Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The punks, the pulpit and the president

The trial of three members of a Russian punk group is under way for "hooliganism on the grounds of religious hatred". The band has refused to plead guilty but admitted that the show was a mistake. Questions have been raised if this is a suppression of freedom by a repressive president or simply punishment for bad behavior in a holy place. What is it about the case that has got Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, so riled up? Guests: Nina Khrushcheva, John Anderson, Svetlana Svistunova.

Peru ruling opens old wounds

Peru's Supreme Criminal Court cleared the Colina Group paramilitary of crimes against humanity. Victims' are appealing the case. What does it mean for Peru?

Arrests, censorship, corporations behind Olympics

Democracy Now!:

While NBC has been airing wall-to-wall coverage of Olympic Games in London, little attention has been paid to what has taken place behind the scenes and just outside Olympic Park where many organizations are mobilizing to bring attention to many issues. London police arrested 182 people Friday for taking part in the monthly Critical Mass bike ride during the Olympics’ opening ceremony. Meanwhile, public outcry is growing after thousands of fans were told the Games were sold out, but prime seats reserved largely for sports federations and corporate sponsors have remained empty. Although many locals cannot afford to attend the Games, this year’s Olympics is estimated to cost British taxpayers a staggering $17 billion. Residents have been subjected to sweeping censorship laws enacted by their government at the behest of the International Olympic Committee. Meanwhile, activists are outraged that the Olympics’ long list of sponsors include Dow Chemical and BP, companies with human rights records that critics say are at odds with the Olympic ideals of global peace and goodwill. We go to London to speak with scholar and former U.S. soccer team member Jules Boykoff, who has been in England since April researching a book on dissent and the Olympics. "The Olympics provide a real opportunity for activists. We often say [at protests] that the entire world is watching, the whole world is watching. And, in fact, at the Olympics, it almost is," Boykoff says. "This is a real opportunity for activists to put their ideas in front of people who might not otherwise be able to or willing to listen to them."

Rome's Colosseum is slanting

The ancient Colosseum of Rome, where gladiators fought for their lives, is slanting about 40cm lower on the south side than on the north, and authorities are investigating whether it needs urgent repairs. Experts first noticed the incline about a year ago and have been monitoring it for the past few months, Rossella Rea, director at the 2,000-year-old monument, said in an article published in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera on Sunday.

Global elite hiding $32 trillion in offshore accounts

Democracy Now!:

A new report reveals how wealthy individuals and their families have between $21 and $32 trillion of hidden financial assets around the world in what are known as offshore accounts or tax havens. The actual sums could be higher because the study only deals with financial wealth deposited in bank and investment accounts, and not other assets such as property and yachts. The inquiry was commissioned by the Tax Justice Network and is being touted as the most comprehensive report ever on the "offshore economy." It also finds that private banks are deeply involved in running offshore havens, with UBS, Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs handling the most assets. We’re joined by the report’s author, James Henry, a lawyer and former chief economist at McKinsey and Company.

Monday, July 30, 2012

History of conservative extremist industrialists

Multigenerational political influence by a very narrow special interest group is rare, but we're seeing it played out right now in front of us. A billionaire family - the Kochs - have gone from influencing my father's generation, to my generation, to my kids' generation - and very few Americans realize it. Daddy Koch - Fred - made his first millions palling around with Joe Stalin in the Soviet Union in the 1920s and 1930s. As the fascists rose to power in Europe in the 1930s, he was an enthusiastic supporter of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, who invented the word "fascist," meaning essentially the takeover of democratic governments by big business interests. Mussolini went so far as to dissolve the Italian parliament, and replace elected politicians with representatives of each district's largest corporations. Fred Koch and Mussolini both particularly hated the trade unionists and their sometimes allies, the communists. So after Mussolini, along with his ally Hitler, lost World War II against America, Fred Koch brought the anti-communist pro-business-running-goverment - what some would call "facist" - torch to America big time, helping start the John Birch Society.

NSA - Are they spying on the entire country?

For tonight's Conversations with Great Minds - I'm joined by NSA whistleblowers Thomas Drake and Kirk Wiebe. Both men were involved in exposing the NSA's massive, illegal, domestic spying program known as the Trailblazer project initiated in 2000. Despite not leaking any classified information - and exhaustively going through all the protocols required for members of the intelligence community to blow the whistle on wrongdoing - both men faced serious retributions for going public with what they knew about the NSA's surveillance program. In 2007 - after a reporter for the Baltimore Sun obtained information regarding waste, fraud, and abuse at the NSA - FBI agents raided the home Kirk Wiebe - confiscating computer hard drives and business records - and revoking security clearance that Wiebe - an NSA veteran - had held since 1964. Wiebe was not charged with any crime. However - Thomas Drake - whose home was also raided - was charged with multiple crimes including violation of the Espionage Act of 1917. Eventually those charges were dropped in 2011. Since then - Drake has gone on to win multiple awards for his courage in blowing the whistle on the NSA - including the Ridenour Prize for Truth Telling and the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence. And both he and Kirk Wiebe have done tremendous work to inform all of us on the growing American surveillance state. The National Security Agency is building a massive spy center in Utah. What for? And will Americans be the targets of the NSA's prying eyes?

Anti-nuclear protesters rally in Japan

Anti-nuclear protesters rallied outside the Japanese parliament on Sunday. They want the government to abandon plans to resume using nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster. Al Jazeera's Mike Firn reports from Tokyo.

Anti-Putin punk rockers face trial in Moscow

Three members of a Russian punk group are to face trial on Monday.

They have been officially charged with "hooliganism on the grounds of religious hatred".

The charges were handed down after the trio made their way into a church and burst into a so-called "punk prayer" criticising Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Al Jazeera's Jennifer Glasse reports from Moscow.

Three young women who staged a punk-rock protest against President Vladimir Putin in Moscow's main Orthodox church will go on trial in a case seen as a test of Russia's tolerance of dissent.

Amnesty International's John Dalhuisen tells Al Jazeera why he thinks the trial process is flawed.

"The Betrayal of the American Dream"

Democracy Now!:

The famed award-winning investigative reporting team of Donald Barlett and James Steele have just published a new book, "The Betrayal of the American Dream," a followup to their landmark bestseller, "America: What Went Wrong?" As Republicans and Democrats continue disputing who should bear the brunt of the tax burden, Barlett and Steele argue that America’s middle class has been decimated over the years due to policies governing not only taxes but also bank regulations, trade deficits and pension funds. Their book chronicles how the American middle class has been systematically impoverished and its prospects thwarted in favor of a new ruling elite. Barlett and Steele have worked together for more than 40 years, sharing two Pulitzer Prizes and two National Magazine Awards. The duo joins us for the hour to discuss the assault on the middle class, the great tax heist, deregulation, the end of retirement, the outsourcing of U.S. jobs, the 2012 election and more.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Why is Romney making out with foreign banksters

Barclays Bank executives have already coughed up more than a million dollars in donations to the Romney campaign - which has really ticked off British members of Parliament who are investigating LIBOR crimes. As the British newspaper The Telegraph reports: "11 MPs last week demanded the bank and its directors stop working to bolster Mr. Romney's election campaign and concentrate on repairing confidence in the banking system." But of course if Romney gets on a plane - flies all the way across the Atlantic Ocean - and comes to party in London's financial district - what else are Barclay's banksters supposed to?? Especially since Romney is their meal ticket. Romney is the guy who's going to repeal Dodd Frank financial regulations - free Wall Street once again to gamble, manipulate, and defraud the rest of us.

So Barclays - and the rest of the scandal-ridden banks - aren't really "contributing" to Mitt Romney - they're INVESTING in Mitt Romney. What Mitt Romney is doing goes way beyond his campaign racist Anglo-Saxon remarks. It goes beyond Mitt's shady Swiss bank accounts. It goes beyond his years at Bain off-shoring American jobs. All of which are important - but holding a fundraiser on foreign soil with banksters who work for a foreign corporation and are currently under investigation for what could be the biggest financial crime in the history of the world - THAT takes the cake. This should end the Romney campaign for good. But it won't.

And the reason it won't is because of the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling that took us down the road of foreigners, multi-national corporations, and bankster criminals owning our politicians. We have criminal banksters committing rampant fraud - then investing in our Presidential candidates, hoping that in return those candidates will pass legislation to legalize their fraud or give them immunity. And this will continue until "we the people" stand up and say no more. Until we as a nation come together to amend the Constitution once and for all to overturn Citizens United and say that corporations - especially foreign criminal ones - are not people, and money - especially money collected from fraud - is not speech. Go to Move To Amend.org.

Time to re-think the 2nd Amendment in America?

Mike Papantonio, Attorney, Host, Ring of Fire Radio joins Thom Hartmann. One week after the Colorado massacre, the President Obama urged common-sense gun controls like full criminal background checks for gun purchasers and new measures to ensure the mentally ill can't buy guns. The President also hinted that he'd support a ban on assault rifles. President Obama sounded more like Senator Obama, who had a much tougher stance on gun control, supporting a ban on all semi-automatic weapons as a state senator, and as a U.S. Senator voting down legislation to protect gun manufacturers and sellers from lawsuits when someone is killed using their products. Despite the conspiracy theories coming from the NRA and other gun interest groups, gun rights in America have expanded under President Obama. Thanks to President Obama - people can carry concealed guns into national parks - and also carry guns on Amtrak trains. Not one time has the President tried to restrain the Second Amendment Amendment. In fact - The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence - a group that gives politicians grades on gun control issues - gave President Obama an "F" after his first year in office - as he's completely failed to pass any gun control whatsoever. But are we about to see a turning point after yet another high-profile shooting massacre in America? Is it time to re-think the role of the Second Amendment in America - back when it was drafted, it was pretty difficult to load and shoot a gun. Today we have machine guns... Let's hope Members of Congress grow a spine, say no to the NRA's blood money, and enact some much-needed gun controls to curb this epidemic of gun violence in America.

Protest against London Olympics

The London Olympics are in full swing, with athletes competing in everything from swimming to gymnastics. But not everyone is happy that the Olympics have taken over the British capital. This weekend, protesters made their feelings known. Al Jazeera's Jonah Hull reports from the Olympic Park in London.

US chicken chain official grilled over remark

The US fast-food chain Chick-fil-A is getting grilled for the anti-gay marriage stance of its president.

Following Dan Cathy's remarks to a Christian news organisation that he supports "the biblical definition of a family unit", politicians in Chicago and Boston have taken action against his business.

Al Jazeera's Roger Wilkinson reports.

First man "cured" of HIV

Democracy Now!:

As researchers continue to look for a possible cure for HIV/AIDS, we turn to the remarkable story of Timothy Ray Brown, known in the medical world as the "Berlin patient." He is the first person believed to have been cured of HIV. "I was diagnosed in 1995 with HIV, and I was scared to death because, at that point, people were dying from the disease itself and also form the only available drug at that time, AZT," Brown recalls. A decade later, he was diagnosed with leukemia, as well. Living in Berlin at the time, Brown was treated by a German doctor named Gero Hütter, who devised an experimental treatment to cure both the HIV and the leukemia. The treatment worked, making Brown the first person cured of AIDS since it was discovered over 30 years ago. Brown’s story has inspired researchers across the globe looking for a cure. "The problem is, is that 'cure' has been a four-letter word for a long while in a lot of the AIDS community. There have been promises before that hadn’t really panned out," says AIDS researcher Dr. Jeffrey Laurence. Brown has just launched a foundation dedicated to the search for an HIV cure for everyone. "I believe that this is something that gives hope to a lot of people with HIV and their families. And that’s very important to me," Brown says.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Hudak plans to wage war on unions, workers

The Windsor Star:

On the morning of Sept. 12, 1945, 10,000 hourly employees at Ford Motor Co.’s sprawling plant at the corner of Drouillard Road and Riverside Drive walked off the job after 18 months of contract talks between the United Auto Workers and the carmaker broke off. 

The historic dispute would span 99 days and revolutionize Canada’s labour laws by spawning the Rand formula - the “lifeblood” of unions.

Fast forward to 2012, and the formula, which entrenched the closed union shop, requiring all workers to pay union dues, would be dismantled under labour law changes proposed by the Ontario Conservatives.

Modifying Rand is part of a package, entitled Paths to Prosperity: Flexible Labour Markets, a policy paper aimed at modernizing Ontario’s “outdated” labour laws, said Hudak.

Labour leaders, however, view the Tory plan as nothing more than an unprecedented, idealogically-driven attack on unions.

“It’s an existential battle for the labour movement,” said Sid Ryan, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour. “Without the Rand formula the labour movement would whither away. If you don’t have to pay your dues, it’s human instinct to say to yourself, ‘I’m going to save myself $1,000 a year.’ So, Hudak knows this is the lifeblood of the labour movement.”

As well as giving workers the choice to pay union dues, the Tory proposal would impose secret ballots on certification votes and end the practice requiring employers to deduct union dues from workers’ pay cheques. 

Hudak’s objective has nothing to do with job creation, said Ryan. Instead, the Conservative leader wants Ontario to emulate American right-to-work states with their diluted labour laws and lower wages.

“That leaves us with a vulnerable workforce, which we think is part of his agenda to drive down wages, drive down benefits,” he said. “What he’s proposing won’t save or create one single job in Ontario.”

While he refused to comment directly on the Tory proposals, Don Drummond, former chief economist with Toronto-Dominion Bank, said the Caterpillar dispute reflects a broader, more disturbing trend — the downward pressure on manufacturing wages in the United States and Canada. 

“It’s a worrying phenomenon,” said Drummond. “Do the math — at $17 an hour, working full time, good luck raising a family and saving for your kids’ education and your retirement.”

Ontario will be headed for a showdown with labour if Hudak’s proposals see the light of day, warned Ryan.

“There are a million unionized workers in Ontario, and each and every one of them will be feeling vulnerable in terms of what will happen to them in their workplaces,” said Ryan. “They understand what stands between them and the lowering of their wages and putting them at the mercy of an employer is the union that is democratically voted.

“I think there’s an army of activists out there who will be willing to take on this fight.”

Continue reading here.

Penguins may help prosecute oil companies

Penguins from the southern tip of Argentina sometimes get lost as they search for food and they often end up on warmer beaches in Brazil. But now, researchers have discovered they often bring important scientific data with them like oil samples that could help environmental protection officers locate who is responsible for a supposed oil spill. That information is critical as numerous companies tap into some of the largest deepwater reserves, recently discovered anywhere in the world. Al Jazeera's Gabriel Elizondo reports from Rio de Janeiro.

Republican: "keeping blacks from voting"

Former Florida Republican Party chairman Jim Greer in 2008 (Credit: AP/Reinhold Matay)

In the debate over new laws meant to curb voter fraud in places like Florida, Democrats always charge that Republicans are trying to suppress the vote of liberal voting blocs like blacks and young people, while Republicans just laugh at such ludicrous and offensive accusations. That is, every Republican except for Florida’s former Republican Party chairman Jim Greer, who, scorned by his party and in deep legal trouble, blew the lid off what he claims was a systemic effort to suppress the black vote. In a 630-page deposition recorded over two days in late May, Greer, who is on trial for corruption charges, unloaded a litany of charges against the “whack-a-do, right-wing crazies” in his party, including the effort to suppress the black vote.

In the deposition, released to the press yesterday, Greer mentioned a December 2009 meeting with party officials. “I was upset because the political consultants and staff were talking about voter suppression and keeping blacks from voting,” he said, according to the Tampa Bay Times. He also said party officials discussed how “minority outreach programs were not fit for the Republican Party,” according to the AP.

The comments, if true (he is facing felony corruption charges and has an interest in scorning his party), would confirm what critics have long suspected. Florida Gov. Rick Scott is currently facing inquiries from the Justice Department and pressure from civil rights groups over his purging of voter rolls in the state, an effort that critics say has disproportionately targeted minorities and other Democratic voters. One group suing the state claims up to 87 percent of the voters purged from the rolls so far have been people of color, though other estimates place that number far lower. Scott has defended the purge, even though he was erroneously listed as dead himself on the rolls in 2006.

Continue reading here.

Will rising poverty affect the US election?

There is more evidence of the growing wealth gap in the US: A new report says that the number of people living in poverty could be at its highest level in nearly half a century. So how can the US government help its least fortunate? In 2010, one in six Americans were considered poor. That is more than 47 million people living on less than $10,500 per year. The official government numbers on poverty in 2011 will be released just weeks ahead of the November presidential elections. But an associated press survey of economists and think tanks says that the number of poor Americans could reach 15.7 per cent, making it the highest level since the 1960's. The US already has more poor people than any other developed country. Analysts say it will be years before the US starts to see poverty drop below the rate it was before the so-called 2008 Great Recession. And on Friday, the US government announced that the economy grew at an annual rate of just 1.5 per cent in the second quarter of 2012. The economy is by far the most important issue for the November presidential elections. But do either President Barack Obama, or his presumptive opponent, Republican Mitt Romney, have any real plans to help America's least fortunate? How will the debate affect the US presidential election? And is there a political will to improve the lives of America's poor? To discuss this we are joined by Rocky Anderson, a US presidential candidate for the Justice Party; Barbara Ehrenreich, the author of the book Nickel and Dimed; and Stan Veuger, an economist and research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

1979 Tom Waits = Heath Ledger's Joker?


A video from a 1979 Australian talk show has been making the viral rounds of late. The YouTube clip features then 29 year-old musician/sometimes actor Tom Waits uncannily serving as inspiration to late Australian actor Heath Ledger’s portrayal of The Joker 30 years later in 2008’s The Dark Knight.
From his voice, to his inflections, to his mannerisms, it’s really like watching Ledger’s iconic performance in a time capsule. Ledger and Waits both acted in Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, released in 2009.

Go straight to the 1:30 minute mark to skip show host Don Lane introducing a short clip of Waits performing the Christmas carol “Silent Night” and preparing his audience in '70s talk show style for how unusual Waits was going to be...

Friday, July 27, 2012

Robin Hood Tax to the rescue?

Could a small financial transaction tax or Robin Hood Tax on Wall Street help save Main Street?

Pot legalization is coming

At least some able-bodied Americans may soon be able to score a bag of weed legally without having to fake a knee injury. In November, voters in three states could approve ballot measures to legalize marijuana, and not just for medical purposes – for getting-high purposes. Then again, they might chicken out, like California voters did in 2010. But sooner or later, and probably sooner, a state will go green.

About half of America will be fine with that. Support for legalization is (no other way to put it) higher than ever, and rising. That's partly demographics – the young are more into pot than their elders, who aren't sticking around. But it's something else, too: The status quo, people are starting to notice, is a total disaster.

The prohibition on marijuana – a relatively benign drug when used responsibly by adults, and a teddy bear compared to alcohol and tobacco – has done an impressive job of racking up racially-biased arrests; throwing people in jail; burning up police time and money; propping up a $30 billion illegal market; and enriching psychotic Mexican drug lords.

We might not have long to wait to find out. Of the three states where legalization is up for a vote in November – Colorado, Washington, and Oregon – Colorado "is definitely the best shot so far," says Steve Fox of the Marijuana Policy Project, a national lobby group that's kicking in about $1 million to support the measure. Under Amendment 64, the state would treat pot like alcohol – licenses for producers and sellers, 21-plus age restriction for buyers, and tax revenue government. Should it pass – and one poll has support up by 61-27 – "We're hoping the federal government will not impose its will," says Fox, "and that there'll be an adult conversation about what Colorado has decided to do."
Continue reading here. 


Stephen Lewis: no money to fight AIDS

Democracy Now!:

The world’s largest international AIDS conference concludes today in Washington, D.C. It was the first time in 22 years that the United States hosted the conference due to the Obama administration’s reversal of a two-decade ban that prevented people infected with HIV from entering the country. We speak to Stephen Lewis, co-founder and co-director of AIDS-Free World. From 2001 to 2006, he served as the U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa. He is the former Canadian ambassador to the United Nations. Lewis warns more money needs to be spent on the fight against AIDS. "We are always struggling for the crumbs and the pennies from the table [for global public health] when we know the amounts of money available for other and more perverse purposes internationally, and that too has to end," Lewis says. "The International Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria is in financial trouble because a number of the donor nations are not fulfilling the commitments they made so that the next round of grants has been significantly curtailed and that is being felt perilously at country level. I mean if we don’t get the drugs, people will die. It’s a pretty strong equation."

Conservatives look bad in robocalls case

With politics the adversarial sport it has become, it’s no wonder the Conservatives are putting up as strong a legal defense as they can muster against the Council for Canadians’ court challenge, which seeks to overturn election results in seven close ridings that the council says were influenced by Robocalls.

And part of putting up the strongest defense possible is moving to have your accusers’ lawsuit thrown out of court before it even gets started — for procedural reasons and/or (the “and/or” pops up a lot in motions to dismiss) for lack of merit.

But what might have happened if the Conservatives had thrown sound litigation strategy out the window, and decided instead to take the high road? What if their court filings had granted the need for a review of the electoral results to restore the public’s confidence in the electoral process, and argued only that the outcome of the election would not have changed absent the Robocalls?

Instead, the Conservatives have now come out on the losing end of a court decision that makes them sound like they think democracy is a bothersome trifle to be brushed aside when it gets in the way.

Was it really worth it to make the argument that verifying the validity of federal election results which lack public confidence is trivial? And if they don’t have the upper hand, then they should be admitting as much and calling for a byelection rather than contesting the suit.

Continue reading here.

The image pretty much says it all

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Pennsylvania's new controversial voting law

A law backed by Republicans in Pennsylvania will add a new requirement for voters in the upcoming US presidential election - a photo ID with an expiry date. Opponents of the new law say it could prevent hundreds of thousands of people from voting; primarily the elderly, minorities and the poor because they are less likely to have the necessary paperwork or the means to get an id. They are also more likely to vote Democrat. Al Jazeera's Kristen Saloomey reports.

Outrage over police shootings in Anaheim

US federal authorities have agreed to review the case of two Latino men shot dead by police in Anaheim.

The city's Mayor made the announcement after a fourth night of clashes between police and angry residents.

Meanwhile, the mother of an unarmed man who was shot by police officers has condemned violent protests against the killing, saying Wednesday she did not want them to become her son's legacy.

Her news conference followed a fourth day of violent protests over Saturday's police shooting of Manuel Diaz and the Sunday police shooting of another man who fired at police during a pursuit. A police dog escaped shortly after Diaz was shot Saturday and bit a bystander.

"I watched as my son took his last breath. I watched as his heart stopped beating for the last time," Genevieve Huizar said, breaking into sobs. "Please, please, please stop the violence. It's not going to bring my son back, and this is the worst thing any mother could go through."

In the latest wave of protest, as many as 600 demonstrators surged through downtown Tuesday night, smashing shop windows, setting trash fires and hurling rocks and bottles at police, authorities said.

Al Jazeera's Rob Reynolds reports from Anaheim in California.

France's new recovery plan for auto sector

In France, the government has announced a plan to help its struggling car industry. Thousands of jobs are under threat. Al Jazeera's Tim Friend has more from Paris.

Inside Story - Is a cure for AIDS imminent?

An international AIDS conference that kicked off on Sunday night in Washington DC is calling for an AIDS-free generation. The motto of the conference is 'Turning the tide Together'. The US capital has high HIV rates with numbers being comparable to some parts of sub-saharan Africa. The aim of the conference is to bring together more than 20,000 people to discuss how to improve the lives of those living with HIV and AIDS.

The failures of US gun laws

Democracy Now!:

Police in Colorado have revealed Aurora shooting suspect James Holmes detailed his planned massacre more than a week before the attack occurred. An unopened package sent by Holmes and recovered at a University of Colorado mailroom contained illustrations and notes about killing a large number of people. Among the weapons seized from Holmes’ were two .40 caliber pistols, a Glock G22 and a Glock G23, a Smith & Wesson M&P .223 caliber semiautomatic rifle, and a Remington 870 Express Tactical 12-gauge shotgun. We speak to Paul Barrett, author of the book, "GLOCK: The Rise of America’s Gun."

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Christian Bale visits shooting victims in Aurora

Christian Bale with Carey Rottman, who was shot in the leg during the attack.

The Huffington Post:

Victims of Friday's shooting at a midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" received a visit from Batman himself on Tuesday, as Christian Bale reportedly stopped by Aurora, Colo.

"Mr. Bale is there as himself, not representing Warner Brothers," a representative for the studio told the Denver Post

The actor, who has portrayed Batman in all three of director Christopher Nolan's films on the subject, had previously released a statement of condolences.

"Words cannot express the horror that I feel,” he said Saturday. “I cannot begin to truly understand the pain and grief of the victims and their loved ones, but my heart goes out to them.” 

Some photos of Bale in Aurora are available below. The young man in the first photo is Carey Rottman, who was shot in the leg during the attack. Rottman has posted photos of his very famous visitors, including politicians and members of the Denver Broncos. 

On the day of the shooting, Rottman posted this Facebook status: "Shot in the leg at Batman. Where is he when you need him. Please pray for everyone there."

Only cured HIV patient promotes more research

Timothy Ray Brown is believed to be the only person ever to be cured of the AIDS causing virus, HIV.

Once known as "The Berlin Patient", Brown was cured when doctors attempting to cure his luekemia infection, which he was additionally diagnosed with, unintentionally used the bone marrow of a donor with a rare gene mutation.

Brown's cells have been HIV-resistant ever since, but this also brought him unintended celebrity.

Feeling a sense of responsibility towards others still infected, he now spreads his story and allows his body to continually be tested to further HIV/AIDS research.

Al Jazeera's Kimberly Halkett reports from Washington

Jason Alexander’s amazing gun rant


The "Seinfeld" actor takes to Twitter to call for a ban on assault-style weapons 

Jason Alexander, the actor famous for playing George on “Seinfeld,” posted a long argument for a ban on assault-style weapons on Twitter Sunday:

This morning, I made a comment about how I do not understand people who support public ownership of assault style weapons like the AR-15 used in the Colorado massacre. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AR-15

That comment, has of course, inspired a lot of feedback. There have been many tweets of agreement and sympathy but many, many more that have been challenging at the least, hostile and vitriolic at the worst.

Clearly, the angry, threatened and threatening, hostile comments are coming from gun owners and gun advocates. Despite these massacres recurring and despite the 100,000 Americans that die every year due to domestic gun violence – these people see no value to even considering some kind of control as to what kinds of weapons are put in civilian hands.

Many of them cite patriotism as their reason – true patriots support the Constitution adamantly and wholly. Constitution says citizens have the right to bear arms in order to maintain organized militias. I’m no constitutional scholar so here it is from the document itself:

As passed by the Congress:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

As ratified by the States and authenticated by Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State:
“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

The advocates of guns who claim patriotism and the rights of the 2nd Amendment – are they in well-regulated militias? For the vast majority – the answer is no.

Then I get messages from seemingly decent and intelligent people who offer things like: @BrooklynAvi: Guns should only be banned if violent crimes committed with tomatoes means we should ban tomatoes. OR @nysportsguys1: Drunk drivers kill, should we ban fast cars?

I’m hoping that right after they hit send, they take a deep breath and realize that those arguments are completely specious. I believe tomatoes and cars have purposes other than killing. What purpose does an AR-15 serve to a sportsman that a more standard hunting rifle does not serve? Let’s see – does it fire more rounds without reload? Yes. Does it fire farther and more accurately? Yes. Does it accommodate a more lethal payload? Yes. So basically, the purpose of an assault style weapon is to kill more stuff, more fully, faster and from further away. To achieve maximum lethality. Hardly the primary purpose of tomatoes and sports cars.

Then there are the tweets from the extreme right – these are the folk who believe our government has been corrupted and stolen and that the forces of evil are at play, planning to take over this nation and these folk are going to fight back and take a stand. And any moron like me who doesn’t see it should…

a. be labeled a moron
b. shut the fuck up
c. be removed

And amazingly, I have some minor agreement with these folks. I believe there are evil forces at play in our government. But I call them corporatists. I call them absolutists. I call them the kind of ideologues from both sides, but mostly from the far right who swear allegiance to unelected officials that regardless of national need or global conditions, are never to levy a tax. That they are never to compromise or seek solutions with the other side. That are to obstruct every possible act of governance, even the ones they support or initiate. Whose political and social goal is to marginalize the other side, vilify and isolate them with the hope that they will surrender, go away or die out.

These people believe that the US government is eventually going to go street by street and enslave our citizens. Now as long as that is only happening to liberals, homosexuals and democrats – no problem. But if they try it with anyone else – it’s going to be arms-ageddon and these committed, God-fearing, brave souls will then use their military-esque arsenal to show the forces of our corrupt government whats-what. These people think they meet the definition of a “militia”. They don’t. At least not the constitutional one. And, if it should actually come to such an unthinkable reality, these people believe they would win. That’s why they have to “take our country back”. From who? From anyone who doesn’t think like them or see the world like them. They hold the only truth, everyone else is dangerous. Ever meet a terrorist that doesn’t believe that? Just asking.

Continue reading here.

The overlooked AIDS epidemic in black America

Democracy Now!:

The 2012 International AIDS Conference has raised hopes that the U.S. will increase its efforts to end the epidemic both globally and here at home, where HIV/AIDS continues to pose a major health threat. Every 10 minutes someone in the U.S. is infected with HIV and many people living with the virus don’t even know it. People of color, especially women and gay men, bear the overwhelming burden of the disease. We’re joined by Dazon Dixon Diallo, a pioneer in the HIV/AIDS and reproductive justice arena; and by Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee of California, a leader in the global fight against HIV/AIDS and has worked to establish a national AIDS strategy. Lee represents the United States on the U.N. Development Program’s Global Commission on HIV and the Law, and recently introduced H.R. 6138, calling for a global strategy for an AIDS-free generation. "The Affordable Care Act has been a really important part of the success of getting people living with HIV, for whom many are diagnosed with pre-existing conditions, to protect them in health insurance coverage,” says Diallo. “Most states of the states, if not all of the states in the South, are already currently planning to not opt in on medicaid expansion, and so that directly speaks to the level of access to care and the coverage of medications that most people who have low income or live below the poverty level can’t actually afford.”

US gun sales surge after Colorado massacre

The Associated Press:

Firearms sales are surging in the U.S. after last week's Colorado theatre massacre as buyers fear that politicians may use the shootings to seek new restrictions on owning weapons. 

In Colorado, where Friday's shooting killed 12 and injured dozens, gun sales jumped in the three days that followed. The state approved background checks for 2,887 people who wanted to purchase a firearm — 25 per cent more than the average Friday to Sunday period in 2012 and 43 per cent more than the same interval the week prior. 

Jay Wallace, who owns Adventure Outdoors in Georgia, found that his sales on Saturday were up 300 per cent from the same day a year ago — making it one of the best Saturdays his business has ever had. 

He said customers are often afraid when there's a gun-related tragedy that some legislators might try to push through an anti-gun agenda. 

"We shouldn't let one sick individual make us forget and lose sight of freedoms in this country," Wallace said. The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to bear arms. 

Some Democrats in Congress cited the shooting as evidence of the need for tougher gun control laws — particularly a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines. Congress, however, hasn't passed strict legislation in more than a decade, and leaders in Washington show no sign of bringing up such measures any time soon

Continue reading here.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Layton would be proud of NDP's progress

The Canadian Press:

Ottawa - Proud.

That's the word New Democrats invariably use to describe how Jack Layton would feel about his beloved party's evolution since his untimely death from cancer last August.

The NDP's world turned upside down a year ago this week, when a skeletal, raspy-voiced Layton, already battling prostate cancer, stepped aside as leader to devote all his remaining energy to fight a second unspecified — and ultimately more deadly — form of the scourge.

Sensing the end was nigh for the popular leader, pundits predicted a similar fate for the party itself, which had vaulted into official Opposition status only a few months earlier for the first time in its 50-year history.

Without Layton, pundits opined, the NDP's historic breakthrough in Quebec would evaporate. The newly minted caucus — dominated by inexperienced youngsters whose election wins were largely dismissed as flukes — would be in disarray. The next election would likely see a return to traditional voting patterns, with the NDP relegated to third or fourth place yet again behind the Conservatives, Liberals and Bloc Quebecois.

A year later, conventional wisdom has been turned on its head.

The NDP is tied — or even slightly ahead — of the governing Conservatives in public opinion polls, entrenching the perception it's the only credible alternative to the government. The party's base in Quebec has, if anything, solidified under the new leadership of one of the province's own, Tom Mulcair. And the party has demonstrated remarkable unity following a sometimes-bruising, seven-month leadership campaign.

"I think he'd be proud of the party," said Anne McGrath, Layton's longtime chief of staff.

"I think he could look back at this year and say that the caucus rose to the challenge, that we were disciplined, that we worked hard, that people learned very, very well to do their jobs ... and that we were able to pull together and do what needed to be done."

Brad Lavigne, Layton's former principal secretary, agreed Layton would be "very pleased" that New Democrats "have gone through the most difficult period of time, and we've come through with flying colours."

Continue reading here.

Returning US veterans struggle to adjust

Returning home from war is almost always a tough adjustment for a soldier. In the US more than 60-thousand veterans have ended up living on the streets. The government's goal is to have a roof over every veterans head by 2015. As more service members who served in Iraq and Afghanistan return to civilian life, the challenge is connecting these men and women to the services available to them. Al Jazeera's Rosiland Jordan reports from San Antonio.

Inside Story - Taking on the tax havens

A new report has now revealed that some of the world's richest people have more than $30 trillion stashed in offshore assets, having exploited gaps in cross-border tax rules to move money overseas. Research commissioned by the campaign group Tax Justice Network says the value is as much as the gross domestic products of the US and Japan combined. Should tax havens be allowed to exist? Guests: Jean-Pierre Diserens, Myret Zaki, Sony Kapoor.

$32 trillion hidden in offshore havens by super rich


London — Rich individuals and their families have as much as $32 trillion of hidden financial assets in offshore tax havens, representing up to $280 billion in lost income tax revenues, according to research published on Sunday.

The study estimating the extent of global private financial wealth held in offshore accounts — excluding non-financial assets such as real estate, gold, yachts and racehorses — puts the sum at between $21 trillion and $32 trillion.

The research was carried out for the British-based lobby group Tax Justice Network, which campaigns against tax havens, by James Henry, former chief economist at consultants McKinsey & Co.

Henry used data from the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, United Nations and central banks.

The report also highlights the impact on the balance sheets of 139 developing countries of money held in tax havens by private elites, putting wealth beyond the reach of local tax authorities.

The research estimates that since the 1970s the richest citizens of these 139 countries had amassed $7.3 to $9.3 trillion of “unrecorded offshore wealth” by 2010.

Private wealth held offshore represents “a huge black hole in the world economy,” Henry said in a statement.

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy urges stricter gun control

Democracy Now!:

Police say the alleged shooter in the Aurora, Colorado, killings purchased more than 6,000 rounds of ammunition online as well as a high-capacity "drum magazine" large enough to hold 100 rounds and capable of firing 50 or 60 rounds per minute. Such a purchase would have been restricted under proposed legislation that has been stalled in Washington for more than a year. We speak to Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, a leading advocate for gun control in Congress. She ran for office after her husband was killed and son seriously injured in the 1993 Long Island Rail Road shooting that killed six. "Large magazines, assault weapons do not need to be on the streets for the ordinary citizen. They are meant for the military," McCarthy says. "I think that the American people understand that. The problem is, politicians, legislators across this country are intimidated by the NRA and the gun manufacturers who put so much money out there to say that 'we will take you down in an election if you go against us.'" Responding to the Obama administration’s dismissal of calls for new gun control laws, Rep. McCarthy says, "[President Obama] did say that we had to do something, we had to do something to stop this kind of violence in our country. It’s going to be up to me and certainly many members of Congress to convince him. We are willing to lose an election to save people’s lives, and the president should be doing the same thing."

Monday, July 23, 2012

Super rich hiding up to $32 trillion offshore

A new report says that at least 21 trillion dollars, is being held around the world, in what are known as offshore accounts, or tax havens.

This is as much money as the entire annual economic outputs of the US and Japan, combined but this belongs to just 10 million people worldwide who have offshore bank accounts.

John Christensen from the Tax Justice Network, an organisation fiercely critical of tax havens and economist, Richard Rahn, a former Cayman Islands banking regulator and now a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank spoke to Al Jazeera.

Rahn says the statistics in the report are bogus.

Big lead for pot legalization in Washington State

Just Say Now:

A solid majority of registered voters in Washington State say they plan to support I-502, an initiative to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana for adults over the age of 21. A new SurveyUSA poll found 55 percent support the ballot initiative, while just 32 percent oppose the measure. From SurveyUSA:

A state initiative would license and regulate marijuana production, distribution and possession for people 21 and over. It would remove state criminal and civil penalties for limited possession of marijuana, impose an excise tax on marijuana sales and earmark some revenue for substance abuse prevention, research and education. Should the measure be enacted into law?

Yes …………. 55%
No…………… 32%
Not Sure …. 13%

It is important to note that this poll uses basically the same official language to describe the measure as will appear on the ballot this November.  Sometimes initiative poll questions that simply ask about the general concept are less informative.  This poll, which uses the exact language voters will be presented at the election should be more accurate.

As we have seen in most polls about marijuana legalization, there is a large age and partisan divide. The poll found that a majority of all groups under age 65 support the initiative, while only a slim plurality of people over 65 support it. The poll also found that large majorities of Democrats and Independents in Washington think marijuana should be legalized, but a majority of Republicans oppose the measure. As a result, who actually turns out to vote will be very important to the fate of the measure.

The fact that the I-502 is polling at over 50 percent and leading by a 23 point margin means it has a very real chance of winning this November. Even if the vast majority of undecided voters break against the measure, which is normally how the undecided end up voting when it comes to ballot initiatives, I-502 would still win as long as it simply holds all the people who currently support it.
By comparison, at this point in 2010 SurveyUSA found Proposition 19, an initiative to legalize marijuana in California, was polling at just 50 percent yes to 40 percent no. Prop 19 eventually failed narrowly, with 46.5 percent voting yes to 53.5 percent voting no. At no point in 2010 did any public polling find that Prop 19 was leading by as large a margin as I-502 has in this new poll.

Republican: 100-round magazine is ‘basic freedom’

Raw Story:

Tea party-backed Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) says that the right to own high-capacity ammunitions magazines like the 100-round drum that was used to kill at least a dozen people in Colorado last week is a “basic freedom” that is protected by the U.S. Constitution. 

Fox News host Chris Wallace on Sunday asked Johnson why people needed military-grade weapons like the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and large ammunition clips used by the shooter in Aurora, Colorado where at least 12 were killed and 58 were wounded. 

“The left always uses the term ‘assault rifle,’ and they’re really talking about semi-automatic weapons that are used in hunting,” Johnson explained. “That’s what happens in Wisconsin. These are rifles that are used in hunting. Just the fact of the matter is this is really not an issue of guns. This is about sick people doing things you simply can’t prevent. It’s really an issue of freedom.”

“I would be very surprised if hunters in your state hunted with a 100-round ammunition feeding device,” Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) disagreed. “In the bill I did, we exempted 375 rifles and shotguns by name so that no weapon used for hunting was effected at all. It’s just the military-style assault weapons.”

Continue reading here.

Virginia Tech shooting survivor wants gun control

Democracy Now!:

Colin Goddard was shot four times during 2007 Virginia Tech massacre that left 32 people dead. He now works with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. "It is beyond time to talk about solutions," Goddard says. "This conversation should have happened before this shooting in the first place. ... The missing piece [is] in place in this, which is the public outrage. And it has to be focused directly to your representatives, because they are the ones, literally, with bills at their fingertips right now."

Republican: Colorado victims lacked courage

Former Arizona Republican State Senator Russell Pearce (left) with deceased neo-Nazi J.T. Ready.

Though the alleged gunman at the theater shooting last Friday was armed to the teeth, able to fire off 60 rounds in a minute, and dressed fully in bulletproof gear, former Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce thinks one of the people in the theater should have been able to take him down. 

 In a Facebook post that has since been deleted, Pearce criticized the people in the theater for a lack of courage and for not being armed, saying that if they had been, they could have saved lives. “All that was needed is one Courages/Brave [sic] man prepared mentally or otherwise to stop this it could have been done,” he posted:

Pearce is best known for having authored Arizona’s anti-immigrant SB1070. He was exposed just last week for writing hateful, racist emails about Latinos in his state.

When Pearce was inevitably called out by local media for his insensitivity, he walked back his earlier statements, saying that he meant that gun control laws were entirely to blame, and not the victims themselves:

While Cinemark does have a no firearms policy, it is highly unlikely that someone would have been able to take down the alleged gunman. He was heavily armed, in full protective gear, thew tear gas before he opened fire, and was in a dark, crowded theater. Armed law enforcement officers responded within 90 seconds, and in that time he injured or killed 70 people. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Justice Scalia tells America to "get over it"

Justice Antonin Scalia is out of touch with society - out of touch with the founding principles of this nation - and out of touch with judicial ethics. Isn't time he was tossed out of the chamber?

The Bain connection to death squads...

Mike Papantonio, Attorney, Host, Ring of Fire Radio joins Thom Hartmann. We already know Mitt Romney's run for the Presidency has received financial help from Chinese gangs - but now it turns out he's got past connections to El Salvadorian death squads too. Can Romney stay in the presidential race with new bombshells dropping every day?

How to marry a corporation

Thanks to the Supreme Court and their Citizen's United decision - corporations in America are considered people - but it didn't used to be like this. The first modern corporations began forming the 1880's - and after realizing the power these corporations had on society and the danger they could pose to our democracy - Congress passed the Tillman Act in 1907 - which outlawed corporations from donating to politicians. But - fast forward a century - and corporations are now donating to politicians without any limits - because the Supreme Court decided to blow up the sensibility of the Tillman Act, and replace it with the mind-boggling idea that corporations are people, and money is speech.

And - if corporations are people - and we follow that logic to its final conclusion - then corporations should be allowed to marry - right? Well - King County, Washington - the county that Seattle is in - followed the Citizen's United logic and showed how absurd it is - and they issued a marriage license for a living, breathing woman to marry an inanimate, all-powerful corporation. In a beautiful and heartfelt wedding ceremony in King County, Washington - Ms. Angela Marie Vogel married Corporate Person - a Washington State Corporation. The wedding ceremony was attended by roughly 100 guests - and was presided over by Pastor Rich Lang - who presided over a brilliant ceremony that was also brilliant political theatre.

Pastor Lang told the crowd that, "For Angela, dear, sweet victim of corporate propaganda, she has been swept up in a love that knows no boundaries, nor limits, no moral concerns..." Lang went on to say that, "we gather knowing that the love that binds them together will end in the grief and tragedy of Angela's mortal death, even as Corporate Person lives on, marrying again and again with the adoration and support of shareholders world-wide." And - finally - at the end of the ceremony - Pastor Lang closed by saying, "In celebration of this merger let us reach deep into our pocketbooks and take out a symbol of that which is most sacred and holy of all - let us show the benevolent power of our Corporate Lords and Master by taking out a $1 dollar bill."

Charcoal harvesting and Ivory Coast's rainforests

Electricity is a luxury in war torn Ivory Coast but for the poor charcoal is the cheaper alternative.

Now environmentalists are warning that one of West Africa's remaining rainforests is disappearing at an alarming rate because of increased industrial logging and people cutting down trees to make charcoal - the only fuel they can afford.

Al Jazeera's Haru Mutasa reports from Guiglo

Ron Paul's disastrous agenda

(click image for larger view)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

#1 in billionaires but not in top 10 for median wealth

America likes to think of itself as the richest nation on the planet. It's basically considered common knowledge - which country is the richest on earth? America, of course! We hear it from our politicians, our school teachers, or news media. And looking strictly at total combined wealth, we are the richest....by a lot. According to a 2011 study by Allianz - the United States has over $41 trillion in combined wealth. Second is Japan - with far less than half the wealth of the United States at just over $14 trillion. So we're number one right?! Well, not exactly...Our nation's combined wealth IS astronomically high. But that's only because there are a heck of a lot of billionaires living here. In fact, about a third of the world's billionaires live in America. That's 412 billionaires that live in America - and second on the list is China with only 115 billionaires. So are total wealth is inflated by all the billionaires that live here. If you want a true measure of how wealthy the United States ACTUALLY is - then you have to look at median wealth, or how much Americans in the middle are making. Under that criteria - the United States doesn't even crack the top ten in the world. According to a report by Credit Suisse, 15 OECD nations have a higher median wealth than the United States. That includes nations like Australia, Japan, and Israel. It also includes European nations that are in crisis like the Spain, Italy, and Ireland.

The need stricter gun control laws in the US

Not again - that was the cry of many Americans when they turned on their morning news on Friday. At least 12 people were killed and dozens wounded when a man wearing a gas mask and body armour opened fire and tossed a tear gas cannister into a cinema auditorium in the town of Aurora in Colorado. People were watching a midnight showing of the latest Batman movie, The Dark Night Rises. A 24-year-old former student named James Holmes was arrested shortly after. Police officers recovered four guns including a rifle, a shotgun and two glock handguns. This latest shooting took place just 30km away from Columbine High School where 13 people were shot dead by two students in 1999. For many Americans the right to bear arms is regarded as an essential freedom protected by the second amendment of the constitution. Politicians have been reluctant even to call for tougher gun control laws. But in a country where nearly 9,000 were murdered with guns in 2010, could that be about to change? Does the US need tough gun control laws? Inside Story Americas, with presenter Anand Naidoo, is joined by guests: Colin Goddard, who survived the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007 and works for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence; Hubert Williams, the president of the Police Foundation who also chairs the National Law Enforcement Partnership to prevent gun violence; and Alan Gottlieb, the founder of the Second Amendent Foundation who argues for the rights of Americans to bear arms.

Inside Story - Spain: Is austerity the panacea? (no)

Protesters in Madrid vented their anger at $80 billion dollars worth of government cutbacks and tax rises as Eurozone ministers decided to bailout Spanish banks. This would come in return for strict reform on their financial system. Divya Gopalan speaks to guests: Antonio Cabrales, Susana Martin Belmonte, Jesus Gallego-Garcia.

Bumbling Conservatives doing Mulcair's work

While pretending to enjoy the Calgary Stampede, the Conservatives were actually enduring two very significant reversals in key areas for them.

The first was the huge hole blown in their single most significant economic initiative – unwavering support for Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline from Alberta to the Pacific. The second was the blow to their vaunted managerial efficiency that was to be demonstrated by a modernized Canadian military machine, central to the warrior culture the government wants to make a cherished Canadian value.

In each case, the week’s bad news happened to be the fourth in a series of bad stories that have begun to undermine these two major projects. Oil pipelines received the most coverage, all of it damning. Enbridge’s very public humiliation at the hands of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, for a serious pipeline rupture in Michigan in 2010, reminded Canadians that no fewer than three large oil spills had taken place in Alberta itself just the previous month. That in turn evoked unwelcome memories of last year’s massive spill near Peace River, Alta., which then led to reminders that besides the Michigan disaster, 2010 also saw an average of two pipeline failures every day in Alberta. No one, it seems, had remembered this distressing record – until now.

Suddenly, the existing political equation was turned on its head. Instead of the Harper-led attacks on opponents of the Northern Gateway pipeline project as radicals, Canadian politicians and oil interests were now falling all over themselves to insist they put safety first. The villains had become, in the words of one American regulator, Enbridge’s “Keystone Kops.” And instead of Mr. Mulcair being characterized as the mindless arch-enemy of an ever-expanding energy sector, he seemed increasingly credible as a voice of elementary commonsense, as polls indicate.

Putting the safety of Canadians and their environment ahead of the self-interest of Big Oil hardly seems radical now. Secondly, questioning an economic strategy that sends Canada deep into the 21st century as primarily an exporter of unprocessed and semi-processed non-renewable resources and that worsens regional imbalances and disparities seems the very definition of responsible opposition.

By a complete coincidence, at the very same time last week the government was reeling from its fourth consecutive fiasco in procuring new equipment for the armed forces. Strengthening the military, was a major plank in Mr. Harper’s 2011 election platform. But the serious, multibillion dollar matter of buying new planes, trucks and combat vehicles has proved entirely beyond the competence of the Harper government, as they’ve proved repeatedly since 2006.

Continue reading here.

Another Romney flip-flop caught on video

Friday, July 20, 2012

One family more wealthy than 30% of America

Dean Baker, Economist, Center for Economic joins Thom Hartmann. It's been ten years since the infamous Bush tax cuts were created - and except for millionaires and billionaires - the tax cuts haven't helped anyone. What would America's economy look like without the Bush tax cuts - and would the average American be in better financial shape today without them?

Spanish protest austerity, bailouts for banks

Eurozone ministers are expected to give their final approval of a huge bailout of Spanish banks on Friday.But in Madrid, police fired rubber-coated bullets to disperse protesters. They are angry at the latest budget cuts and tax hikes as demonstrations were held in 80 cities. Al Jazeera's Paul Brennan reports from the capital, Madrid.

Refugee health cut protests at Conservative events

Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq has become the latest federal cabinet minister to be interrupted during a funding announcement event by critics of recent changes to Canada's refugee system.

Hamilton - Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq has become the latest federal cabinet minister to be interrupted during a funding announcement event by critics of recent changes to Canada's refugee system.

Aglukkaq had just announced $7 million in bone health research projects at McMaster University in Hamilton, when two people stood up to protest recent cuts to a federal program that provides extended health-care benefits to refugee claimants.

The two local health care providers, who were calm and polite as they addressed the minister, said the cuts put the health and lives of patients at risk and called for an immediate moratorium.

Aglukkaq replied she believes cutting health benefits to failed claimaints is only fair and what Canadian taxpayers would expect.

She added she doesn't think many Canadians were even aware that for years, those denied entry were covered by tax dollars.

The policy, which strips refugee claimants of access to pharmaceutical, dental and vision coverage and also limits other forms of coverage, was announced in April.

Continue reading here.

Doctors interrupt and protest refugee health cuts at press conference featuring Minister Joe Oliver on June 22, 2012:

Denver shooting rampage: 12 dead, 50 wounded

Democracy Now!:

At least 12 people have been killed and more than 50 wounded in a mass shooting at a movie theater outside of Denver. A number of the wounded are in critical condition. It was one of the worst mass shootings in the United States since the killings of 32 people at Virginia Tech five years ago. The shootings have called to mind the killings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, only 25 miles away from the theater, where 12 students and a teacher were killed in a mass shooting spree by two students in 1999. We go to Denver to speak with Mary Kershner, a registered nurse, gun control advocate and founding member of Nurses Advocating Gun Safety. She has lost three members of her family to gun violence.

Lawsuit challenging election results can go ahead

An Ottawa man dressed as a robot is seen on Parliament Hill in this April 1, 2012, file photo. The Federal Court has ruled that a Council of Canadians lawsuit aimed at overturning the election results in seven ridings where voters reported receiving deceptive "robocall" telephone calls can go ahead.

Ottawa — The Federal Court ruled Thursday that a Council of Canadians lawsuit aimed at overturning the election results in seven ridings where voters reported receiving deceptive telephone calls can go ahead.

The Conservative Party had sought to have the case thrown out before evidence could be presented, arguing that it was a frivolous and vexatious suit, but federal prothonotary Martha Milczynski ruled Thursday that the case can go ahead, stating that without judicial scrutiny, fraudulent electoral calls "could shake public confidence and trust in the electoral process."

"Far from being frivolous or vexatious, or an obvious abuse, the applications raise serious issues about the integrity of the democratic process in Canada and identify practices that, if proven, point to a campaign of activities that would seek to deny eligible voters their right to vote and/or manipulate or interfere with that right being exercised freely."

Steven Shrybman, the lawyer handling for the council, argued that the applicants only learned of an apparent attempt to keep voters from going to the polls after media reports on Feb. 23.
The court ruled, though, that when voters received calls misdirecting them on election day, they could not have known that they "could have been part of a fraud or corrupt or illegal practice," and said a determination requires "a full evidentiary record."

The council, a nationalist, left-leaning citizen advocacy group, is seeking to have the court throw out the results in seven ridings where Conservatives won close races: Don Valley East, Elmwood—Transcona, Nipissing—Timiskaming, Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, Vancouver Island North, Winnipeg South Centre and Yukon.

Each of the applications is from a voter who received a call telling them that their polling station had moved, seemingly as part of a concerted attempt to prevent opposition supporters from voting.
The council has also presented evidence from a Conservative call centre worker in Thunder Bay, Annette Desgagne, who signed an affidavit stating that she made calls in at least one of the ridings — Nipissing—Timiskaming — directing opposition supporters to the wrong polling stations.

Continue reading here.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

How to Marry a Corporation

Thanks to the Supreme Court and their Citizen's United decision - corporations in America are considered people - but it didn't used to be like this. The first modern corporations began forming the 1880's - and after realizing the power these corporations had on society and the danger they could pose to our democracy - Congress passed the Tillman Act in 1907 - which outlawed corporations from donating to politicians. But - fast forward a century - and corporations are now donating to politicians without any limits - because the Supreme Court decided to blow up the sensibility of the Tillman Act, and replace it with the mind-boggling idea that corporations are people, and money is speech.

And - if corporations are people - and we follow that logic to its final conclusion - then corporations should be allowed to marry - right? Well - King County, Washington - the county that Seattle is in - followed the Citizen's United logic and showed how absurd it is - and they issued a marriage license for a living, breathing woman to marry an inanimate, all-powerful corporation. In a beautiful and heartfelt wedding ceremony in King County, Washington - Ms. Angela Marie Vogel married Corporate Person - a Washington State Corporation. The wedding ceremony was attended by roughly 100 guests - and was presided over by Pastor Rich Lang - who presided over a brilliant ceremony that was also brilliant political theatre.

Pastor Lang told the crowd that, "For Angela, dear, sweet victim of corporate propaganda, she has been swept up in a love that knows no boundaries, nor limits, no moral concerns..." Lang went on to say that, "we gather knowing that the love that binds them together will end in the grief and tragedy of Angela's mortal death, even as Corporate Person lives on, marrying again and again with the adoration and support of shareholders world-wide." And - finally - at the end of the ceremony - Pastor Lang closed by saying, "In celebration of this merger let us reach deep into our pocketbooks and take out a symbol of that which is most sacred and holy of all - let us show the benevolent power of our Corporate Lords and Master by taking out a $1 dollar bill."

People & Power - Attack of the Drones

The US government's growing reliance on aerial drones to pursue its war on al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Yemen, Afghanistan and elsewhere is proving controversial. As governments are increasingly relying on drones, what are the consequences for civil liberties and the future of war?

Aborigine youth at greater risk of suicide

The youth suicide rate amongst the Aboriginal community is among the highest in the world.

Many Aboriginal elders believe a disconnect from their culture and land is driving many young people into depression.

But one indigenous group in the country's north is using tradition to help at-risk teenagers.

Al Jazeera's Yaara Bou Melhem reports from Darwin.

Matt Taibbi talks LIBOR rate-fixing scandal

Democracy Now!:

Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi joins us to discuss the pattern of systemic corruption by 16 banks accused of rigging a key global interest rate used in contracts worth trillions of dollars. The London Interbank Offered Rate — known as LIBOR — is the average interest rate at which banks can borrow from each other; some analysts say it defines the cost of money. Barclays was recently fined $453 million for rigging LIBOR, and a number of other banks are under investigation. "Ordinary people actually suffered when LIBOR was manipulated downward, mainly because local governments tended to lose money," Taibbi says. "Even the tiniest manipulation downward when you’re talking about a thing of this scale would result in tens of trillions of dollars of losses. ... The banks weren’t doing this just to make themselves look healthier, they were also doing this just to make money. They were trading against this information in what essentially was the biggest kind of insider trading you could possibly imagine." Taibbi is author of the book, "Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History."

Unions, equality and democracy

Right-wing commentators like to claim that unions undermine good economic performance. But respected organizations such as the OECD, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have shown this isn’t so. They have recognized that unions promote more equitable societies, and that countries with strong unions have less extremes of rich and poor, stronger public services and social safety nets, without adversely affecting good economic performance.
Here in Canada, unions have been and remain essential to our democracy.

In 1976, Canada ratified the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, both of which recognize the right to a union. We legally committed ourselves to recognize both the right to a union and the right to bargain collectively – just as important as other fundamental human rights.

These international treaties affirm that unions are an important means for workers to have democratic checks on power.

In democratic societies, there are two principal arenas of non-violent conflict over power: the state and the workplace. Just as political democracy entails the right to select or reject one’s representatives and enables us to pursue, share and exercise power in the real world of free citizens, democracy in the workplace also requires that workers have their own representatives and some real power.
In the United States today, unions represent just one in eight workers and less than 7 per cent of private sector workers. The decline of unions since Reagan is closely associated with the decline of middle class jobs, the rise of extreme income inequality, and growing economic insecurity and poverty.

The U.S. states with weak unions have lower average wages – $1,500 less per year – and greater inequality than the country as a whole. Meanwhile, U.S. states with relatively strong unions such as Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Iowa boast unemployment rates of 6 per cent or less and superior social outcomes.

We must expose recent attacks on the labour movement for what they really are: a coordinated assault on the existing democratic rights of unions.

Canada’s stronger unions have helped ensure we have less extremes than in the U.S. (falling wages tend to be limited to the middle-class) and have certainly not undermined our economic performance, comparatively.

Continue reading here.