Saturday, June 30, 2012

US healthcare law leaves millions without coverage



The health care reform law, which was cleared by the US Supreme Court on Thursday, promises to extend insurance to about 30 million more people in the country. But it will still leave an estimated eight per cent of the population, that's 26 million people, without medical coverage. Tom Ackerman looks at those who will remain unprotected.

NDP: RCMP should investigate Del Mastro


Ottawa — The New Democrats say they will ask Justice Minister Rob Nicholson to call in the RCMP to investigate new allegations about the financing of Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro’s 2008 election campaign.

The NDP also want Nicholson to ask Director of Public Prosecutions Brian Saunders to provide prosecutorial advice to police because the politically-charged claims of a false document and reimbursements to campaign donors exceed the scope of Elections Canada’s mandate.

Del Mastro, the prime minister’s parliamentary secretary, is currently under investigation by Elections Canada over allegations his campaign exceeded its spending limit then tried to cover it up. He denies he did anything wrong.

An Elections Canada investigator has also said in a sworn statement that a memo submitted in the campaign’s financial reports was “a false document.”

There are also new allegations from former employees of a Mississauga electrical contracting firm, owned by Del Mastro’s cousin, who say they were reimbursed for making $1,000 donations to the same campaign.

Deltro Electric Ltd. owner David Del Mastro says he asked employees and friends to donate voluntarily but denies paying any reimbursements.

The new claims mark a serious escalation beyond the original concerns about Elections Act violations, says NDP MP critic Charlie Angus.

“We started out with a story of overspending and now we’re into a kickback scheme and fraud and forgery issues,” Angus said Friday.

“These are really complex and serious allegations. Can you just go and buy an election in Canada? It’s about the government saying, ‘We take this seriously.’”

Angus says these matters appear to exceed the scope of the Elections Act that Elections Canada enforces.

Continue reading here.

Turkey: Free jailed trade unionists now


In partnership with International Trade Union Confederation, which represents 175 million workers in 153 countries and territories and has 308 national affiliates, and the following global union federations: EI, ITF and PSI.
 
On 25 June, Turkish police detained 71 trade union members and leaders in around 20 cities. They are members of the ITUC-affiliated Confederation of Public Sector Workers’ Unions (KESK) and the KESK-affiliated unions such as BTS, Tarim Orkam-Sen, Egitim-Sen, SES, Tum Bel-Sen, BES, ESM and Haber-Sen. The police raided the union offices and houses of trade unionists in the early hours of the day. This attack – carried out under the pretext of an operation against an illegal terrorist organisation – is the latest in a number of acts of intimidation and harassment against trade unions and their members during the years under the rule of the Justice and Development Party (AKP). For example, in February this year, 15 women leaders and activists of a number of KESK-affiliated unions were arrested. While the first link between Turkey’s trade unions and any real or perceived terrorist organisation has yet to be found, the authorities leave no opportunity untapped to refer to such an alleged link as an excuse for harsh and arbitrary repression. Join the ITUC and Global Union Federations such as EI, ITF and PSI in condemning these anti-union harassment tactics by sending this message to Prime Minister Erdogan, urging him to ensure the immediate and unconditional release of all 71 detained trade unionists. 

Continue reading and sign the petition here.





Conservative Senator makes an ass of himself


After a week of name calling and online arguments with reporters, it seems Patrick Brazeau may have tweeted himself out of existence. At the time of this article, the Tory Senator's Twitter account no longer exists.
 
No word explanation has been provided though many users on Twitter believe Brazeau has deleted the account. 

Brazeau first made headlines Wednesday after calling a reporter a bitch through a long and heated Twitter exchange. The argument broke out after Canadian Press Reporter Jennifer Ditchburn reported on the Brazeau's less-than-stellar Senate attendance record.

Brazeau later called Ditchburn to apologize for his comments after a massive online backlash.
But that wouldn't spell the end to the senator's spat with reporters. 

On Thursday, Jorge Barrera, a reporter with APTN, filed a story regarding allegations of sexual harassment against Brazeau during his time as national chief of Congress of Aboriginal People. The allegations -- which have yet to be proven in court -- date back to a 2007 Christmas party when a staffer alleges a drunken Brazzeau tried to kiss her. She then received 15 missed calls from Brazeau shortly after. 

Upset over the story's comments, Brazzeau then challenged Barrera on Twitter, according to the National Post.

Canada's new way?

Friday, June 29, 2012

Dutch researchers 'invent greener fuel'



The World Health Organization has recently declared that diesel fumes are more harmful than second-hand cigarette smoke. A Dutch university has come up with what it says is a cleaner form of the fuel, that could cut emissions by half. Gerald Tan explains.

Mexican Left hoping for resurgence



Mexicans will choose their president on Sunday, in a poll dominated by the country's two main conservative parties. In this largely Catholic nation, leftist politics has remained largely on the margins. This year's opinion polls, however, show that Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the main candidate from the left, represents a serious challenge for the presidency. In a country where nearly half of the people live in poverty, Obrador is promising to end corruption and establish social equality. Unlike in other Latin American countries -- including Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador and Venezuela -- Mexico's left, however, has struggled to recapture its power base. Al Jazeera's Franc Contreras reports.

CNN sucks



Salon:

When Chief Justice John Roberts shocked the world by voting to uphold “Obamacare” (with a narrow, conservative argument that leaves future Commerce Clause-related decisions up in the air), CNN got so excited for some breaking news that they reported the wrong breaking news.

Various unnamed CNN employees are apparently appalled and pissed off at the sloppiness. And they should be!

This is extra embarrassing because every news outlet that took an extra minute to have someone read the decision before they announced the takeaway got it right. (CNN was joined in its wrongness by… Fox News.)

According to the sort of people for whom CNN’s ratings woes reflect a moral failing of the American people as opposed to a series of boneheaded decisions by CNN executives, CNN is posting its worst ratings in 20 years because people only want to watch biased news that they agree with, and they no longer care about Original Reporting and Unbiased Fact-Based Journalism. In reality, CNN is failing because CNN sucks. It doesn’t fill its daylight hours with hard-hitting reporting from far-flung locales, it fills it with Wolf Blitzer sputtering softballs at politicians followed by shouting partisans (from both sides!) having idiotic arguments. For hours. CNN staffers seem to understand this. From Dylan Byers’ recent Politico story on CNN’s ratings woes:
“It’s frustrating to hear our leadership talk about the exemplary journalism we do, then turn on the TV during the day and see CNN doing another story about ‘birthers’ or ‘tips for dining out alone,’” said one staffer.
 Continue reading here.

Health care: doubts remain on quality, access



Democracy Now!:

We host a roundtable discussion on the landmark Supreme Court healthcare ruling with three guests: Dr. Oliver Fein of Physicians for a National Health Program, who signed a statement Thursday saying the new law will not remedy the U.S. health crisis; Wendell Potter, a former insurance executive turned whistleblower and senior analyst on healthcare at the Center for Public Integrity; and Jodi Jacobson, the editor-in-chief of RH Reality Check, a website dedicated to covering reproductive healthcare.

CNN News staffers revolt over blown coverage


News staffers at the cable network CNN, long the gold standard in television news, were on the verge of open revolt Thursday after CNN blew the coverage on the most consequential news event of the year. 

As Chief Justice John Roberts began reading his decision on the future of President Obama's health care overhaul, the CNN team inside the courtroom jumped the gun, believing that Roberts was saying the individual mandate was unconstitutional and would be overturned. 

A producer inside the courtroom, Bill Mears, communicated the information to a relatively junior reporter, Kate Bolduan, the face of the network's coverage outside on the courthouse steps.

Bolduan then reported, on air, that the invidual mandate was “not valid,” citing producer Mears.
“It appears as if the Supreme Court justices struck down the individual mandate, the centerpiece,” of the law, she said.

Moments after Bolduan spoke, the false story began to metastasize inside the network's online operation. 

The erroneous breaking news was made into a chyron at the bottom of the screen. CNN also sent out a breaking news alert. 

And a half dozen top on-air reporters and producers within the esteemed news organization told BuzzFeed they are furious at what they see as yet another embarrassment to a network stuck in third place in the cable news race, and torn between an identity as the leader in hard news and the success of their opinionated, personality-driven rivals, Fox News and MSNBC. 

“Fucking humiliating,” said one CNN veteran. “We had a chance to cover it right. And some people in here don’t get what a big deal getting it wrong is. Morons.”

“Shameful,” another long-time correspondent told BuzzFeed.

"It's outrageous and embarrassing,” a third CNN staffer vented. “Maybe this will shake the company into understanding that CNN has not been the 'most trusted name in news' for a very long time."

A fourth CNN source noted simply “obviously, it’s embarrassing,” but defended legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, and stressed that it’s the challenge of breaking news. 

Continue reading here.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Alan Grayson on Supreme Court, corporate cash



We begin tonight - with a Supreme Court ruling this morning that's not getting nearly as much attention as it should - it was in the case: American Tradition Partnership V. Bullock. Or what it should be better known as...Citizens United part deux. The issue at hand was whether or not the state of Montana could ignore the high court's 2010 Citizens United ruling - since the state had a law on the books for more than 100 years that banned corporate spending in state elections. Twenty-two states, plus the District of Columbia, and several lawmakers urged the high court to hear oral arguments in the case and re-litigate Citizens United altogether, now that the damage of the decision is clearly on display two years later. But, in another 5-to-4 ruling, the Conservative justices chose not to hear any oral arguments - and essentially struck down the Montana law - and ruled that it's 2010 Citizens United decision applies not just to federal elections - but to state elections as well. So - for the second time in two years - the Supreme Court has given corporations and millionaires and billionaires the right to spend unlimited amounts of money buying our politicians. And this buyout is well underway as the Koch Brothers, Sheldon Adelson, and the Chamber of Commerce pledging to spend more than a billion dollars to defeat President Obama and progressives around the nation. So what happens now?

Mainstream media ignore real issues with numbers



While the Mainstream Media is busy going crazy over poll numbers, they are completely missing some real election news that's happening. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office sent subpoenas to several high-ranking officials at the National Chamber Foundation a nonprofit foundation, linked to the U-S Chamber of Commerce.

Barclays bank fined over price fixing



Barclays Bank's share price has plunged by 17 percent earlier, as a rate-rigging investigation gets underway. Barclays has already been fined 453 million dollars for using underhand tactics to rig the markets. More banks could be caught up in the scandal. Laurence Lee has more.

Will students help Manuel López Obrador win?



Democracy Now!:

As the drug war rages in Mexico, voters will head to the polls on Sunday to choose a new president. Will the PRI come back to power, or could the Occupy-inspired Yo Soy 132 movement help Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a former Mexico City mayor who narrowly lost the 2006 election, pull off an upset? We go to Mexico City to speak with Tania Molina, a journalist at La Jornada, the main progressive national newspaper in Mexico; and John Ackerman, editor of the Mexican Law Review and a professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

New Hampshire Republican: kindergarten = crime


A Republican New Hampshire state legislator told a county convention Monday evening that kindergarten leads to higher crime rates. 

Rep. Bob Kingsbury (R-Laconia) told the Belknap County Convention that research he's been conducting for the last 16 years has led him to believe that kindergarten programs leads to higher crime rates, the Laconia Daily Sun reported. Kingsbury, one of the more conservative legislators in the Tea Party-controlled House, said that his analysis was of local crime rates in communities that offered kindergarten versus those that do not offer the educational program. 

"We're taking children away from their mothers too soon," Kingsbury said, who also linked higher crime to the lack of boxing classes in high schools.

Continue reading here.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Supreme Court stops Montana ban on corporate $



Congressman Adam Schiff joins Thom Hartmann. Yesterday - the Supreme Court reaffirmed their Citizens United decision - saying Montana can't keep corporate money out of it's elections. Where does the fight go to get money out of politics stands after this latest blow?

The most important question is not being asked...



There are a lot of questions being thrown around this Presidential campaign between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. Questions like - how many jobs did Romney REALLY destroy as a corporate raider at Bain Capital? How much should the super rich pay in taxes? Where was President Obama REALLY born? Some questions are important - others are completely absurd. But there's one fundamental question that hasn't been asked yet - and that desperately needs to be asked - if we're ever going to find our nation's soul again...coming up in The Daily Take.

Sudanese protest against austerity measures



Sudan's government is facing growing public anger over its austerity measures. The country lost $2.5bn worth of oil revenue a year when South Sudan gained independence last year, causing Khartoum to introduce a number of cutbacks. Inflation has soared, with food and fuel prices increasing by over 30 per cent overnight, after the government stopped subsidising basic commodities. In the last two weeks, hundreds of protesters have taken to the streets over the rising food and fuel prices. Al Jazeera's Mohamed Vall reports from Khartoum.

How does the US treats its homeless?



As one state passes a bill of rights for the homeless, others are making it illegal to sleep, sit, beg or share food in public places. Is this effectively criminalizing homelessness? And how should the US treat its homeless population?

Supreme Court rejects law banning corporate cash




The Supreme Court has struck down a century-old Montana law banning corporate campaign spending. Montana was sued when it invoked the ban to prevent corporate money from flooding state and local political races. A right-wing nonprofit argued the state’s ban violates the 2010 Citizens United ruling that allowed corporations to spend unlimited amounts in federal elections. On Monday, the Supreme Court agreed, blocking Montana’s law in a divided five-to-four ruling. The decision has drawn a rare bipartisan rebuke from Montana officials. We speak to John Bonifaz, co-founder and director of Free Speech for People and the legal director of Voter Action. "For more than a century, Montana had [barred] corporate money in elections," Bonifaz says. "Now the United States Supreme Court has said to the state of Montana that the facts don’t matter. ... [We demand] a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court and to make clear that we the people, not we the corporations, rule in America."

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Israeli settlers evicted after landmark ruling



The Israeli government has started moving settlers from a West Bank neighborhood after a landmark ruling by the High Court. Sixteen Israeli families have been ordered out of their homes because they were built illegally on Palestinian land. Melissa Chan reports from the West Bank.

Shannen's Dream became a reality



NDP MP Charlie Angus, The Huffington Post:

The children were running alongside me as we trudged along the hot and dusty road through Attawapiskat. They could hardly contain themselves. After 13 long years of heartache and struggle, the community was finally getting a real grade school. 

As we walked to the site where the first shovels would ceremonially dig into the earth, the children were bubbling over with visions of what this school would be like. Lockers -- there will be lockers and we will make them pretty. A hallway -- we will have a real hallway where we can walk from class to class without worrying about the cold. There'll be a science room, a music room, a real cafeteria where mice won't eat our lunches. It was almost heartbreaking to see through their eyes the years of neglect they had faced in dilapidated portables on a heavily toxic site.

For these youngsters, the walk to the site of the new school had all the energy of Christmas morning. You could see this energy in the pictures they had painted to celebrate their new school. Colourful rainbow pictures with stick children full of smiles and little dogs and whales taking the place of clouds in the skies. Paintings to make Chagall weep.

Continue reading here.

Doctor, med student protest cuts at press event



(via CBC News: http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/story/2012/06/22/pol-oliver-doctors-interrupt-r...)

(see also: http://www.thestar.com/opinion/letters/article/1216136--a-new-low-for-refugee...)

Issue: http://www.doctorsforrefugeecare.ca/the-issue.html


Health for All: http://health4all.ca/
Location: Toronto General Hospital
Date: 22 June 2012
Event: Press conference by Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver
Doctor: Chris Keefer
Medical Student: Faria Kamal

59 Cents Campaign



http://www.facebook.com/fiftyninecents

We at the 59 Cents Campaign find the Canadian Government's decision to cut portions of refugee healthcare by means of the Ministerial Order of Hon. Jason Kenney, published April 25, 2012 to be unacceptable.

We believe that if Canadians stop to consider the effect which these changes will have on the most vulnerable portion of our global society, that our country's annual savings of 59 cents per person to keep the Federal Interim Health Program open for refugees will be seen as insignificant.

The changes are set to take effect June 30, 2012, therefore, we have put together the 59 cent campaign in which we are asking all Canadians to place 59 cents in an envelope and send it to the Prime Minister's office to let him know that we will not stand for these cuts.

In 2011 Canada was proudly a place of hope and healing to 25,000 refugees; this is a fact in which we take pride and wish to take pride in for generations to come
.

The absurd contradicitions of capitalism

(click image for larger view)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Outsourcing jobs, Republicans screwing workers



Shane Larson, Communication Workers of America joins Thom Hartmann. The U.S. call center industry has lost 500,000 jobs over the last six years thanks to corporations like bank of America, Well Fargo, and t-mobile outsourcing Americans jobs to foreign countries where they can exploit low-wage workers. The big four wall street banks have all moved their call centers to the Philippines in the last few years, laying off hundreds of thousands of American workers who bailed out the banks to the tune of a couple hundred billion dollars back in 2008. Well on Tuesday, republicans in the house had a chance to put an end to this giant sucking sound by passing the u.s. call center worker and consumer protection act. The bill cuts off federal loans and grants to corporations that outsource American call center jobs. Unfortunately for Americans workers, the bill failed as house republicans lined up against it - voting it down, while most democrats supported the bill. So now, corporations once again have free rein to outsource as many call center jobs as they like to stimulate the Filipino economy - while turning their backs on the American economy? So what does Tuesday's vote say about the republican party and how they really feel about hardworking Americans? Time to call your member of congress - especially if they're a republican - and ask why they support stimulating the Filipino economy over the American economy.

Mexico drug trade impacts industry



The Mexican state of Sinaloa has become synonymous with drug trafficking. But, the state's economy also revolves around legitimate farming and tourism. Industries that is now under threat by the drug traffickers and their allies. Al Jazeera's Adam Raney reports from Culiacia, Mexico.

US military suicides on the rise



The number of US military personnel committing suicide has been rising. Families say the Pentagon is not doing enough to address the problem. Al Jazeera's Rosalind Jordan reports.

Coup in Paraguay



Democracy Now!:

Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo has been ousted in what he has described as a parliamentary coup. On Friday, the Paraguayan Senate voted 39-to-4 to impeach Lugo, saying he had failed in his duty to maintain social order following a recent land dispute which resulted in the deaths of six police officers and 11 peasant farmers. A former priest, Lugo was once called the "Bishop of the Poor" and was known for defending peasant rights. Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Chile and Uruguay have all condemned Lugo’s ouster, but the question remains whether the Obama administration will recognize the new government. We’re joined by Greg Grandin, professor of Latin American history at New York University and author of "Empire’s Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism." His most recent book, "Fordlandia," was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in history.

OFL decries $1M fine against construction firm

Ontario Federation of Labour President Sid Ryan.


The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) expressed its frustration Saturday that the head of a Toronto-based construction firm won't be facing jail time for the deaths of four workers who died while working on a building in 2009.

While applauding the historic conviction of the company - the first in Ontario to face conviction for criminal negligence - the OFL said the $1 million fine sought by the prosecution "doesn't deliver sufficient justice to the victims and their families."

On Christmas Eve 2009, a swing stage at a Toronto high rise collapsed, resulting in five workers plunging 13 stories during construction repair. Four died and one was injured.

"How many workers need to die before a boss is put behind bars?" OFL president Sid Ryan asked in a statement. "The company pleaded guilty in the worst construction accident in Toronto in fifty years, yet the owner of the company is still a free man. It makes no sense to me that the person who profited most from risking the lives of workers isn't being held to account."

Ryan was referring to Metron Construction boss Joel Swartz. The OFL said it learned last week that Swartz pleaded guilty to four breaches of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, but the Crown dropped the criminal charges against him.

The OFL launched its "Kill a Worker, Go to Jail" campaign shortly after the tragedy. It called for the vigorous use of the Criminal Code of Canada provision that enables the prosecution of corporate executives, directors and managers who act wrongfully or negligently.

The Ontario government responded by creating a panel on workplace health and safety and launched a province-wide review that resulted in significant amendments to provincial laws that were designed to prevent similar tragedies.

According to the OFL, 436 workplace accident and occupational disease fatalities were reported in Ontario and over 240,000 injury claims were filed last year.

"Unless negligent employers face jail time, they will simply be able to buy their way out of responsibility," Ryan said. "And, write this off any potential fine as the cost of doing business. Without full justice under the law, workers will continue to lose their lives while their employers turn a profit."

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Who is Mohamed Morsi?



Many Egyptians felt they have been left with little choice in this election. They could either vote for a leading member of the old regime or take a chance on Mohammad Morsi, a candidate from the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood promoted him as the one who could deliver on the revolution's aims and bring the economy back from the brink, though he was never prominent withint the organization. Al Jazeera's Dominic Kane reports.

Forced sterlization: Time for compensation?



Tens of thousands were forcibly sterilized throughout the 20th century across the US as they were deemed "feeble minded" and "inappropriate candidates" for reproduction. In 1927, the Supreme Court upheld state statues permitting compulsory sterilization in the "Buck versus Bell" decision. The Supreme Court ruling, which Nazis at the Nuremberg trials cited in their defence, has never been expressly overturned.

Corporate profits all-time high, wages all-time low


In case you need more confirmation that the US economy is out of balance, here are three charts for you.

1) Corporate profit margins just hit an all-time high. Companies are making more per dollar of sales than they ever have before. (And some people are still saying that companies are suffering from "too much regulation" and "too many taxes." Maybe little companies are, but big ones certainly aren't).

2) Fewer Americans are working than at any time in the past three decades. One reason corporations are so profitable is that they don't employ as many Americans as they used to.


3) Wages as a percent of the economy are at an all-time low. This is both cause and effect. One reason companies are so profitable is that they're paying employees less than they ever have as a share of GDP. And that, in turn, is one reason the economy is so weak: Those "wages" are other companies' revenue.


In short, our current system and philosophy is creating a country of a few million overlords and 300+ million serfs.

That's not what has made America a great country. It's also not what most people think America is supposed to be about.

So we might want to rethink that.

Meanwhile, if you want to know more about what's wrong with the economy, flip through these charts:

Okay, Folks, Let's Put Aside Politics And Look At The Facts...


UK Families protest against extradition treaty



Four families of men who are set to be extradited from the UK to the US have protested outside Downing Street, claiming the men's right to a fair trail in their own country is being denied and the UK is treating them as enemies of the state. The argument put forward by these families is an argument highlighted by the case of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who is wanted in Sweden on sex charges he denies. His supporters say extradition to Sweden would be just the first step in Assange being handed over to the US because he has embarrassed the US government by leaking sensitive information. The protesters presented a petition to 10 Downing Street. The British government is already in talks with the US with a view of reviewing the treaty. Al Jazeera's Harry Smith reports from London.

Queen gets $8 million raise

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh attend the Ladies Day during Royal Ascot at Ascot Race course on June 21,  2012 in Ascot, England.


London – Queen Elizabeth, who celebrated 60 years on the British throne this month, might see her income rise 16 per cent after lawmakers changed the way royal finances are calculated and the Crown Estate reported record earnings on Thursday.

The monarch will be entitled to £36 million ($57.7 million Canadian) for the fiscal year through March 2014, up from £31 million pounds for this year. Crown Estate’s profit grew by four per cent to £240.2 million in fiscal 2012 on rising revenue from land leased for offshore wind parks.

The Sovereign Grant covers expenses incurred by the queen in her duties as head of state and is pegged at 15 per cent of profit generated two years earlier by Crown Estate, which manages the real estate surrendered by the monarchy in 1760. The measure, adopted last year, simplified grants previously made by the Treasury and other government departments.

“They’re a landmark set of results,” Crown Estate chief executive officer Alison Nimmo said in interview at the corporation’s office off Regent St. in central London.

The 48-year-old joined in January after overseeing the design and construction of most venues for the London 2012 Olympic Games and devising plans for their use after the event. Profit was boosted by a 17-per- cent rise in revenue at the marine estate, which leases sites used for offshore wind farms. The marine estate’s value climbed by 23 per cent in fiscal 2012.

Continue reading here.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The propaganda behind Obama's drone war



On Listening Post this week: The propaganda push behind Obama's drone war. And Somalia - where being a journalist can cost you your life. It has been one of the worst-kept secrets of the Obama administration - the aggressive campaign of drone strikes against suspected militants hiding out in the tribal areas of Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. According to the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, under President Barack Obama there have been a total of 280 drone strikes on Pakistan alone and the civilian death toll has been anywhere from 482 to 832. The Obama administration puts this figure at just 60. In our News Divide this week we analyse what is behind the difference in the casualty figures the US government reports and what investigative journalists have found on the ground.

Migrant workers exploited in Thailand



Thailand's government has pledged to crack down on human trafficking after the US criticised the Southeast Asian country for doing little to address the problem. Many migrant workers, who mostly come from neighbouring Myanmar, end up in Thai factories where they are forced to work under appalling conditions and suffer from serious abuse. Some of them are victims of debt bondage, meaning they are bought and sold and forced to work to pay police fees and debts to the companies that traffick them. Al Jazeera's Wayne Hay reports from Kanchanaburi in Thailand.

Syrian army defector talks to Al Jazeera



One of the defectors, Colonel Abdal Fareed Zakaria, spoke excusively to Al Jazeera. He says President Bashar al-Assad's forces are in disarray. He also says more soldiers want to defect, but there are serious risks, and the international community isn't helping.

Anger at 'lack of ambition' at Rio summit



World leaders say the agreement likely to come out of the UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro is weak and unambitious, while poorer nations say it is a result of richer nations lack of commitment to the environment. Protesters outside the summit have been adding their voices to the criticism, as disappointment turns to anger. Tens of thousands of people have shown up in the Brazilian city, many of whom say what is happening on the sidelines of the gathering is what is really important. Al Jazeera's Lucia Newman reports from Rio de Janeiro.

The conservative conscience in turmoil


Among the growing numbers of your friends are conservatives — real ones — realizing that Stephen Harper is not one of them, but rather a right-wing radical, maybe worse, out to conserve nothing.... Keep in mind that one of the dirty words for 'corporatist' is 'fascist.' Is that over the top? When I watch a guy like Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, who acts as though he’d be comfortable as minister of Internal Security for most dictatorships on Earth, I wonder.

Continue reading here.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Defenders of Patriarchy at it again...



You might remember last week when Michigan State Representative Lisa Brown said the word "vagina" & so shocked her mostly male Republicans colleagues in the House - that she was banned from speaking on the House floor for the rest of the legislative year. Then a spokesman for the GOP House majority leader claimed the women were having "temper tantrums." Now, in a renewed sexist move by the Michigan Republicans, state Rep. Wayne Schmidt (R) compared the women to children, saying that they were given a "time out" for misbehaving. He said, "You know, as I said to someone up north here, it's like giving the kid a time out for a day. Hey, time out, you went a comment too far, you spoke your piece, we're gonna let these other people have their dissenting comments, and then we'll get back to business. But unfortunately, business has become a sideshow." The war on women and blatant sexism have found a home within the Republican Party platform of late. How do we stop the patriarchy and anti-female bigotry in the Republican Party - and give women more power and freedom in American society?

Egyptians united in call for civilian rule



Thousands of Egyptians are back on the streets of Cairo. Revolutionary groups and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood seem to be united in their call for civilian rule. They want the parliament reinstated and the ruling military council to hand over power to the new president. Al Jazeera's Mike Hanna reports from Cairo.

Moody's cuts credit ratings of 15 major banks



The Royal Bank of Scotland has complained that Moody's ratings does not recognise the changes they have made to reduce risk. It is one of 15 major banks, including Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, that have had their credit ratings lowered on Thursday over shrinking long-term prospects for profitability and growth.

Have multinationals hijacked Rio+20?



Environmentalists have dubbed the Rio+20 conference as embarrassing and meaningless, with the leaders of the US, Britain and Germany snubbing the summit. In contrast, multinational corporations are well represented, leading some to wonder whether in the push to attract so-called corporate stakeholders to the environmental cause, the UN summit has become less about the future of the planet than about the future of corporate profits. Guests: Rick Piltz, Nnimmo Bassey, Daniel Morris.

Will billionaires decide 2012 election?




Democracy Now!:

The 2012 presidential election is set to become the most expensive race in history, with spending projected to top $11 billion — more than double the 2008 total. It will be the first presidential election since the Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United decision, which lifted a 63-year-old ban prohibiting corporations, trade associations and unions from spending unlimited amounts of money on political advocacy. We’re joined by reporter Andy Kroll and editor Monika Bauerlein of Mother Jones magazine, whose new cover story is "Follow the Dark Money." The article warns: "Super-PACs, seven-figure checks, billionaire bankrollers, shadowy nonprofits: This is the state of play in what will be the first presidential election since Watergate to be fully privately funded."

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Saving Tasmanian Devils from cancer



Australian conservationists are beginning to accept that they are losing the fight to save an iconic animal. A facial cancer has virtually wiped out Tasmanian Devils in the wild. With no sign of a cure, a programme has been launched to breed animals in captivity -- and then release them once all the wild ones have gone. Al Jazeera's Andrew Thomas reports from Tasmania.

Spanish stage anti-austerity protests



The Finance minister of another debt-stricken nation - Spain - insists his country doesn't need a full-blown bailout. But protesters, taking part in nationwide rallies against spending cuts and recent rescue packages for banks, disagree. Al Jazeera's Paul Brennan reports from Madrid.

Catholic nuns: Taking on Rome and Republicans



A group of Catholic nuns have embarked on a bus journey through America's heartland to protest budget cuts proposed by a Republican legislator which they say will leave millions of the country's poor even more vulnerable. Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, himself a Catholic, says it was his religious principles that inspired his plan, arguing that it will help the poor by making them less reliant on government. So how big a role does the Catholic church play in US politics? Guests: Stephen White, John Gehring, Sister Marie Lucey.

Failed pledges at UN Summit in Brazil



Democracy Now!:

Leaders from more than 100 countries are meeting today in Brazil for the start of the Rio+20 Earth Summit, the largest United Nations conference ever. The conference comes 20 years after the U.N. Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro pledged to protect the planet by endorsing treaties on biodiversity and climate change. Little has been done in the intervening years to reach development goals in areas like food security, water, global warming and energy. Although negotiators have already agreed on a draft document to be approved by world leaders, many groups working on environmental and poverty issues have criticized the draft agreement, saying it is far too weak. We go to Rio to speak with Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace.

Stephen Harper's vision of Canada




Wednesday, June 20, 2012

School and religious freedom dying in Louisiana



Public education is dying in the state of Louisiana - and religious freedom is dying right alongside it. Earlier this month - the Republican-controlled state legislature approved a new school voucher program in Louisiana that shifts tens of millions of taxpayer dollars AWAY from public schools and TOWARD private, religious schools. As in - teaching kids in Louisiana math, science, and history will no longer be in the hands of qualified, unionized teachers. Instead, it will be in the hands of profiteers and religious fundamentalists who don't believe in science and don't think the history of the world goes back farther than 5,000 years. This new voucher program achieves two goals: One, it hurts teachers unions, which tend to support Democrats. And two, it gives the Religious Right an excuse - through the disguise of "religious freedom" - to embed their evangelism into the next generation of Americans. And I say the disguise of religious freedom - because that's all it is: a disguise.

There is no religious freedom in this voucher program - the Republicans and Democrats who supported it only had one type of religious school in mind when they pushed for this program - and that was a Christian school. That's why - when an Islamic school was approved to for the voucher program - lawmakers went nuts. Like Republican state Rep. Kenneth Havard who immediately changed his mind about the voucher program when he learned an Islamic school might be included saying: "I won't go back to home and explain to my people that I supported this [program that] will fund Islamic teaching." And Democratic Rep. Sam Jones who said: "It'll be the Church of Scientology next year." You see - these guys don't give a rat's ass about religious freedom - they're all about Christian evangelism
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South America woke up - now Europe - America?



Antonis Samaras with the pro-austerity New Democracy party edged out the anti-austerity SYRIZA party and Alexis Tsipras in Sunday's Greek Parliamentary elections. The New Democracy Party got 29.7% of the vote - SYRIZA only got 26.9% of the vote. BUT- New Democracy didn't pick up enough seats to a have a majority in government, and thus must cobble together a coalition government with other parties. But the SYRIZA party - which came in second and is staunchly opposed to more austerity, has rejected calls from New Democracy to form a coalition government. As part of the bailout agreement earlier this year - Greece must raise more than 15 billion euros by selling off its commons, cutting budgets, and laying off about 150,000 government workers. But in order to form a coalition government - the New Democracy Party may be forced to reach out to other parties who oppose the bailout deal in its current form - meaning Greece and Germany will likely have to renegotiate these terms. But here's the big picture behind everything happening in Europe today...

Shameless pro-austerity coalition govt. in Greece



Rival Greek party leaders are locked into their second day of power-sharing talks. The leader of the socialist party reckons by midday tomorrow Greece may just have a coalition government. Al Jazeera's Barnaby Phillips reports from Athens.

Catholic nuns protest US budget cuts



A group of roman catholic nuns are taking an unusual bus ride across America. They are protesting against government budget cuts, which they say are harming low income families. A recent Vatican report criticised some nuns for focusing too much on economic injustice. Even though the nuns were stung by the criticism from Rome, they decided to stay the course and say the firestorm has given them a platform. In their latest trip, the nuns are in Janesville Wisconsin to deliver an alternative budget to Rep. Paul Ryan, in which they propose a plan that favors a safety net for the worst off instead of tax cuts for the rich. There is every sign they'll continue to take their gospel on the road, with or without the Vatican's blessing. Al Jazeera's Kristen Saloomey reports from Janesville, Wisconsin.

Julian Assange seeks asylum in Ecuador



Democracy Now!:

WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange has taken refuge in Ecuador’s embassy in London and asked for asylum. Assange made the move Tuesday in a last-ditch bid to avoid extradition to Sweden over sex crime accusations. Earlier today, police in London announced Assange is now subject to arrest because his decision to spend the night at the Ecuadorean embassy violated the conditions of his bail. Assange is seeking asylum because he fears extradition to Sweden may lead to his transfer to the United States where he could potentially face charges relating to Wikileaks. "In my view, it is a situation of political persecution of Julian Assange for his political activities," says Michael Ratner, a member of Assange’s legal team. "It fits in the asylum application procedure under the Declaration of Human Rights." In an apparent reference to the United States, an Ecuadorean official said Assange fears being extradited "to a country where espionage and treason are punished with the death penalty."

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Civilians 'trapped in besieged Homs'



Thousands of civilians are believed to be trapped in Syria's central city of Homs, as government forces continue their heavy bombardment of the city, the UN said. Both government forces and opposition fighters appeared to be digging in, preventing residents from accessing food and medicine. UN humanitarian officials say they are providing food to half a million people in Syria, but not in Homs, which means many there are desperate for food, clean water and medical help. Al Jazeera's Jane Arraf reports.

Al Jazeera Frames - Tax Dollars at War



Do you know how your tax dollars are spent? US radio host Dennis Bernstein and investigative reporter Dave Lindorff illustrate just how much US tax money goes towards the country's war chest. "People have to realise that 53 cents of every dollar that they are paying into taxes is going to the military to an astonishing figure there is an enormous, enormous amount of money being blown on war an killing and destruction."

NYPD: Crime prevention or racial profiling?



Black, Latino, Muslim and gay civil rights activists united on Sunday demanding a change in the New York Police Department's stop and frisk policy, accusing the US' largest police department of racial profiling. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg says these measures help keep his city safe. What are the wider implications of such a policy on minority communities? Guests: Shahid Buttar, Kevin Powell.

Mexico's poor in contrast to glitzy G20



Mexico's President Felipe Calderon has welcomed world leaders at the G20 summit in the hills above the resort of San Jose del Cabo. The summit has been dominated by a spiralling European debt crisis that is scaring markets and paralysing growth. While heads of the 20 biggest economies discussed the eurozone crisis, addressing the plight of some of the world's poorest people, some metres away from the conference centre, was not on the agenda. Al Jazeera's Patty Culhane reports from Los Cabos, Mexico.

Dick Gregory on NYPD targeting black youth



Democracy Now!:

Dick Gregory, 79, took part in Sunday’s march against NYPD’s "stop-and-frisk" policy in New York City. He criticized police departments across the country for racially profiling persons of color. “It’s happening all the time, it’s just there was never no spotlight on it, and that’s what’s so beautiful about this here,” Gregory said.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

1 U.S. Vet attempts suicide every 80 minutes



Reon Schutte, former POW/Speaker/Author - "Set Yourself Free" joins Thom Hartmann. According to a new Pentagon report - Our soldiers are dying at an alarming rate, but not in Afghanistan. They're dying right here at home. In the first 155 days of the year - 154 U.S. soldiers have committed suicide - averaging nearly one soldier dying of suicide each day. That's an 18% increase from last year - and the fastest pace in the decade of Bush's two wars. Suicide deaths now occur 50% more often than combat deaths in Afghanistan. And this situation isn't much better for our military veterans. Every 80 minutes in America - a U.S. veteran attempts suicide. Studies suggest multiple tours of duty, PTSD, and misuse of prescription medicine could be behind the surge in military suicides - both among veterans and active duty personnel. Another possible explanation is financial hardship from the Bush Depression. Just like working class Americans - soldiers, too, are having their homes foreclosed on by Romney's bankster friends - even while they're abroad risking their life for the country - or trying to get on economic footing after leaving the military. And tragically in Congress - Republicans and Democrats can't even come together anymore to help our veterans.

Has it ever been so good to be a New Democrat?


I can’t think of a time in the party’s 50-year history when it’s likely  been more fun to be a New Democrat. And by “fun”, I mean holding the levers of power or being close to holding the levers of power. 

In the meantime, there’s a poll out from Forum Research this morning that has some remarkable results. Forum’s survey indicates that, if an election were held today, 37 per cent of those surveyed would vote NDP, that’s a full seven percentage points ahead of the 30 per cent support enjoyed by Stephen Harper’s Conservatives and well ahead of the leaderless Liberals who are at 22 per cent.

The poll of 1,529 Canadians was done by phone on Thursday, the day the The Great Budget Battle of 2012 would end.

The National Post this morning in presenting Forum’s results also presents a seat prediction based on its polling and here’s the breakdown (You’ll have to buy a hard copy of the Post and flip to page 4. Forum has its numbers posted here.)

Now, already on Twitter, some are chirping at me that this is no big deal, that the next general election is four years away, that no party is in campaign mode and that the Liberals don’t even have a permanent leader. All that is certainly true and is important context. But take a look at this poll and consider all that you’ve heard in the last week or month about how the Conservatives are unbeatable unless the Liberals and NDP merge. Now take a look at the seat projection. Do you still think that the NDP can’t get the job done on its own?

And remember the last time we saw one side of the political spectrum merge in order to present a more credible threat to the other side? That would have been the days of the Reform/Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservatives. Anyone point me to any poll which showed the Reform or Alliance 7 points up on Jean Chretien’s Liberals at any point in time? Exactly. Reform back then peaked at about where the Liberals are today. And they were the dominant or more popular right-wing party!
 
Continue reading here.

Exit polls predict French Socialists' victory



An initial vote count by French polling institutes show an outright majority for President Francois Hollande's Socialist Party in parliamentary elections. The CSA polling institute said the Socialist-led bloc won 320 seats, well above the 289 required for a majority in the 577-seat lower house, in Sunday's second-round vote. Al Jazeera's John Terret reports from Paris.

Ralph Nader on raising the minimum wage



Democracy Now!:

In 2008, Barack Obama pledged to raise the minimum wage every year once elected, but the hourly rate of $7.25 hasn’t increased since 2007. Low-wage workers now make far less than they did four decades ago. Last week Illinois Democratic Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. introduced the Catching Up to 1968 Act of 2012. It draws its name from the idea that the federal minimum wage would be $10.55 an hour now if it had kept up with inflation over the past 40 years. While the bill has about 20 co-sponsors so far, President Obama has yet to endorse it. We speak to longtime consumer advocate and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader. "The U.S.’s federal minimum wage is lower than all Western countries," Nader says. "This is basically an issue that reflects the craven, cruel nature of the Republican Party on Capitol Hill, but it also reflects the caution, the cowardliness, the betrayal of the Democratic Party of its core constituency."

Pyramid of the capitalist system

(click image for larger view)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Obama trade document leaked...



Melinda St. Louis, Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch joins Thom Hartmann. Time to ditch so-called Free Trade - and get back to protecting our domestic manufacturers like we used to do under every single President since George Washington - but have forgotten in the last thirty years.

Election day in Cairo



Sherine Tadros has been talking to voters in the Egyptian capital as they make their choice in a presidential runoff. It's a tough choice for many: the choice between Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, and Ahmed Shafiq, a representative of the old regime, is often a "lesser of two evils" vote.

Greece's far-left party gains support



Syriza as Greece's number one party in the city of Chalkida and the surrounding regions - something that was unthinkable until the May 6 election. An estimated 6,000 jobs have been lost in the region - once a centre of industry - over the last nine months. And many voters now feel Syriza is the natural choice. On Sunday the far-left party is hoping to deliver a final knock out blow to mainstream politicians by winning the general election. Al Jazeera's Andrew Simmons reports from the city of Chalkida.

Italians vent anger at austerity measures



Thousands of demonstrators in Rome have taken to the streets of the Italian capital to protest against the country's latest austerity measures. Many Italians fear that the government's spending cuts will harm worker rights and pensions. The protest came as Mario Monti, the prime minister, said the country was flirting with economic disaster. Al Jazeera's Claudio Lavanga reports from Rome.

Locals protest against Greek racist attacks



As the economy struggles in Greece, attacks on immigrants are increasing. Some politicians have blamed immigrants for making the Greek crisis worse and this week, a group of fishermen, originally from Egypt, were brutally attacked in their home near Athens. But, locals from Perama are standing up against racism - just a day ahead of the country's general election. Al Jazeera's Tim Friend reports from Perama.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Most of American debt accumulated under Bush

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JPMorgan Chase exec testifies before US senate



The president and CEO of America's biggest bank has been facing tough questioning by angry senators and protesters in Washington. Jamie Dimon was called to testify before the Senate Banking Committee to explain $2bn in trading losses. Al Jazeera's Kimberly Halkett reports.

David Cameron appears before media inquiry



The cozy relationship between British Prime Minister David Cameron and Rupert Murdoch's media empire has been exposed at a government inquiry in London. Cameron has been facing uncomfortable questions over his ties to Murdoch's UK operation, and its former head Rebekah Brooks. Al Jazeera's Laurence Lee reports from London.

68% blame Bush for bad economy


Sixty-eight percent of Americans — including 49 percent of Republicans — say President George W. Bush is responsible for the state of today’s economy, a new Gallup poll finds. 

Indeed, the country is still reeling from Bush’s disastrous economic stewardship. His irresponsible tax cuts and deregulatory policies have contributed significantly to the slow recovery and are partly responsible for the nation’s economic plight. Here are 5 reasons why: 

1. Deregulated Wall Street: It was a great time to be a Wall Street executive during the Bush administration. Sweeping financial deregulation helped build the housing bubble and allowed financial institutions to pursue risky trades unchecked. In fact, Bush eliminated the rules that allowed Wall Street to cause the financial crash that plunged the nation into the Great Recession.

2. Cut Taxes For The Wealthy: The Bush tax cuts — over 50 percent of which benefited the richest 5 percent of American taxpayers — cost about $2.5 trillion over the decade after they were enacted. Ten years later, Bush’s tax cuts are still the main driving factor of the national debt:


3. Ran Up A Tab On Two Wars: The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost the country trillions of dollars. Combined with Bush’s tax cuts, war spending was a main factor in blowing up the deficit and spending the surplus accumulated under Clinton. Lawmakers now use the deficit as an excuse for inaction. 

4. Left Homeowners In A Lurch: While Bush was happy to help out the banks in the wake of the housing crisis, he did little to assist struggling homeowners. Hope For Homeowners, Bush’s proposal to assist those struggling with their mortgages, was a colossal failure; in its first six months, it helped just one homeowner renegotiate his mortgage. Many mortgage holders — 15.7 million or, one in three — are still underwater today. 

5. Weakened Workers: Bush weakened worker safety regulations and collective bargaining rights under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Department of Labor throughout his time in office. Today, corporations are back to making record profits, while workers’ incomes are falling.

Cons fear budget votes hurt their political capital

Prime Minister Stephen Harper stands to vote with Government House Leader Peter Van Loan and Defence Minister Peter MacKay during a marathon session in the House of Commons on June 14, 2012.


After almost 24 hours of bobbing up and down in their seats for votes on the government’s budget bill, there’s no doubt Conservatives MPs are tired.

But government members and cabinet ministers are also expressing private concerns they’ll come out of the showdown over Bill C-38 having exhausted some of their political capital as well.

Conversations with Conservative caucus members conducted on condition they would not be quoted suggest MPs are hearing complaints from Tory voters in their ridings about the government’s bundling several measures into a budget bill that have nothing directly to do with the nation’s finances.

Those complaints may start anew in a few months.

Pushback from within the Conservative caucus over Bill C-38 could pop the Prime Minister’s penchant for knitting together disparate pieces of legislation using the single thread that it’s all needed for the current economy.

The Jobs, Growth and Long Term Prosperity Act clocks in at more than 400 pages and changes nearly four dozen laws ranging from rules for charities to oversight of Canada’s spy agency.

Major opposition has come to changes being made to environmental assessments, Old Age Security, Employment Insurance and fisheries regulation and it hasn’t just flown from the political opposition to Mr. Harper but from within his ranks.

Both Mulroney-era Conservatives and a recent Tory cabinet minister lashed out at changes being made on the environment front. Meanwhile, grassroots Conservatives at the riding association level have written letters expressing their own scorn.

A single crack in the Conservative caucus could quickly become a schism, University of British Columbia political scientist Max Cameron said, and the environmental changes in the budget could be the chisel.

Continue reading here.



Not entirely in French:

Thursday, June 14, 2012

American Democracy vs. Fascism & Corporatism



If Mitt Romney takes over the White House in November - Fascists will be running the show in Washington DC and across America - I'll tell you why in today's Daily Take. The high-stakes struggle for American Democracy against the forces of Fascism begins today.

Syriza could win Greek elections, reject austerity



Professor Richard Wolff, New School University NYC joins Thom Hartmann. Depending on the outcome of this week's election - Greece may soon be departing from the Euro - and facing an even greater financial crisis. Would this be the best move for the Greeks - or is there another way for them to save their economy & rebuild their nation? And what happens to the rest of Europe if the Greek economy is brought to a total collapse?

Leak: Obama to help corporations avoid laws



Democracy Now!:

A draft agreement leaked Wednesday shows the Obama administration is pushing a secretive trade agreement that could vastly expand corporate power and directly contradict a 2008 campaign promise by President Obama. A U.S. proposal for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact between the United States and eight Pacific nations would allow foreign corporations operating in the U.S. to appeal key regulations to an international tribunal. The body would have the power to override U.S. law and issue penalties for failure to comply with its ruling. We speak to Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, a fair trade group that posted the leaked documents on its website. "This isn’t just a bad trade agreement," Wallach says. "This is a 'one-percenter' power tool that could rip up our basic needs and rights."

Things you should know about student loan debt

Female Fox anchor walks off set after sexist joke



Think Progress:

Thursday morning, Steve Doocy interviewed members of the U.S. Navy Band about the band’s recent inclusion of women. Reacting to the segment, Brian Kilmeade remarked, “Women are everywhere. We’re letting them play golf and tennis now. It’s out of control.” Visibly upset, Gretchen Carlson, the only female host, walked off of the set. “You read the headlines. Since men are so great. Take them [women] away,” she said. Kilmeade responded, “All right. Finally.” Then, as she walked further off of the set, Kilmeade jeered, “Leaving an all male crew” and added “she needed a shower.”

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Harper government to scrap Fair Wages Act


Where there's overtime work, there's usually overtime pay. However, an adjustment in the Harper Conservatives' omnibus budget bill may just change that for a number of contract workers. 

It's a law known as the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act. Its mandate? To ensures that contractors working on federal government construction projects must pay their workers the prevailing wage in the province plus overtime pay.

The law originated in the Great Depression but could now disappear thanks to 10 words buried in the 425-page budget: “The Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act is repealed." That's it. No context, no further explanation, no justification to be found in the budget.

The move, according to critics, means that certain workers on federal construction projects will no longer be entitled to the provincial prevailing wage, which ranges anywhere from $20 to $30 an hour. Instead, these construction workers could be paid as little as the provincial minimum wage, according to the Toronto Star. The law also says that no construction worker has to work more than 48 hours per week without time-and-a-half overtime pay.

"To whose benefit is it to drive down the fair wages of Canadian workers? Let me point out a secondary problem this raises. How are we going to attract bright, young men and women into the building trades if the normal wage is now going to be $8, $9 or $10 an hour instead of the $20 or $30 that it is now? Try feeding a family on $8, $9 or $10 an hour. Nobody in his or her right mind is going to go into that industry." 

Continue reading here.

Wells Fargo targeted blacks for shoddy loans

From making subprime mortgages to fighting foreclosures: Beth Jacobson spent nearly a decade churning out millions of dollars in subprime mortgages. Now she's on the other side, working with homeowners to fight foreclosures.
 

For nearly a decade, Beth Jacobson lived inside the vast machinery of subprime mortgages that shook the nation’s economy.

In sworn court testimony, she described watching loan officers comb through heavily African American areas such as Baltimore and Prince George’s County, forging relationships with churches and community groups to sell their members shoddy mortgages. She says she processed loans for homeowners with sterling credit ratings with higher interest rates than they needed to pay. And she says she pumped out millions of dollars in mortgages to people with no paperwork and low incomes, becoming Wells Fargo’s top-producing loan officer.

The machine made her rich — the questions came later. Now, she has recast herself as a crusader for consumers in a battle that has pitted her against the system she once pushed.

The 51-year-old Maryland resident has emerged as a defining character in the ongoing saga of the country’s housing crisis, from the headiest days of the bubble to the current flood of foreclosures. Her scathing affidavit detailing “the stagecoach to hell” at Wells Fargo is a key part of the groundbreaking lawsuit filed by the city of Baltimore against her former employer. The case spawned copycats across the nation, and federal regulators launched  nvestigations mirroring its allegations.

Continue reading here.

Military suicide epidemic



Democracy Now!:

More U.S. soldiers have died this year by taking their own lives than on the battlefield. The Pentagon says there have been at least 154 suicides among active-duty troops in 2012, a rate of nearly one each day. We’re joined by three guests: Kevin Hines, who survived a jump off the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and now counsels suicidal soldiers; Bonnie Carroll, co-chair of the Pentagon’s Task Force on the Prevention of Suicide in the Armed Forces and president of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors; and journalist Aaron Glantz, author of the book "The War Comes Home: Washington’s Battle Against America’s Veterans."

Parts of Alberta oil spill may never be cleaned up


A sunny break from heavy wind and rain allowed crews to come out in force to battle an oil spill that has stained one of Alberta’s most important rivers – one that, environment officials warn, is likely to never be completely cleaned up.

Rough weekend weather and a flooded Red Deer River had impeded efforts to clean up a spill of 160,000 to 480,000 litres from a Plains Midstream Canada pipeline. But on Tuesday, a response team of nearly 200 workers set to work skimming, vacuuming and absorbing the spill.

It was difficult work, made worse by the high water that is hampering access to the 25 pools of oil that Plains crews have identified in back eddies along the 30 kilometres of river that stretch between the ruptured pipe and Lake Gleniffer, a reservoir whose dam has helped contain the spill.

In fact, the challenges of cleaning an oil-stained river are so great that it’s unlikely that all of the oil will be cleaned up. Some will deliberately be left alone to degrade naturally, an unwelcome prospect for those whose backyards and pasture lands along the Red Deer have been blackened from the leak.

Even light crude can take a long time to disappear, however. Last July, another pipeline ruptured below a river, spilling 240,000 litres of light oil into the Yellowstone River from a pipe owned by ExxonMobil, an accident that carries numerous echoes of the current Alberta situation. At one point, 1,000 people were involved in attempting to clean up the Yellowstone, in an effort that cost Exxon $135-million (U.S.).

But they could only do so much. In some areas, officials determined that it would do more harm to get to the oil – through building roads and driving in heavy equipment – than to simply leave it.

Continue reading here.