abroad. So does enforcing a code of ethics on business abroad, make sense? Labor journalist Mike Elk discusses.

Quebec student strike: Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois

Kinetic typography of an excellent speech by Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, spokesperson for CLASSE (Quebec student union).

Made by Tim Powell, Concordia University.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Koch bros.: $500K to Canadian right-wing group

Billionaire oil barons David and Charles Koch contributed richly to "charitable" Canadian right-wing Fraser Institute.

The Vancouver Observer:

In four years alone, U.S. Tea Party architects the Koch brothers poured half a million dollars into Canadian right-wing think tank, the Fraser Institute.

As the Conservative assault continues against Canadian environmental charities, the Vancouver Observer has learned that since 2007, foreign oil billionaires the Koch brothers have donated over half a million dollars to the “charitable” right-wing Fraser Institute.

According to U.S. tax documents, the Fraser Institute received $150,000 from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation in 2008, $175,500 in 2009, and another $150,000 in 2010. The grants were purportedly for "research support" and "educational programs".

Koch U.S. Tax document slideshow:

Prior to 2008, the Institute received another $25,000 in funding from the Claude R. Lambe Foundation, which is under the umbrella of Koch Family Foundations.

While the federal government and pro-oil lobbyists have taken aim at environmental charities for allegedly violating the Canadian Revenue Agency’s legal limits for “political activity”, the Fraser Institute and its charitable status remain unquestioned. And as the Koch Foundation’s tax data shows, they’ve received a significant amount of “foreign funding” to help influence Canadian policy—which is precisely what environmental groups have been accused of doing

The Fraser Institute claims to be “non-partisan and non-political”, and denies that it undertakes lobbying activities. However, critics cite examples of its blatantly political endeavors—like publicly calling on the government to change election spending laws, or pushing provinces to adopt “right-to-work” legislation.

Continue reading here.

Libertarian paradise with Mad Cow disease?

Officials are saying a cow found in California with Mad Cow disease is just an isolated incident - and nothing to worry about. But if some in government had their way - this wouldn't be just one incident - it would be an epidemic - killing thousands of Americans. I'll tell you why in tonight's Daily Take.

40,000 Norwegians sing song mass killer hates


Oslo - Up to 40,000 Norwegians gathered in Oslo on Thursday to sing a popular peace song derided by Anders Behring Breivik, the gunman on trial for the murder of 77 people, a protest organizers said showed he had not broken their tolerant society.

 "It's we who win," said guitar-strumming folk singer Lillebjoern Nilsen as he led the singing and watched the crowd sway gently in the rain. Many held roses above their heads, and some wept.

 The musical protest came on the same day that survivors of Breivik's two attacks last July began to give harrowing testimony at his trial, including a young woman nicknamed 'miracle girl' who described how she had survived his bombing of government offices in central Oslo against all the odds.

 The crowd chose a song - "Children of the Rainbow" - that extols the type of multicultural society Breivik has said he despised and one that he specifically dismissed during the trial as Marxist propaganda.

 He has often used chillingly graphic language to describe his killing spree, but it seems to have taken his comments over the song to touch a nerve in a country that prides itself on a tradition of tolerance and justice.

 The protest follows several days of defiant testimony from Breivik who has admitted he killed his victims in a blood-soaked attack on Norway's multicultural society, but denied criminal guilt, saying he did so in defence of Norwegian ethnic purity.

Continue reading here.

Murdoch admits 'cover-up' over phone-hacking

Rupert Murdoch claims he was misled over the phone hacking scandal that has been shaking his media empire for the past year.

Charles Taylor: Pat Robertson was my man

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor, testifying in his own war crimes trial today, said that the American conservative evangelist Pat Robertson was awarded a Liberian gold-mining concession in 1999 and subsequently offered to lobby the Bush administration to support his government.

 The revelations came in the midst of a U.N.-backed trial of Taylor at The Hague on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity during Sierra Leone's 1990s civil war. Taylor is accused of directing a Sierra Leone rebel group, the United Revolutionary Front (RUF), in a campaign aimed at securing access to the country's diamond mines. The rebel movement stands accused of committing mass atrocities in the late 1990s in the West African country, including the mutilation of thousands of civilians. 

 The international prosecutors contend that Taylor offered concessions to Western individuals in exchange for lobbying work aimed at enhancing his image in the United States. The prosecution maintains that Taylor also spent $2.6 million on lobbying firms and public relations outfits in the hopes of influencing the policies of former President Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. 

 Under cross-examination, Taylor said that Robertson had volunteered to make Liberia's case before U.S. administration officials, and had spoken directly to President Bush about Taylor. He also confirmed that Robertson's company, Freedom Gold Limited, signed an agreement to exploit gold in southeastern Liberia, but that it never generated any profit.

Continue reading here.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

60 Minutes chides Israeli envoy for interfering

Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren.

Sunday's segment discussed exodus of Palestinian Christians from Jerusalem and West Bank; veteran reporter Bob Simon tells Israel's Washington envoy that he had never received a reaction to a story that hadn't been broadcast yet.

Washington - A correspondent on U.S. news program "60 Minutes" has scolded Israel's ambassador on air for trying to influence a segment by phoning the show's executive producer while reporting was still underway.

 Sunday's segment discussed the exodus of Palestinian Christians from Jerusalem and West Bank cities such as Bethlehem. Veteran reporter Bob Simon tells Israel's ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, that he had never received a reaction to a story that hadn't been broadcast yet.

 Reactions over the blogosphere varied widely - from praises that Simon "exposed the way the Israeli government tries to silence everybody," to complaints that the story was biased as Israel said it was.

Continue reading here.

US makes first arrest in BP oil spill case

Kurt Mix, a former engineer for British Petroleum, has been charged with intentionally destroying evidence about the scale of disaster. Al Jazeera's Andy Gallacher reports from Miami.

Respect party's second potential MP

Salma Yaqoob: 'I see myself as part of the Labour movement.'

"The Labour party was the party that was going to war," she goes on, "and that was also really depressing. Because whatever I'd absorbed growing up, it was that the Labour party stood for what was right. So for Labour to do this, and for us to be at the brunt of the racism that flowed from it, and the whole war on terror rhetoric, was really disappointing. I felt very isolated. There was no protection: that's what it felt like."

An initial involvement with the Stop the War coalition led her to co-found the clunkily named RESPECT coalition (it stands for Respect, Equality, Socialism, Peace, Environmentalism, Community and Trade Unionism), a somewhat unlikely alliance of disaffected Labour supporters, the Trotyskist Socialist Workers Party and members of such Islamic organisations as the Muslim Council of Britain.

By contrast, what are her politics? "I would characterise them as what people think the Labour party should stand for: social justice, and foreign policy about peace, not war. Pretty basic, but it covers a lot of things." Her political lodestars, she says, "are people like Arundhati Roy. I love Tony Benn. I really admire Caroline Lucas.

"I consider myself part of the Labour movement; I consider myself a genuine friend of Labour," she says. In a lot of her explanation of this, there's the implied prospect of her joining Labour at some future date if it somehow returns to the righteous leftwing path, and rethinks two big areas of policy. "Stop being austerity lite," she advises them. "And on foreign policy, get the troops home, and stop this rhetoric about more wars in Middle East. It's not difficult."

Continue reading here.

Austerity Isn't Working

Filmed on location near Brockley Station in South London...we thought the Ghostbusters-style coveralls looked a bit suss so we took them off before we started pasting!

The image is subverted from the Tories' 1979 election poster: see

Join UK Uncut's Austerity Isn't Working Queue outside Downing St at 11am on Wednesday 21st March:

Food: There's lots of it

The third episode of PRI's POP 101 series, this video takes a fresh, humorous approach to the demographic issues facing the world today. Be sure to watch the first video:, and the second video:
Visit and spread the word: the world is not overpopulated!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Murdochs appearing before UK press inquiry

Rupert Murdoch and his son James are giving evidence before the Leveson inquiry which was instituted by the UK government in the wake of a hacking scandal. The News Of The World, the Murdoch-owned newspaper which was at the centre of the scandal, was forced to shut down amid a huge public outcry over the practice. John Ryley, the head Sky News, which is part owned by the Murdoch's News Corporation, has also admitted to illegal activity after conceding emails had been hacked by the British broadcaster. The inquiry is examining allegations of unhealthy relationships between newspaper executives and senior police officers and claims of bribery. Al Jazeera's Laurence Lee reports from London.

Inside Story - Sarkozy fighting for political survival

Are the Socialists on their way back to the Elysee Palace on the back of Sarkozy's poor showing at the polls? Inside Story discusses with guests: Thierry Marchal-Beck, Anne-Elisabeth Moutet, & Thomas Klau.

South Sudan, Sudan on the brink of war

Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president, has rejected UN calls to resume peace talks with South Sudan.

South Sudan's president has accused Sudan of declaring war on his country. Salva Kiir made the comments during a visit to Beijing. It follows days of bombing raids on South Sudan's territory near the border . Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr reports.

Border agents beat immigrant to death

Democracy Now!:

A new PBS documentary exposes the tasing and beating death of a Mexican immigrant by U.S. border agents in California, and has renewed scrutiny of what critics call a culture of impunity. In May 2010, 32-year-old Anastasio Hernández Rojas was caught trying to enter the United States from Mexico near San Diego. He had previously lived in the United States for 25 years and was the father of five U.S.-born children. But instead of deportation, Hernández Rojas’ detention ended in his death. A number of border officers were seen beating him, before one tasered him at least five times. He died shortly afterward. The agents say they confronted Hernández Rojas because he became hostile and resisted arrest. But previously undisclosed videos recorded by eyewitnesses on their cell phones show a different story. “All eyewitnesses that we spoke to basically tell the same story of a man hogtied and handcuffed behind his back, not resisting, being beaten repeatedly — by batons, by kicks, by punches, by the use of a taser — for almost 30 minutes until he died,” says reporter John Carlos Frey, whose exposé aired in a national television special last Friday night, as part of a joint investigation by the PBS broadcast, "Need to Know," and the Investigative Fund of the Nation Institute. We also speak with Hernández Rojas’ widow, María Puga. “My husband was tortured; he was severely beaten, and they’ve destroyed an entire family,” says Puga, speaking through a Spanish-English translator. “All we want is justice, and we need your help to get that justice.”

Alberta re-elects PC majority, rejects Wildrose


Albertans have elected another Progressive Conservative majority government, making Alison Redford the province's first elected female premier.

The Tories, led by Redford, were elected in 61 ridings and captured 44 per cent of the popular vote. The Wildrose is elected in 17 and had 34.5 per cent of the vote. The Liberals took five seats, while the NDP claimed four ridings.

Voters have elected 11 Tory majorities in a row — this will be the 12th — since Peter Lougheed first led his party to power in 1971, but polling during this campaign suggested the streak could end.
In the end, voters turned out in large numbers, suggesting that strategic voting to keep the Wildrose Party out of power may have played a role in the Tory win.

Pollster and CBC analyst Bruce Cameron suggested the Tories may have benefited from strategic voting, where people who would normally vote for the Liberals and the NDP voted for the Tories in a bid to keep the Wildrose from power. Some centrist and left-wing voters expressed concern over the issue of conscience rights and the racist and anti-gay comments made by two Wildrose candidates.

Continue reading here.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Hollande wins first round in France vote

Socialist challenger Francois Hollande is leading the race for the French presidency ahead of right-wing incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy, setting up the probability of a May 6 runoff between the two. Andrew Simmons reports.

Socialist candidate Francois Hollande is leading France's presidential election race. He has won the first round of voting, but the situation is still uncertain. Holande still faces opposition from incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy and pressure from the electorate of far-right candidate Marine Le Pen. Tim Friend reports from Paris.

Support for British monarchy weakening

There has been a sharp decline in the number of people believing Britain would be worse off without the royals, down to just half.

New polls carried out by ICM also show only 51% of the public are interested in the jubilee with only 14% ‘very interested’. This is marked contrast to the claims made by the palace and the BBC that the monarchy is experiencing a resurgence of support.

One poll asked if Britain would be worse off without the monarchy, to which 51% said yes, down sharply from 63% this time last year. In response to another question only 41% said they believed the monarchy was a unifying force, with 32% saying it made no difference.

The result shows the public are not as besotted with the institution as many claim.

Significantly, over this period of heightened monarchy PR and media exposure, the number of people saying ‘don’t know’ on the better/worse off question has jumped from 11% in 2011 to 28% in 2012.

Republic’s chief executive Graham Smith said today:

“These polls put the lie to the claim that the monarchy is enjoying a resurgence of popularity. No poll over the past eighteen months has shown any increase in support for the monarchy.”
“These figures are in line with our own predictions: that most people who have previously supported the monarchy will become ‘don’t knows’ or ‘don’t cares’ before siding with those who want abolition.”

“Polls have consistently shown 20-25% of the public think we’d be better off without the monarchy. What we’re seeing is that the ground in the middle is growing, with ardent monarchists an ever shrinking group.”

Continue reading here.

US Defense Dept: Harper understated F-35 costs

                                       The Hill Times:

Defence Minister Peter MacKay was wrong to compare cost of maintaining F-35s to maintenance costs for the current fleet of fighter jets, says one vocal critic.

The latest U.S. Department of Defense report to Congress on projected costs of the controversial F-35 stealth fighter jets suggests the Conservative government is understating the purchase price of Canada’s initial lot of 65 aircraft by more than $2-billion and that Defence Minister Peter MacKay (Central Nova, N.S.) was wrong when he compared the cost of maintaining the sophisticated planes to maintenance costs for the current fleet of fighter jets, says one of the project’s most vocal critics.

Alan Williams, a former procurement officer with the Department of National Defence in Ottawa, said a Selected Acquisition Report on the F-35 that the U.S. Department of Defense submitted to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives on March 29, five days before Auditor General Michael Ferguson tabled a scathing report on Canada’s management of its role in the F-35 project, shows the acquisition cost to Canada for the planes the government plans to buy has climbed to $88.7-million per jet, more than $13-million above the purchase price the government used in its last public estimate.

As well, Mr. Williams said a little-noticed paragraph in Mr. Ferguson’s April 3 report shows the government has had secret plans to eventually acquire a total of 79 F-35s, including 14 that Mr. Ferguson disclosed were being planned as replacement aircraft because of attrition. Mr. Ferguson’s report, in a brief reference that was overshadowed by the auditor general’s charge that National Defence hid $10-billion in projected operating and maintenance costs from Parliament, said National Defence had informed Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) government “of the need to consider the requirement for attrition at a later date.”

Continue reading here.

Mason to Alberta: Vote for hope, not out of fear

Brian Mason, the Leader of the Alberta NDP, has a message for voters today on election day.

Elizabeth Warren for Senate

"I grew up in a family hanging on by our fingertips to a place in the middle class. But back then, America invested in kids like me. We had a lot of opportunities. Today,Washington lets big corporations like GE pay nothing -- zero -- in taxes while kids are left drowning in debt to get an education. This isn't about economics -- it's about our values. I'm Elizabeth Warren, and I approve this message because Washington has to get its priorities straight."

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Thousands protest McGuinty budget

The Toronto Star:

More than 15,000 protesters from labour unions and community organizations across the province rallied outside Ontario’s Legislature Saturday afternoon to vent their fury over the minority Liberal government’s austerity-focused budget.

“We’re sending a signal to Dalton McGuinty that the budget he’s introduced is grossly unfair,” said Sid Ryan, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, the group responsible for organizing the “Day of Action” event.

A sea of flag-toting protesters arrived by the busload early in the afternoon to demonstrate against the proposed budget, a belt-tightening fiscal blueprint that calls for wage freezes for more than a million public servants and pension plan changes as a way to rein in the province’s multi-billion-dollar deficit.

Gathered on the grassy stretch facing the Legislature, the group of public servants and other labour supporters jived to a Bob Marley cover band as union and community group leaders prepared to take the stage for speeches, sporadic cries of “Shame, shame on McGuinty!” filling the air.

Continue reading here.

UN team receives desperate plea in Homs

Video from activists shows the UN monitoring team in Al Rastan, a city north of Homs. Opposition fighters guided them through a crowd chanting anti-government slogans. Al Jazeera's Steve Chao has more.

Living the Language - The Aboriginal People

Every 14 days a language dies. Australia suffers from the highest rate of language extinction in the world. Once home to over 200, now only 20 are spoken on a daily basis. But a battle is underway to preserve Australia's indigenous languages.

French voters turn to François Hollande

The Globe and Mail:

An angry anti-establishment mood swept across France as voters in the first round of the presidential election delivered President Nicolas Sarkozy a distant second-place result and gave the extreme right-wing Marine Le Pen an unprecedented 20 per cent of the vote for third place. Mr. Sarkozy’s main challenger, Socialist François Hollande, led a strong showing of 28.4 per cent, providing Mr. Sarkozy with a margin that will hard to beat in two weeks when they face off in the final vote. Preliminary results as the polls closed on Sunday night showed Mr. Sarkozy receiving a very disappointing 25.5 per cent of the vote, down from the substantial 31.2 per cent first-round result that helped bring him to victory five years ago. These results will have both candidates facing each other for a second-round showdown on May 6, and projections show that Mr. Hollande, whose Socialists have not been in power for 17 years, is strongly positioned to win. If that happens, France will become one of the few major countries in Europe without a conservative leader.

Continue reading here.

UN approves Syria monitor mission

The UN Security Council has unanimously adopted a resolution that authorises an initial deployment of up to 300 unarmed military observers to Syria for three months to monitor a fragile week-old ceasefire in the country's 13-month old conflict. The Russian and European drafted resolution said that deployment of the UN observer mission, which will be called UNSMIS, will be "subject to assessment by the Secretary-General [Ban Ki-moon] of relevant developments on the ground, including the cessation of violence". Saturday's resolution also noted that the cessation of violence by the government and opposition is "clearly incomplete". Al Jazeera's Kristen Saloomey reports from the UN in New York.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

French presidential race still wide open

French voters go to the polls on Sunday for the first round of the presidential election. The race remains wide open, with polls suggesting that as many as one in four voters are still undecided. Al Jazeera's Jacky Rowland reports from Nice, in southeastern France.

Argentina's president vs capitalism

Counting the Cost finds out how an audacious move to nationalise Argentina's oil company has triggered a diplomatic row.

Rethinking the 'war on drugs'

Jorge Castaneda, the former Mexican foreign affairs secretary, discusses the global war on drugs; songwriter Aloe Blacc talks about his music career; Plus, magician and Intellectual Property lawyer Andrew Eborn.

US authorities crack down on medical cannabis

California is one of more than a dozen US states where marijuana is legal for medical purposes, even though those states' laws are a violation of federal drug policy. Federal authorities have renewed a crackdown on state-sanctioned medical marijuana facilities despite promises by Barack Obama, the president, to keep the issue low on his list of priorities. Local authorities are now also trying to stop people from making money off the medicinal cannabis industry, as it is meant to be a non-profit venture. Al Jazeera's Rob Reynolds reports from Oakland, California.

The Real Cost of Free Trade

Friday, April 20, 2012

Andrea Horwath needs a billionaire onside

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is asking that Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal minority impose a new slightly higher tax rate on Ontarians making more than $500,000 a year.

Linda McQuaig, Opinion, The Toronto Star:

It’s hard to fight a class war without a billionaire onside. Hence Andrea Horwath’s dilemma.

The Ontario NDP leader has thrown down a gauntlet of sorts — demanding, or at least politely requesting, that Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal minority impose a new slightly higher tax rate on Ontarians making more than $500,000 a year.

The move is a small toe-in-the-water toward restoring the progressivity that’s been stripped out of the Canadian tax system. But it’s also a bold unlacing of the stays on the political bodice that has confined mainstream Canadian politicians for the past few decades.

Of course, U.S. President Barack Obama is paving the way.

But it’s easy for Obama; he has a billionaire backing him up. It’s doubtful Obama would have had the audacity to suggest the rich should pay tax rates as high as their secretaries had the idea not been suggested by Warren Buffett, one of the richest men alive.

Obama has even dubbed his proposed new tax the “Buffett Rule” so that it’s clear this isn’t just some idea thought up by the president of the United States; it has the full clout and authority of a billionaire.

Horwath, on the other hand, is out there riding bareback, taking on the most powerful forces in Canada all by herself, showing more boldness than this country has seen in a while.

The guns are out for her. On CTV, businessman Jim Doak described Horwath’s tax as “ethnic cleansing” of the rich.

Similarly, Wall Street titan Stephen Schwarzman denounced an attempt by Obama to close a tax loophole for hedge funds managers as “war — it’s like when Hitler invaded Poland.”

Another possibility is that higher taxes on the rich aren’t about war or ethnic cleansing, but about restoring the social contract that used to bind society together.

If Horwath can make that point with boldness and conviction, she might even succeed without a billionaire watching her back.

Continue reading here.

Economically troubled nations: be like Germany

David Olive, Opinion, The Toronto Star:

That Germany is an oasis of prosperity amid the economic wreckage of Europe is no secret. That the world’s fourth-largest economy, and by far the largest in Europe, is outperforming the U.S. and Canada, as well, has been a topic of a fascination that would be more pronounced if only we weren’t understandably preoccupied with austerity-driven riots in Athens, across Britain, and in a Madrid where the jobless rate is 20 per cent and youth unemployment is running at 40 per cent.

Germany’s economy will grow this year, while most of the rest of Europe has slipped into recession. German civil servants received a bonus last year, while governments at every level across North America and Europe are cutting government jobs – many of them essential-service jobs – or slashing the pay and benefits of those still on the payroll and forced to do the work of their laid-off colleagues.

Germany, an export-driven economy like Canada, retains its export prowess to such a degree that both Volkswagen AG and Daimler AG posted record profits in 2011, despite a slump in the European auto market. The German jobless rate is about 5 per cent, compared with 7.2 per cent in Canada, and 8.2 per cent in the U.S.

German industry is no less productive and innovative than its top peers, including Korea, Japan and the U.S. Yet organized labour in Germany has long had a significant role in corporate governance, as members of corporate supervisory boards. And Germany has long required employers to provide mandatory five-week vacations to workers.

Germany’s public finances are as sound as those of Canada and Switzerland, and the envy of a U.S. and Britain that are struggling with their public indebtedness. Yet Germany is an unapologetic welfare state, with a social safety net more elaborate than any outside Western Europe.

Germany has been showing us how to run a country that can take care of its people in good times and bad, and help rescue others as well.

Continue reading here.

BC NDP wins two Liberal bastions in by-elections

The newly elected NDP MLA for Port Moody-Coquitlam, Joe Trasolini, centre, celebrates his victory surrounded by colleagues, supporters and family in Port Moody, B.C. on April 19, 2012.

The Globe and Mail:

The NDP have swept to a decisive victory in both British Columbia by-elections – including a landslide win in an area where the party has not won since provincial elections began more than a century ago.

The results – particularly in Chilliwack-Hope, an area where a left-wing party has never won – are what the NDP hoped for and the B.C. Liberals had feared. A split in the right-of-centre vote tore down what had been two Liberal bastions, with the NDP scoring clear wins in both.

In Port Moody-Coquitlam, former Port Moody mayor Joe Trasolini scored an outright majority, with 54 per cent of the vote, with all polls reporting; B.C. Liberal Dennis Marsden trailed with 30 per cent; B.C. Conservative Christine Clarke had 15 per cent.

In Chilliwack-Hope, the NDP margin of victory was narrower, with Gwen O’Mahony scoring 41 per cent, with all polls reporting. B.C. Liberal Laurie Throness received 31 per cent; B.C. Conservative John Martin, 25 per cent.

In a statement released by her office, Premier Christy Clark said the results showed a split of the right-of-centre vote among her B.C. Liberals and the B.C. Conservatives. “It’s never been clearer that only a unified free enterprise coalition can defeat the NDP,” she said in the statement.

Continue reading here.

Republican rhetoric over the top

Eugene Robinson, Opinion, The Washington Post:

Not all overheated political rhetoric is alike. Delusional right-wing crazy talk — the kind of ranting we’ve heard recently from washed-up rock star Ted Nugent and Tea Party-backed Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) — is a special kind of poison that cannot be safely ignored.

Let me be clear: I’m saying that the extreme language we hear from the far right is qualitatively different from the extreme language we hear from the far left — and far more damaging to the ties that bind us as a nation. Tut-tutting that both sides should tone it down is meaningless. For all intents and purposes, one side is the problem.

Believe me, I would prefer not to dignify the ravings of Nugent or West by commenting on them. Nugent seems to be motivated by paranoia; West, perhaps by cynical calculation. It would be satisfying to withhold the attention they seek, but this is not an option. The only effective way to deal with bullies is to confront them.

Nugent, who delivered his foaming-at-the-mouth peroration at a National Rifle Association convention, earned a visit from the Secret Service with his promise that “if Barack Obama becomes the president in November again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.”

That might or might not constitute an actual threat to the president of the United States. More chilling, to me, was the way his audience of gun enthusiasts applauded in agreement as Nugent compared the Obama administration to a bunch of “coyotes in your living room” who deserve to be shot. Nugent ended by exhorting his listeners: “We are Braveheart. We need to ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November. Am I — any questions?”

No, I think he made himself quite clear.

Violent metaphors aside, the nub of Nugent’s argument — and I use the word advisedly — was this: “If you can’t go home and get everybody in your lives to clean house in this vile, evil, America-hating administration, I don’t even know what you’re made of.”

Vile? Evil? America-hating? Nugent doesn’t just characterize those with different political views as misguided or wrong. He seeks to paint them as alien and anti-American — as enemies of this nation, rather than citizens with whom he disagrees. In a subsequent interview, Nugent called Nancy Pelosi a “sub-human scoundrel” and referred to liberals as cockroaches to “stomp” in November.

This is what distinguishes the flame-throwers of the far right from those of the far left. Nugent and his ilk seek to deny their political opponents the very right to believe in a different philosophy. Agree with me, he says, or be stomped.

Continue reading here.

Ontario NDP: Liberal arrogance could topple govt.

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says if the Liberals are defeated over their 2012 budget, it will be due to their own arrogance.


Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says if the Liberals aren't willing to work with her party on re-crafting the provincial budget it could mean a snap election.

"If [the Liberals are] not prepared to work with us, then we'll be into an election," she said.

In an interview on Metro Morning, Horwath said if the minority Liberals go down to defeat over their budget next Tuesday it will be their own fault.

"If they're not prepared to do what the people told them to do - which is work with the other parties ... so if we do end up in election next week it will be because the McGuinty Liberals, in their arrogance, weren't prepared to work with anyone else," she said.

Also on Friday the Ontario Federation of Labour launched a campaign against the minority Liberal budget, saying proposed service and job cuts are the biggest since the era of former Tory premier Mike Harris.

Continue reading here.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Ontario NDP surging in polls

Ontario News Watch:

The Environics Research Group poll shows the New Democrats have surged to second place, while the Liberals have fallen behind to third.

The poll pegs the Tories at 37 percent support of decided voters, the NDP at 30 percent, and the Liberals at 27 percent. Six percent of Ontarians would support the Green Party.

The results may explain the more conciliatory tone taken by Premier Dalton McGuinty and Finance Minister Dwight Duncan since last weekend about talks with Andrea Horwath's NDP.

Negotiations with the New Democrats in advance of the April 24 budget vote are said to be picking up speed.

Environics says the results indicate a three way split.

"The Liberal decline is a product of a budget that hasn't been well received or well positioned, the ORNGE issue and to a lesser degree the weakness of the federal Liberal brand," said Darren Karasiuk, VP of Public Affairs for Environics Research Group.

"The NDP have made the most of the Liberal loss," he said Wednesday. "The Tories, not so much."

Continue reading here.
The Toronto Star:

Forum’s interactive voice-response telephone poll of 1,084 people was conducted Tuesday.

It also reported that 60 per cent of Ontarians do not want another election with 34 per cent seeking a return to the polls and 7 per cent undecided.

But an election would apparently result in another minority government — it’s a tight three-way race with the Tories at 34 per cent, the NDP at 31 per cent, the Liberals at 28 per cent and the Greens at 5 per cent.

Hudak’s approval rating languishes at 24 per cent — behind McGuinty at 27 per cent — and well off of Horwath’s poll-leading 46 per cent

Continue reading here.

Freud would have a field day with Republicans

Sigmund Freud came up with the idea of psychological projection - which is basically when someone projects onto other people belief or actions that they themselves hold or have carried out, but are in denial about. For example - if someone is a habitual liar - they might hide it by accusing others around them of lying. It sure looks like Mitt Romney is guilty of this sort of psychological projection. After all - one of the central messages of his campaign is how awful Obamacare is - even though Mitt Romney was the first to enact a version of Obamacare in Massachusetts while he was a Governor. And while the issue of healthcare is the most obvious form of projection by Mitt Romney - there are several others.

Files reveal persecution under British Empire

Long forgotten secret documents from the final days of the British Empire have been made available to the public. The controversial records detail crimes committed during the dying days of the empire, including the persecution of people by the British. It has also emerged that thousands more documents have been destroyed. Al Jazeera's Barnaby Phillips reports from London.

Horwath’s tax-the-rich ‘hugely popular’

The Toronto Star:

Ontarians overwhelmingly favour NDP Leader Andrea Horwath’s proposal to raise taxes on people who earn more than $500,000 a year, a new poll suggests.

Horwath has put forward the wealth surtax as one of her party’s conditions for supporting Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty’s budget, which will be voted on next Tuesday.

More than three-quarters of people surveyed — 78 per cent — like her idea with only 17 per cent opposed and 5 per cent unsure, according to the Forum Research poll.

“It’s hugely popular. You never see that — that’s huge,” Forum president Lorne Bozinoff said Wednesday.

With the Progressive Conservatives vowing to defeat the budget Tuesday, the Liberals are in talks with the NDP on a deal to avert a snap election just six months after the Oct. 6 vote.

The survey also found strong support for Horwath’s proposal to cap provincial executive salaries at $418,000 a year — or twice the premier’s pay. About two-thirds — 65 per cent — approve of that with only 22 per cent opposed and 13 per cent uncertain.

It also reported that 60 per cent of Ontarians do not want another election with 34 per cent seeking a return to the polls and 7 per cent undecided.

But an election would apparently result in another minority government — it’s a tight three-way race with the Tories at 34 per cent, the NDP at 31 per cent, the Liberals at 28 per cent and the Greens at 5 per cent.

“No one is going to benefit from an election from these numbers,” said Bozinoff, noting PC Leader Tim Hudak’s personal standing remains a drag on his party.

Hudak’s approval rating languishes at 24 per cent — behind McGuinty at 27 per cent — and well off of Horwath’s poll-leading 46 per cent

Continue reading here.

Environment still engulfed by BP's oil spill

Two years after the disaster, scientists and fishermen say they are seeing a disturbing amount of mutated sea life. Inside Story speaks with guests: Riki Ott, J Bennett Johnston, and Dahr Jamail.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Photos show US soldiers with dead Afghans

Newly published photos have emerged claiming to show American soldiers posing with the bodies - and in some cases body parts - of unidentified Afghans. Al Jazeera's Alan Fisher reports from Washington DC.

A livable wage for restaurant workers?

The only national organization focused on the needs of restaurant workers held a rally here in Washington, DC - drawing attention to the struggles these workers face. Dr. Jill Stein - the Green Party candidate for President - was at the rally - and she'll join Thom to talk more about it...

Oil speculators fuel higher pump prices

The Toronto Star:

U.S. president Barack Obama unveiled a plan Tuesday to throttle oil price manipulation by market speculators as part of a bid to lower gasoline prices.

Obama wants the U.S. Congress to strengthen federal supervision of oil markets, increase penalties for market manipulation and allow regulators to slap energy traders with stiffer financial requirements to back up their trades.

Proponents of the plan say that when hedge funds and huge investment firms such as Goldman Sachs buy up futures contracts to bet on the direction of the price of oil, it drives up the price of the commodity, and by extension, the price of gasoline

Continue reading here.

Breivik's links to far-right network under scrutiny

Norwegian prosecutors have been pressing Anders Breivik, who has admitted killing 77 people last year, for details of the ultra-nationalist group he says he belongs to. Whether such a group actually exists is expected to be important in determining whether Breivik is sane. Al Jazeera's Jonah Hull reports from Oslo, Norway.

Right-wing group stops push for dumb laws

Democracy Now!:

After a massive corporate exodus prompted by growing scrutiny of its activities, the secretive right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has announced it will stop pushing so-called Stand Your Ground and voter ID laws. Our guest Lisa Graves says this is an attempt by ALEC "to try to keep its donors and try to have the press move along." She notes, "ALEC’s broader agenda, which it calls its jobs agenda, is extraordinarily extreme itself," noting that one of its bills would cut off one’s right to sue if one’s loved one is killed by a drug approved the Food and Drug Administration, even if the drug is later recalled. Graves is executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy, which built "ALEC Exposed," a website showcasing more than 800 model bills the group has pushed in states nationwide. We’re also joined by Rashad Robinson, executive director of, which has criticized corporations for working with ALEC to pass laws that hurt people of color, young people and the elderly, especially voter ID laws. "You can’t come for black folks’ money by day and try to take away our vote by night," Robinson says.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Patriotic millionaires beg for more taxes...

Richard Schottenfeld, Schottenfeld Group LLC (investments) & a Patriotic Millionaire joins Thom Hartmann. Believe it or not - there are plenty of American millionaires who want to pay their fair share in taxes to help our government and economy. So why won't Conservatives in Washington accept their help?

Robocalls probe extends to Conservative HQ

Marty Burke, who ran for the Conservative party in Guelph, Ont., has denied his campaign had anything to do with the "Pierre Poutine" robocalls.

The Ottawa Citizen:

Ottawa — Elections Canada investigators on the trail of the "Pierre Poutine" suspect in the robocalls case have been asking questions about the actions of staff at Conservative party headquarters in Ottawa.

Nearly a year after the investigation began, the agency is trying to determine why database records provided by the party appear to be missing entries that could help identify who downloaded the phone numbers used to make fraudulent robocalls, according to a source familiar with the probe.

Investigators also are inquiring about a phone call from Conservative headquarters, made the day before the election, to RackNine, the Edmonton voice-broadcasting company whose servers were used to send out the robocalls.

On May 2, 2011, thousands of opposition supporters in Guelph, Ont., received a pre-recorded message directing them to vote at the wrong polling station. The electronic trail behind the calls eventually discovered led to a disposable cellphone registered in the fake name of Pierre Poutine.

The party has repeatedly and firmly denied that anybody in its Ottawa offices had anything to do with the Poutine drama, and until recently, the investigation has focused on the team of workers on the unsuccessful campaign of Guelph Conservative candidate Marty Burke

Continue reading here.

Argentina to seize control of oil company

Spain's government has criticised Argentina's decision to take over the Spanish owned oil company, YPF. Argentina wants to exert control over its natural resources by taking a 51 per cent stake. Al Jazeera's Teresa BO reports from the oil-producing province of Chubut.

Teabagger: "We will not be silenced by faggots"

The Huffington Post:

A Tea Party tax day protest and counter-demonstration in Boston got testy over the weekend, with the confrontation reportedly leading to a speaker telling a group of LGBT activists that they wouldn't be "silenced by faggots."

Scott Wooledge relays the supposed slur in a lengthy post at Daily Kos breaking down the encounter between Tea Partyers, counter-protesters from numerous progressive groups and police officers.

Reports from attendees were that in response to disturbances by protestors, one of the speakers said from the podium, broadcast across the loud speakers at the Commons, "We will not be silenced by faggots."

The comment reportedly came while police were being dispatched to break up the counter-demonstration against, among other things, the presence and honoring of anti-gay activist Scott Lively at the event.

Photographers also documented at least one instance of police appearing to get physical with the pro-LGBT presence

Continue reading here.

Is it time to end America's 'war on drugs'?

As the US says no to legalisation to control increased global demand of illicit drugs, we ask what are the options. Inside Story Americas, discusses with guests: Laura Gil, Steven Dudley and Jose Cardenas.

Washington picks Wall Street over the people

A report by the Inspector General's Office for the Troubled Asset Relief program revealed that a program called the Hardest Hit Fund, has gone for the most part unused. Out of more than $7 billion put into this initiative to provide relief for troubled homeowners in states hit the hardest by the housing crisis and by unemployment, only 3% of those funds had been used by the end of 2011, more than 2 years since the program's inception. And while the Treasury Department tried to defend itself, blame it all on the slow pace of government bureaucracy, the hypocrisy is just too much to bear. Alyona says this is just one small example in what's become an entire culture, of putting Wall Street and corporate interests first.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Unpaid workers in Dubai refuse to leave

A group of foreign workers in the United Arab Emirates has set up camp in the desert, refusing to leave until they are paid what they say they are owed by employers who have deserted them. One charity says there has been an increase in cases like this, but the government has yet to weigh in. The case has been before the courts for months, but many workers live in dire conditions as they wait for payment. Al Jazeera's Dorsa Jabbari reports from Dubai.

US, Canada alienated at Summit of the Americas


Canada and the United States are finding themselves at odds with Latin American countries on two thorny issues — the war on drugs and the exclusion of Cuba — at a summit of hemispheric leaders in Colombia.

The event's host, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, delivered a frank speech Saturday to the assembled heads of state and government in which he said it would be "unacceptable" to hold another Summit of the Americas without Cuba. The communist country was suspended from the Organization of American States, the main organizing body for the summits, in 1962.

Three Latin American leaders are threatening not to sign Sunday's summit declaration unless Canada and the United States agree to allow Cuba to attend the next one, the CBC's Terry Milewski reported from the summit.

The Colombian president also said that the war on drugs isn't working and that he would like to see a debate on decriminalizing them.

Violence related to the drug trade has pushed murder rates in Central America and the Caribbean to the highest in the world.

But Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office has said he won't entertain any policy changes that would lift the prohibition of illicit drugs, while U.S. President Barack Obama repeated at the summit on Saturday that the White House believes "legalization is not the answer."

Continue reading here.

Short history of privatization in the UK: 1979-2012

Students protest against the rise in tuition fees and privatisation in universities, 2011.

The Guardian:

From the first experiments with British Aerospace through British Telecom, water and electricity to the NHS and Royal Mail

Royal Mail is being auctioned, and not necessarily to the highest bidder (and stamp prices are going up). The London fire brigade is outsourcing 999 calls to a firm called Capita, at the behest of the oleaginous chair of the capital's fire authority, Brian Coleman. Multinationals are circling hungrily around NHS hospitals. Schools are already beginning to turn a profit. In the technocratic nomenclature of the IMF, this would be called a "structural adjustment programme", but that doesn't really capture the sweeping scale of the transformation. We can see this through a potted history of privatisation in the UK.

• 1979-81: Experimentation

Margaret Thatcher inspects a Sea Harrier aircraft at a British Aerospace factory, 1982.

The Tories had long been committed to some policy of de-nationalisation. In response to the prolonged crisis of the 1970s, in which the Tories had struggled to maintain their parliamentary dominance, the Ridley report devised for the Thatcher shadow cabinet recommended a policy of breaking up the public sector and dismembering unions. Privatisation was at first subordinate to other policy themes, above all wage suppression to control inflation. But the first Thatcher administration did successfully introduce a degree of privatisation in some large public sector companies, above all British Aerospace and Cable & Wireless. At this stage, however, the focus was on privatising already profitable entities to raise revenues and thus reduce public-sector borrowing.

• 2009-: Thatcherism Mark II?

The Tories took office without a mandate, but with no lack of confidence. Their agenda, which had emerged since 2008, was to represent the crisis of global capitalism as a crisis of public sector spending. Having already privatised the Tote and announced the sell-off of Northern Rock, with other nationalised banks to follow, they have indicated that Royal Mail will be sold off, along with probation services, roads, large sectors of education and the NHS. Even sections of the police, traditionally an ally of the right, will be privatised. Outsourcing will be extended into every possible area.

But, as in the 1980s, the aim is not primarily to reduce public-sector borrowing. The Tories know that ongoing economic crisis is not just a fiscal or financial problem. The private sector is utterly stagnant. Globally, there are trillions of pounds being retained by corporations who see no viable avenue for profitable investment. US companies are holding on to $1.7 trillion, eurozone firms sit on 2 trillion euros, and British firms have £750bn doing nothing. Accumulation-by-dispossession is one way to get that money into circulation as capital. And while the Conservatives are not as ideologically confident as in the 1980s, the scale of their proposed privatisations suggests they expect to over-ride any opposition

Continue reading here.