Showing posts from December 7, 2014

Veterans Affairs' Disability Branch Saw Major Cuts From 2009 To 2013: Report

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[Lie, cheat, steal, deny, repeat - Groundhog Day Conservative style. In January 2014 there was the infamous meeting of vets with Julian Fantino, who showed up 70 minutes late, then left in a huff when the vets complained about this, calling them union dupes. The Harper government went ahead and closed vets offices, telling them to use Service Canada Centres. Harper claimed these were "duplicate" offices with "very small caseloads" which were then shown to have between 2,065 and 4,113 cases per closed office. For veterans from Thunder Bay the nearest office was now in Winnipeg. Funding for programs to honour veterans increased by more than 20% to over $50 million for 2014-2015 (=politician photo ops). In contrast, the government spends less than $40 million on mental health for the Canadian forces. In 2012 Peter Mackay promised to make mental health a priority, announcing extra funding of $11 million to hire more expert staff …

Judge: Give NSA unlimited access to digital data

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[One of those "needs to be read to be believed" pieces. But Judge Richard Posner, a conservative and acolyte of the Chicago School of economics, has a long history of precisely this kind of thinking - and public expostulating. From his Wikipedia page: Posner thinks that privacy as a social good is overrated: "I'm exaggerating a little, but I think privacy is primarily wanted by people because they want to conceal information to fool others." According to one author, Posner claims that "breaking down privacy domains and promoting transparency of the population is economically and morally beneficial. Paradoxically though, for Posner, wealth maximisation means that businesses should be afforded greater levels of privacy because placing businesses under the public spotlight harms economic growth." *RON*]
Grant Gross, PC World, 4 December 2014

The U.S. National Security Agency should have an unlimited ability to colle…

Danish People's Party support hits historic high

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[You often see reports that trumpet the high levels of national happiness in Denmark and other Scandinavian countries. There is, in fact, a clear correlation between the existence of strong Social Democratic states and national happiness. However, this also conceals a dark side. These are also some of the most racially homogeneous countries in the world, and some of the most xenophobic. It is much easier to be happy when you only embrace "us" and vehemently reject "them." *RON*]
The Local, Denmark's News in English, 28 November 2014
For the first time ever, the far-right Danish People's Party (DF) has come out of an opinion poll as the nation's largest party.

If an election were held today, the far-right Danish People’s Party (DF) would sweep into power.

For the first time ever, DF has topped all other parties in an opinion poll.

In the poll, conducted for TV2 and Politiken by Megafon, the anti-immigration party r…

The Civil Rights Movement Came Out of a Moment Like This One

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[Good piece on the recent spate of police killings of blacks in the US. The response should be proactive, including revitalized civil rights legislation, not purely reactive. *RON*]

by Dani McClain, Moyers & Company, 7 December 2014

This post first appeared in The Nation blog.

Back in August, some observers drew comparisons between the shooting of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, and the 1955 murder of Emmett Till. If parallels to civil rights movement history are helpful now, then let yesterday’s announcement that a Staten Island grand jury won’t indict the police officer who choked Eric Garner to death be a sign that we’re somewhere closer to 1963 — when a series of devastating setbacks and subsequent widespread outrage transformed the civil rights struggle — than we are to Till’s lynching, that earlier consciousness-raising moment. There was a perfect storm this week: the continuing fallout of the failed indictment of…

Body Cameras Worn by Police Officers Are No ‘Safeguard of Truth,’ Experts Say

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[What you are reading about here, without its being clearly identified, is the opinion of associations of police chiefs. You are simply hearing about the downside of body cameras. It is perfectly true that they have limitations, but it is also true that they are a step forward. What isn't being said is that the solution isn't body cameras or nothing. There are many, many additional steps that also need to be taken. For a thorough list, see the final chapter of Radley Balko's (2014) Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces. *RON*]

By Vivian Yee and Kirk Johnson, New York Times, 6 December 2014

Michael Brown’s family, on the night of the Ferguson grand jury decision, called for all police in the United States to wear body cameras.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, in announcing that some of New York’s police officers would begin wearing them, said “body cameras are one of the ways to create a real sense of transparen…

Energy Firms in Secretive Alliance With Attorneys General

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[Courting favour: Republican attorneys general as puppets of the corporatocracy. This is worse than "regulatory capture" and borders on collusion. *RON*]

By Eric Lipton with Nick Madigan, New York Times, 6 December 2014
The letter to the Environmental Protection Agency from Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma carried a blunt accusation: Federal regulators were grossly overestimating the amount of air pollution caused by energy companies drilling new natural gas wells in his state.

But Mr. Pruitt left out one critical point. The three-page letter was written by lawyers for Devon Energy, one of Oklahoma’s biggest oil and gas companies, and was delivered to him by Devon’s chief of lobbying.

“Outstanding!” William F. Whitsitt, who at the time directed government relations at the company, said in a note to Mr. Pruitt’s office. The attorney general’s staff had taken Devon’s draft, copied it onto state government stationery with only a …

Syrian forces ‘use chlorine gas’ on ISIS: monitor

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[Barbarian versus barbarian. Chlorine gas works by turning into hydrochloric acid in your lungs. See also: Iran 'confirms strikes against ISIL'. The fact that the US and Iran refuse to communicate or coordinate with one another isn't helping matters any. And from the "good luck with that one" department, EU to seek more Turkish help in ISIS fight. *RON*]
Staff writer, Al Arabiya News (With Reuters), 7 December 2014

The Syrian regime used chlorine gas, a lethal chemical agent, against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters to halt them from advancing towards its key air base in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, a monitoring group reported on Saturday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on its website that ISIS stopped advancing in the military air base after “heavy shelling and bombardment by the regime forces.”

The Observatory added that it received “confirmed reports of suffocation cases in ISIS that the r…