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Israelis Of Conscience

Politics and its Discontents - Sat, 09/13/2014 - 05:41

I reproduce the following story without comment, except to state the obvious. It is a testament to the courage and integrity of those described therein, who will likely face all manner of vitriol at home for their principled decision:

Forty-three reservists from Israel's elite army intelligence unit have announced their refusal to serve, accusing the military of "abuses" against Palestinians, in a letter published on Friday.

The letter, circulated to Hebrew-language media and addressed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, referred to the army's intelligence work in the occupied Palestinian territories, including targeted assassinations and intrusive surveillance of civilians.

The soldiers and officers from the elite unit, known as 8200, which works closely with Israel's security services, declared they no longer wanted to "continue to serve in this system, which harms the rights of millions of people" and refuse "to be tools to deepen the military regime in the occupied territories," according to daily Yediot Aharonot.

Soldiers in 8200, the army's largest unit, are responsible for collecting and intercepting telephone calls, texts, e-mails and faxes among various populations, the daily reported.

"We call all soldiers serving in the unit or who are going to serve, and all Israeli citizens to make their voices heard against these abuses and work to put a stop to it," the paper quoted the letter as saying.

In their letter, the reservists said that information their unit gathered was used against innocent Palestinians and created division within Palestinian society, including aiding in the recruitment of collaborators.

"Contrary to Israeli citizens or citizens of other countries," continued the letter, "there's no oversight on methods of intelligence or tracking and the use of intelligence information against the Palestinians, regardless if they are connected to violence or not."

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Stephen Harper and the Great Chinese Betrayal

Montreal Simon - Sat, 09/13/2014 - 05:16

He waited until late Friday afternoon to announce that the Cons had ratified their controversial trade deal with China. 

Hoping that most people wouldn't notice. 

Ottawa confirms it has ratified a foreign investment treaty with China, more than two years after the controversial agreement was signed, as CBC News first reported Friday. The controversial Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) will come into force on Oct. 1, said International Trade Minister Ed Fast in a news release Friday afternoon.

He couldn't even wait to see if the courts would rule it unconstitutional.

And with good reason. For it is one of the greatest sellouts this country has ever seen.
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Stephen Harper: The Political Predator and the E.I. Scam

Montreal Simon - Sat, 09/13/2014 - 03:42

It was the PMO's Picture of the Week. Stephen Harper receiving a report on the situation in Ukraine from the brutish former Premier of Ontario Mike Harris.

In his never-ending pursuit of the ethnic vote.

Even though, sadly for him, the only ones who covered the event were his PMO flunkies.

Because even the dullards in the MSM could guess what was in that report...

But then Harper is desperate, and as The Economist reminds us, he is a political predator.
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Musical interlude

accidentaldeliberations - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 19:45
Bissen - Exhale (Sean Tyas Remix)

So I’m officially not running for anything…

Trashy's World - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 12:23
… this time around. I was, however, very tempted to run down to City Hall around noon to register as a school Board Trustee candidate in my zone; where there was no one contesting the lone candidate who filed his papers. But whammo! someone named Talis-Ilmars Brauns has filed and will provide some opposition to […]

Smear Job of Indictment? The Rise and Collapse of Boeing's Corporate Culture

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 08:45
Al Jazeera pulls the wings off Boeing's 787 to reveal the "new Boeing" where profit comes first, even at the expense of quality. 

There was a time when "Boeing" meant the essence of quality.  From the B-17 to the B-52, and the magnificent history of the "7" series - 707, 737, 747, 757 and 767.  And then something changed and it began in Boeing's corporate culture. 

The company built on its quality, Washington state workforce, turned on its workers, beat up their union and the State government.  Boeing decided to outsource assembly work to the Third World, a.k.a. Charleston, South Carolina. 

Ordinarily I wouldn't post a documentary this long but, on watching it, the reality sank in that this is the face of today's corporate culture and we all need to be aware of that.   As for me, I've pretty much given up commercial flying but if I do have to travel, it sure as hell won't be on a Boeing 787.

Friday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 07:01
Assorted content to end your week.

- Rick Smith discusses the growing public appetite to fight back against burgeoning inequality - along with the need to make inequality a basic test for the fairness of any policy:
(I)t is significant that a finance minister of our decidedly right-wing government showed the political courage to criticize a policy that will clearly make inequality worse. This test — whether a policy choice will exacerbate inequality — should be the test for any government in making political choices.
[The Broadbent Institute's wealth inequality] data, though disheartening, can help focus the minds of Canadians and our elected officials to understand the urgency of taking action to combat inequality.

Because in the end this situation is the result of political choices, not some inevitability. As Ed Broadbent, a long-time champion of combating economic inequality, has explained, “Democratic politics, at its best, is about choosing what kind of society we want to live in.”

And deep and persistent inequality shouldn’t be a characteristic of Canadian society. - Meanwhile, Rebecca Vallas and Joe Valenti criticize one policy choice which does little other than entrench wealth inequality, as asset limits which prohibit people from accessing social assistance if they own even a modest vehicle strip people of their assets and trap them in poverty without serving any useful purpose. And in a similar vein, Angelina Chapin laments Ontario's insufficient social supports which result in parents having to choose between food and school supplies for their children.

- Bryce Covert weighs in on how unpredictable hours in the retail sector cause nothing but stress and frustration for workers. And Peter Cappelli points out the futility of telling workers to seek more education when employers are more interested in employees who have received on-the-job training (which they don't want to provide themselves).

- Harsha Walia rightly argues that after thirteen years of sacrificing rights to a war against a vague concept, it's about time to replace unfocused fear with solidarity.

- Finally, Glen Thompson exposes the latest attempts by the oil industry to make sure nobody can be held responsible for the environmental risks it wants to impose on the Canadian public:
The new [Kinder Morgan] pipeline, it seems, is as complicated as the first mission to the moon, with a robust 15,000 page draft plan, guiding a small army of civil engineers, scientists and project leads. It took no less than nine expert presenters with technical analysts standing by, to present an hour and a half project overview to the FVRD Board. Sitting two rows deep, the project leads extolled advanced science and gleaned wisdom distilled from forensic analysis of past catastrophes. The presentation team successfully stick-handled their way through the Boards member's queries; air quality, the depth of the pipeline in deep rooted agricultural crops, financial compensation capacity and riparian protection.

The second event was a long afternoon of Kinder Morgan being slow cooked by fully qualified, and at times pointed, questions from a highly informed group of community leaders, advocates and government agency analysts. Kinder Morgan walked away roughed up, limping a bit, but uninjured. Every concern it seemed, had a graph, a published opinion or a mitigation plan and supposedly every bit of it, was reasonable, given the daunting task of moving extremely heavy oil, over mountains, in February.

At the FVRD meeting, a single phrase, made by the pipeline's head director, hung in the air like a high fly ball. I'll never forget the finality in his voice, "Once the oil leaves the dock, Kinder Morgan holds no obligation or responsibility, even 10 metres out -- that's the carrier's liability." Nobody caught the ball.

The oil cargo that was loaded into the Exxon Valdez traveled safely through the supply pipeline from Prudhoe Bay without incident. The Alaska coast disaster had nothing to do with the pipeline, and everything to do with the carrier. The Kinder Morgan director's sharp statement pulls the sheet off the question: Who will take Kinder Morgan's oil out of the Port of Vancouver?

Stunning Inequality

Northern Reflections - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 06:17

The Broadbent Institute has just released a study on the distribution of wealth in Canada. Rick Smith, the institute's director, writes:

While the growing income share of the richest 1 per cent often dominates the headlines, looking at the distribution of wealth as opposed to income provides a broader view of the economic resources available to an individual or family.

A family’s wealth can be thought of as the amount of money that would be left over if they sold all their assets and paid off all their debts. Assets might include such things as houses, vehicles, stocks, bonds and savings. Debts might include mortgages, student loans or consumer debt.

For example, the wealthiest 10 per cent of Canadians accounted for almost half (47.9 per cent) of all wealth in 2012, while the poorest 10 per cent held more debts than assets.

The share of wealth at the bottom is particularly disconcerting: 30 per cent of Canadians together owned less than 1 per cent of all wealth; and the bottom half of Canadians controlled less than 6 per cent of wealth combined.

It’s important to put the distribution into context. The median wealth of the richest 10 per cent — meaning half in this group own more, half own less — was more than $2 million in 2012. In contrast, the median wealth of the poorest 10 per cent was a debt of $5,100.

Moreover, when you exclude pensions, the richest 10 per cent of Canadians own an even larger share of financial assets, which include things such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, investment funds, income trusts and tax-free savings accounts. The richest 10 per cent controlled almost $6 of every $10 (59.6 per cent) of such assets in 2012, more than the bottom 90 per cent combined.

Meanwhile, the bottom half of the population combined held less than 6 per cent of financial assets and the bottom 70 per cent of the population only 16 per cent — a clear shot across the bow of the various rosy reports trumpeting post-recession financial wealth recovery for Canadians.
When the prime minister bragged that we wouldn't recognize the country after he was through with it, he wasn't kidding. He may want to be remembered as the man who was in office when one of John Franklin's ships was discovered.

But his real legacy will be -- and is -- stunning inequality.

More On Health Canada's Depraved Indifference

Politics and its Discontents - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 06:15

I entitled yesterday's post "All Canadians Should Be Outraged." Now I somehow doubt that all Canadians will get the chance, outside of those who read The Star. To my knowledge, no other news organization nor political party has weighed in on the issue of the secrecy practiced by Health Canada, secrecy that could cost people their lives. Given the potential of the issue to affect all of us, I find that deeply disappointing.

Nonetheless, today's Star editorial continues with the paper's quest for accountability.

Entitled End secrecy around prescription drugs: Health Canada needs to clean up its shameful cult of institutional secrecy and make findings public as the American Food and Drug agency does, the piece sums up the dangers lurking in our midst in just a few short sentences:

It’s a prescription for disaster.

Some Canadian pharmaceutical companies have sold drugs they knew were defective — putting patients at possible risk.

Others have hidden, altered and in some cases destroyed test data that showed their products were tainted or potentially unsafe, or not reported side-effects suffered by consumers taking their drugs.

That’s scary enough.

But more worrisome is this: Star reporters David Bruser and Jesse McLean could not get this information from Health Canada. Instead, they had to rely on detailed notes from the American Food and Drug Administration’s inspections of Canadian companies.

That’s because in addition to conducting inspections of Canadian prescription drug manufacturing facilities around the world, the FDA also makes its findings available on its website for public scrutiny.

And it once more addresses what I found one of the most disturbing aspects uncovered in its investigation:

Health Canada also said it would take months to decide whether it would release information about 30 drug inspections the FDA had conducted on Canadian company manufacturing sites that had resulted in objectionable findings.

In some cases, it said, it would have to consult with the inspected Canadian drug companies before publicly disclosing the information.


Canadian taxpayers, who pay for Health Canada inspections, don’t have the right to know the results — without the approval of the self-interested pharmaceutical companies? Or even be reassured that the drugs they are taking are safely manufactured, as American consumers can easily confirm?

That attitude is shameful and dangerous.

I blame the Harper regime for setting the tone at Health Canada. The culture of secrecy embraced and promoted by this government, having permeated the bureaucracy, coupled with the elevation of business interests over those of citizens, means all Canadians are being needlessly put at risk.

Citizens are only as powerful as the information they have access to. If you didn't read yesterday's Star exposé, I urge you to do so, and send a link to as many people as you know.

None of us can afford to simply dismiss this as just another sad testament to the decline in care and service we have all been witness and victim to under the current regime.
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Stephen Harper and the Return of Parliament

Montreal Simon - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 04:20

After a long summer break Parliament returns on Monday, and all the political parties are revving up their engines. 

A splashy, campaign-style launch for the government's fall agenda, a surprise tax cut for small business owners, a brand new NDP battle cry and a prime-time speech from Justin Trudeau: welcome to the 2015 election season. 

With Parliament poised to resume on Monday, all three main political parties are clearly revving their political engines on the road to the next vote, currently scheduled to take place some 12 months from now.

For it will mark the official beginning of the next election campaign and Stephen Harper couldn't make that clearer by turning the occasion into a party.
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Scottish Independence: The Empire Strikes Back

Montreal Simon - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 01:05

With one week to go in the Scottish referendum the YES side's surge to independence appears to have been at least temporarily halted, with a new poll suggesting the NO side is leading again. 

The YouGov survey for The Times and Sun newspapers put supporters of the union on 52 per cent, narrowly ahead of supporters of independence on 48 per cent, excluding those who said they did not know how they would vote.

But with 97% of those eligible registered to vote, either side could still win.

And the good news for the YES side is that most of it's support is still intact even after being battered by an all-out assault worthy of Darth Vader himself...
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On intended consequences

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 09/11/2014 - 16:24
Shorter Joe Oliver:
Hey, I've got a bright economic idea! Let's pay businesses not to pay workers!If there's any long-term bright side to the Cons' announcement, it's that it should serve so nicely to undercut any "job creation" or "better off" narrative: surely every opposition party can identify workers who end up being denied jobs or raises to keep employers below the EI contribution threshold, and point to the Cons as the source of the problem. But on the balance, surely we'd all be better off if Oliver simply walks this one back.

"Arab States Back US Push Against Islamic State"

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 09/11/2014 - 10:45

That was the headline from the BBC report on a mini-summit attended by US State Secretary, John Kerry, and senior officials from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

So what do these Arab powerhouses mean by "backing the US."  Are they fueling their strike fighters, mobilizing their tank brigades, parading the troops, gearing up to take the fight to the Islamic State?  No, not so much.

What they have agreed to do - and this time they mean it, really - is to "help stop the flow of funds and foreign fighters" to the Islamic State.  In other words, they're going to put away their cheque books and start screening the departure lounges at their airports.  That's it?  Apparently so.

The Arab princes, it seems, want the infidels to do their dirty work for them. Maybe they just can't bring themselves to exchange fire with the same murderous bastards they funded in the first place.  Maybe they think we're their Crusader Brigade, their Arab Foreign Legion.  Whatever they think, they're right. Christendom is rallying to do their bidding.  We're back in their "reliable" fold.

Sorry but this is bullshit.   The Islamic Caliphate is as much a threat to these pampered oil swine as it is to Syria or Iraq.  This is a cause that needs a Sunni army sweeping ISIS out of Syria and Iraq.  The US has armed these countries to the teeth.  Time for them to show they know how to use the stuff.

Whoever has the most trucks wins: redefining winning in war

Cathie from Canada - Thu, 09/11/2014 - 10:18

Our ideas about war have mostly been patterned after WW1 and WW2, where states sent their armies to war against other states, eventually somebody won, peace agreements were signed, and the soldiers all came home and got real jobs.
That isn't the way war is anymore.
What we see now are numerous smaller wars of "insurgency", where semi-organized ideological well-armed rebel groups grab their guns and leap into their pickup trucks, traveling back and forth across their home territories, killing their enemies as they go, uprooting families, destroying people's ability to raise crops or run a business. Chechnya, Mali, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, Syria, eastern Ukraine, the Sudan. Nobody seems to win or lose wars like these, or at least not for long; there is often nobody to sign a peace treaty with and nobody would respect it if one could be negotiated. In these wars, success isn't "winning".  Success seems to be just "not losing" for just long enough to exhaust the opposition and then take back some of the territory lost in the last offensive.
Its the kind of war where apparently some additional air support can give one side a crucial edge.
This appears to be Obama's strategy for dealing with ISIS. From Juan Cole: Obama's ISIL Actions are Defensive, Despite Rhetoric of going on Offense:
Obama hinted in his speech that he wants to help Baghdad and Erbil take back towns from ISIL just as Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, the president of Yemen, took back Zinjibar. And just as AQAP hasn’t disappeared in Yemen, Obama expects ISIL to be around for a while. In essence, the Yemen policy has de facto yielded a sort of containment with regard to AQAP, though how successful it will be in the long run can be questioned.
What if Obama is a sharper reader of the Middle East than his critics give him credit for? He knows ISIL is likely not going away, just as, after 13 years, the Taliban have not. US military action may even prolong the lifetime of these groups (that is one argument about AQAP) even as it keeps them from taking more territory.
Don’t listen to his expansive four-stage program or his retooled, stage-managed John Wayne rhetoric. Look at his metaphors. He is telling those who have ears to hear that he is pulling a Yemen in Iraq and Syria. He knows very well what that implies. It is a sort of desultory, staccato containment from the air with a variety of grassroots and governmental forces joining in. Yemen is widely regarded as a failure, but perhaps it is only not a success. And perhaps that is all Obama can realistically hope for.I don't know if Obama will be right or not, but certainly landing American troops likely wouldn't work any better (see: Mogadishu).
Steve at No More Mister Nice Blog writes:
Obama's job is not to try to rid the world of evil. Obama's job is to protect America and U.S. interests. With regard to ISIS, that means curtailing the group's ability to be a threat to our country and our interests. If Cole is right, and if something like this gets Obama's actual job done, I'd prefer that to a bloodlust-satisfying full-on quagmire of a war that inflames our enemies and inspires ISIS's current enemies in the Arab/Muslim world to rally around the group.

Shakedown in Yankeeland

Left Over - Thu, 09/11/2014 - 08:52

American shakedown: Police won’t charge you, but they’ll grab your money U.S. police are operating a co-ordinated scheme to seize as much of the public’s cash as they can

By Neil Macdonald, CBC News Posted: Sep 11, 2014 5:00 AM ET Last Updated: Sep 11, 2014 5:00 AM ET

I know I shouldn’t be gobsmacked, but I am

I grew up in the States, and, yes, back in the day  this is the sort of thing one expected from the Southern States, where everybody (to those of us on the West Coast) was a hillbilly slacker, the cops were corrupt and they were the worst sort of racists, to boot…of course, like all stereotypes, some of those things were true…the ’60’s  proved that to anyone who watched the news on TV…

Movies like “Easy Rider” helped to shore up that image,  and the Civil Rights movement played out a  terrible injustice that was being perpetrated by Southerners against African Americans…

But this?  American cops turned into   highwaymen, and not just in the South? Yes, it is hard for me to believe that things have disintegrated to this point, but then, from everything I’ve seen or read, I should not even be remotely bemused…

There was a great article  in the Guardian, an interview with Sam Sheperd, the actor, director and writer, who said that he thought that America was inevitably fading away, corrupt from within, with an irredeemable  cultural  slide into oblivion…I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, and I sadly have to agree..

The last time I visited the States was in 2002, got stopped and searched several times in the airports on the way down the coast to visit my parents..and I am a white, redhaired female..I would be the only one pulled out of a passenger lineup that included people of South Asian or Arabic background, etc…this kept happening, and I was bewildered, although, this close to 911, in an airport bristling with  soldiers in camo with big semiautomatics slung over their soldiers, looking everywhere at once, I felt like I was caught up in a 3rd World revolution.  But I put it down to my being a ‘foreigner’ though it had never happened before, in all the years I had flown back and forth..

On the trip back, same experience, and I decided then and there to never go back until Bush was out of office, if then…still haven’t returned..and now this.

My mother is still alive,  she is almost 90, and I would like to see her before one of us goes, but  unless I fly, which I can hardly afford,  doubt if it will happen.. I think I have at least an inkling now of what it must be like to be from a country that is unsafe to return to, although you might want to, for a visit…

No, shouldn’t be surprised, but, sadly, I am…

Thursday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 09/11/2014 - 08:45
This and that for your Thursday reading.

- The Broadbent Institute studies wealth inequality in Canada, and finds not only that the vast majority of Canada's capital resources remain concentrated in very few hands but that the disparity continues to grow:
The new Statistics Canada data show a deeply unequal Canada in which wealth is concentrated heavily in the top 10% while the bottom 10% hold more debts than assets.
  • The majority of Canadians, meanwhile, own almost no financial assets besides their pensions. The top 10% of Canadians accounted for almost half (47.9%) of all wealth in 2012.
  • In 2012, the bottom 30% of Canadians accounted for less than 1% of all wealth; the bottom 50% combined controlled less than 6%. 
  • The median net worth of the top 10% was $2,103,200 in 2012. It rose by $620,600 (41.9%) since 2005. In contrast, the median net worth of the bottom 10% was negative $5,100 in 2012, dropping more than 150% from negative $2,000 in 2005.
- Meanwhile, PressProgress highlights a new international study on the declining wage levels and job quality faced by Canadian workers over the past forty-plus years. And T.M. Scanlon summarizes how growing inequality erodes our basic social foundations.

- Harriett McLachlan offers her take on what it's like to live in poverty:
What is it like to live in a world built for people not living in poverty?

I think a person who is poor is more vulnerable or susceptible to getting hurt along the road of life, the impact of which is deeper and longer lasting than folks who are not poor. The way our society is constructed, each time a poor person gets hurt they never fully recover, they are still wounded when they are hit by the next roadblock. 

Poverty is like [a] Mack Truck coming at you, barrelling towards you, and you only have a split second to jump out of the way. As you dodge one, you see another truck barrelling towards you and if you’re not careful or unlucky you can be hit by a third and by a fourth one that was not possible to see right away. How do you strategically manoeuvre towards safety in fractions of a second? How is it even possible to sustain this ‘escaping’ behaviour over the long-term? How can a person be a productive and contributing member of society under such challenging circumstances? That’s what the world is like for me living in poverty. 
Are there any other questions that you think I should ask you?

One question I would want to answer is: if you had money, what would change? Poverty has a way of impressing upon a person their identity. So that when one comes to define themselves as poor, all the negative images associated with being poor are woven together with who you are. A person who is poor, especially in long term poverty, most likely see themselves through a lens of negativity. The lens is bleak, without life, without hope. 

I never wanted poverty to define me. I volunteered for forty years giving to others so I wouldn’t be suffocated by the heavy weight of poverty consistently upon me. A person is still a person regardless of poverty. 

Poverty is such a restricting force, like when you see old metal cars compressed by huge machines, stacks of flattened cars waiting to be towed away to a scrap yard. Poverty can be like that on a person, very crushing. There is a strength of heart that is needed to counter that or poverty will compress the life out of you. For me it is important to define who I am independent of my circumstances. That can be a very challenging thing to deal with on a day-to-day basis when the weight of poverty is especially heavy.- Marc Lee points out that British Columbia doesn't lack the means to properly fund its public education, meaning that it's purely by choice that the Clark Libs are trying to strongarm the province's teachers into accepting low wages and unduly difficult class conditions.  And Lizanne Foster reminds us that the primary explanation for that choice is the desire to privatize education.

- PSAC notes that the Cons are trying to force federal public servants to go to work sick rather than maintaining a sound sick leave system. And the Saskatchewan NDP reveals how workers see Saskatchewan's health care system from the inside - with strong majorities of workers finding that neither managers nor the Sask Party government are listening to how to better ensure a healthy province.

- Finally, Linda McQuaig discusses the Cons' plans to boost military spending for no particular reason (other than to ensure public money isn't used for more positive purposes).

Mayor Discovered on Tumour

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 09/11/2014 - 08:43
Too soon?  Too cold?  Sorry.

When it was announced yesterday that Mayor Rob Ford's doctors discovered he has developed a tumour I was surprised, sort of (not really).  For a long time I marveled at how he kept going with the manner(s) in which he abused his body.  Booze, drugs of all descriptions, and obviously a hearty feed of junk food. 

We know from constant warnings in the media that medical science believes we're doing no end of harm to our physiology with the stuff we're cramming into it.  And we don't even understand the chemicals in some of our food and medicines.  For the most part we just take what's put in front of us and wait to be informed of its degree of lethality.

So, when a bloato like Ford develops a tumour I don't know that it's much of a shock.  More like, "yeah, okay, yawn."  Yet Ford's conduct and the ramifications that visits on his health are part and parcel of what Torontonians are voting for.  He's not Keith Richards.  It's not the price of a concert ticket at stake.  It's the mayoralty of Canada's largest city.  A toxic waste dump should not be draped in the chains of office.

New column day

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 09/11/2014 - 08:14
Here, on how the corporate sector is taking advantage of Brad Wall, Michael Fougere and their respective administrations at the expense of citizens who both fund and rely on public services.

For further reading...
- Murray Mandryk and the Leader-Post editorial board each weighed in recently on the latest developments from the smart meter debacle.
- CBC reported on the province's decision to let Deveraux Developments walk away from its commitment to build affordable housing, as well as Donna Harpauer's subsequent declaration that she's entirely sympathetic toward Deveraux (and by implication, not so much toward people who need homes), as well as the response by both the NDP and a procurement expert that it's foolish to let a business off the hook for a simple contractual commitment. And the Prince Albert Daily Herald rightly challenged Harpauer's spin that we can afford not to have any available housing because nobody is actually homeless, while Mandryk pointed out the respective treatment of people and businesses in the Deveraux case.
- Finally, the CBC's story on Emterra and the handling of glass food containers by the City of Regina's recycling program is here. And in keeping with the theme of the column, the City's late-breaking response couldn't have been much more carefully drafted to insulate Emterra from criticism.

All Canadians Should Be Outraged

Politics and its Discontents - Thu, 09/11/2014 - 06:58

Yesterday I wrote a post on the perspective that age bestows, my point being that the longer one lives, the greater the potential ability to critically evaluate everything that happens. Despite having seen many things during my life, however, I have to confess that didn't prevent me from feeling deep outrage, disgust, and perhaps even mild shock at what I read on the front page of this morning's Toronto Star. It is a story that, in the old days, would have led to howls of outrage from the people, demands for real accountability, and ministerial resignation.

Yet I fear none of that will happen.

The story, resulting from a Star investigation (one of the many reasons I subscribe to the paper), reveals that Health Canada has been purposely hiding from the public the fact that many of the drugs Canadians take are unfit for consumption. These drugs, manufactured both in Canada and abroad, have been rejected for sale by the U.S. FDA because of doctored data, contaminants found at the manufacturing sites and in the drugs, and side effects.

And the worst appears to be that Health Canada has essentially been colluding with the Canadian pharmaceutical companies who have been selling these medicines with knowledge that their products were defective.

Here are but a few of the shocking facts, based on the inspection reports, not of Health Canada, but of the U.S.FDA, which also inspects Canadian plants that sell to Americans:

- Generic drug maker Taro Pharmaceuticals of Brampton kept drugs on the market despite company tests showing batches of the medications deteriorated before the expiry date listed on the label.

- In June, at a facility in Bangalore, India, that makes drugs destined for North America, Apotex employees did not report undesirable test results and doctored bacterial growth test records.

- Cangene Corp., a Winnipeg drug manufacturer, failed to tell authorities of blood clots, fever and other side-effects associated with their products.

Equally disturbing is that the Star investigation was made easier by two facts: the transparency of information thanks to an extensive FDA database accessible to the public, and freedom of information requests that are handled with dispatch instead of the delays and obfuscations common under the Harper regime.

Conditions at some Canadian plants are shockingly deficient. The U.S. regulator has posted online dozens of warning letters to Canadian companies, many of which detail egregious conditions in drug manufacturing facilities.:

A 2010 letter to Apotex revealed details of earlier inspections of its Toronto facilities where U.S. inspectors found the company distributed antihistamine and diabetes tablets made with contaminated ingredients. Apotex recalled more than 600 batches of drugs made at its GTA facilities from Canadian and U.S. markets.

In contrast, Health Canada does not tell the public the number of times it has inspected individual facilities at Apotex or other major drug companies.

Other FDA inspection reports are equally chilling:

- At the Quebec plant of Macco Organiques, after charred, black particles spoiled a batch of a pharmaceutical ingredient, the firm shipped it to the customer anyway. Inspectors saw dead insects and live ones buzzing around production material and areas of the factory covered in “dust and debris.”

- Staff at Taro Pharmaceuticals in Brampton did not respond to six Star requests to talk about the FDA inspections that found the firm kept drugs on the market despite company tests showing batches of the medications failed a quality test or deteriorated before the expiry date listed on the label.

Another contrast:

Under U.S. freedom of information legislation, the Star quickly obtained additional records for more than 30 of these FDA inspections north of the border. Health Canada said it will take months to decide whether it will release similar information.

In several cases, the Canadian regulator said it will first need to consult with the inspected Canadian drug companies before publicly disclosing the information
, a practice that strongly suggests commercial considerations take priority over citizens' health and well-being.

It also appears that Health Canada inspects only about 10 foreign sites annually that make products destined for Canadian pharmacies. The FDA, on the other hand, inspected nearly 150 international facilities last year alone.

There is much more to be read in this disturbing report, including doctored data within the offending labs. I hope you will take the time to read it in its entirety.

Rona Ambrose, our current Health Minister, should, of course, resign. Of course, that won't happen, because under the current regime, any admission of error is seen as a weakness. It is therefore up to the Canadian public to send this government, which has progressively raised secrecy to an entirely new level, a strong message in 2015 by resoundingly defeating it at the polls.

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