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Posts Tagged ‘justice’

Harper government feared UN wouldn’t send refugees to Canada if it maintained health coverage changes

NDP says revelations show government is “making it up as they go along.”

By Kristen Shane, July, 19, 2012,

The Hill Times Photo: Jake Wright
Dr. Parisa Rezaiefar, a family physician with Bruyere Academic Family Medicine Centre; Dr. Philip Berger, the chief of family and community medicine with St. Michael’s Hospital; and Dr. Mark Tyndall, the chief of infectious diseases with the Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa, speak at a press conference against refugee health-care changes on Parliament Hill June 27.

The Harper government feared the United Nations refugee agency would have tried to divert affected refugees from settling in Canada if it pressed ahead with changes to refugee health-care coverage, a document released today shows.

The revelation comes as criticism of the government’s approach to refugee health care has ballooned. Doctors wearing white lab coats have protested on Parliament Hill, while others have occupied a Toronto Conservative MP’s constituency office, and some have disrupted ministers’ press conference.

On July 18, a Cabinet-approved order made on June 28 was released in the government’s official newspaper, the Canada Gazette, detailing last-minute changes to the government’s earlier planned revamping of the refugee health coverage system—and why bureaucrats at Citizenship and Immigration Canada were pushing for them.

The document suggests that the UN referral drop, and a lack of private-sponsor support, could have left Canada unable to resettle as many refugees as it had planned.

The immigration department also said the originally proposed changes would have had a “serious impact” on the department’s ability to put in place part of the 2012 budget.

And the planned changes would have taken away coverage of psychological counselling for victims of human trafficking, something Citizenship and Immigration Canada said is “important” to support them.

An email and call to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s press secretary were not immediately returned July 18 before deadline.

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After 800 Years, the Barons Are Back in Control of Britain

King John, surrounded by English barons, ratifying the Magna Carta. (photo: Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

By George Monbiot, Guardian UK, 17 July 12

The Magna Carta forced King John to give away powers. But big business now exerts a chilling grip on the workforce

Hounded by police and bailiffs, evicted wherever they stopped, they did not mean to settle here. They had walked out of London to occupy disused farmland on the Queen’s estates surrounding Windsor Castle. Perhaps unsurprisingly, that didn’t work out very well. But after several days of pursuit, they landed two fields away from the place where modern democracy is commonly supposed to have been born.

At first this group of mostly young, dispossessed people, who (after the 17th century revolutionaries) call themselves Diggers 2012, camped on the old rugby pitch of Brunel University’s Runnymede campus. It’s a weed-choked complex of grand old buildings and modern halls of residence, whose mildewed curtains flap in the wind behind open windows, all mysteriously abandoned as if struck by a plague or a neutron bomb.

The diggers were evicted again, and moved down the hill into the woods behind the campus – pressed, as if by the ineluctable force of history, ever closer to the symbolic spot. From the meeting house they have built and their cluster of tents, you can see across the meadows to where the Magna Carta was sealed almost 800 years ago.

Their aim is simple: to remove themselves from the corporate economy, to house themselves, grow food and build a community on abandoned land. Implementation is less simple. Soon after I arrived, on a sodden day last week, an enforcer working for the company which now owns the land came slithering through the mud in his suit and patent leather shoes with a posse of police, to serve papers.

Already the crops the settlers had planted had been destroyed once; the day after my visit they were destroyed again. But the repeated destruction, removals and arrests have not deterred them. As one of their number, Gareth Newnham, told me: “If we go to prison we’ll just come back … I’m not saying that this is the only way. But at least we’re creating an opportunity for young people to step out of the system.”

To be young in the post-industrial nations today is to be excluded. Excluded from the comforts enjoyed by preceding generations; excluded from jobs; excluded from hopes of a better world; excluded from self-ownership.

Those with degrees are owned by the banks before they leave college. Housing benefit is being choked off. Landlords now demand rents so high that only those with the better jobs can pay. Work has been sliced up and outsourced into a series of mindless repetitive tasks, whose practitioners are interchangeable. Through globalisation and standardisation, through unemployment and the erosion of collective bargaining and employment laws, big business now asserts a control over its workforce almost unprecedented in the age of universal suffrage.

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Fears Church of England vote on women bishops has begun to unravel

Church could see women ordained as bishops by 2014, but critics warn draft legislation contains a compromise too far

Lizzy Davies, The Guardian, 6 July 2012

Vote on women bishops – Rachel Treweek, archdeacon of Hackney, says: ‘I think it is very unlikely that I would press the “yes” button because of that place of integrity’

The Venerable Rachel Treweek, archdeacon of Hackney, will leave east London for York tomorrow with mixed feelings and a heavy heart. This weekend’s gathering of the General Synod was supposed to be historic: the moment at which the Church of England would finally, after decades of struggle and division, pass legislation that permitted women to become bishops.

Instead of rejoicing, however, Treweek and many other supporters of the cause now find themselves in a very peculiar position. The legislation they fought so hard for is due to be presented for final approval and, if it is passed, the church could see women consecrated to the episcopate by 2014.

But Treweek is hoping for an adjournment and is dreading the possibility that the final vote will be held. Because, if it comes down to it, she will vote against.

“I cannot tell you – even sitting here now, I can feel it – how painful that feels,” she says, in the low-lit quiet of St Anne’s church in Hoxton. “I feel I have to hold the line of my integrity. It would be very easy to say: ‘Oh, let’s all just vote in favour and get this through.’… But I think it’s very unlikely that I would press the yes button because of that place of integrity.”

Until May, the draft legislation on female bishops met with the approval of people such as Treweek. A two-clause measure that sought to open the episcopate to women at the same time as providing for those who remain adamantly opposed to the idea, it had been approved by 42 of 44 dioceses (although not, to her chagrin, Treweek’s own: the diocese of London voted against).

Although a compromise, it was viewed by many to be the least bad one in a church where fudges are a standard vehicle for change.

Then it all started to unravel. In May, the House of Bishops made two amendments to the legislation, one of which supporters say would enshrine discrimination against women in law. It is this clause – the now infamous 5(1)c – which prompted a group of senior female clergy to write to members of the General Synod expressing their “deep dismay” and hope that an adjournment would be reached that would allow for the offending passage to be looked at again.

“I’ve spent quite a long time trying to make myself feel it was voteable for so that we could just get on with things,” said the Rev Dr Miranda Threlfall-Holmes, chaplain at University College, Durham, of 5(1)c. “For the last few weeks, I’ve been really very upset – prone to bursting into tears.

“But I feel a bit calmer now. I’ve realised I just can’t do that; I haven’t got that dilemma any more. It’s just completely unacceptable to institutionalise discrimination against women in that way.”

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Canadian senators warn United Church over Israel boycott

CAMPBELL CLARK, The Globe and Mail, Jul. 04 2012

Canadian senators are warning the United Church of Canada that a boycott of goods from Israeli settlements in occupied lands could cause a rift with the Jewish community.
(Nasser Ishtayeh/AP)

A group of nine senators has warned the United Church of Canada that it could spark a rift with the Jewish community if it approves the boycott of goods from Israeli settlements in occupied lands.

The senators, all United Church members and from both the Conservative and Liberal parties, have waded publicly into a controversial issue before it comes to a vote in mid-August.

It’s a debate in which the lines between church and state have already been crossed several times as the United Church considers a new foray into the electrified world of Mideast politics.

A working group established by the church has issued a report that proposes a boycott of all products from Jewish settlements in occupied lands, arguing the settlements are illegally eating away Palestinian lands and the hope for a two-state solution. But it also rejects a wholesale boycott of all Israeli goods.

The nine senators have warned in a letter to United Church moderator Mardi Tindal that the distinction drawn with the narrower boycott will “be lost upon” Israelis and Canada’s Jewish community.

“What will be made clear to them is that the United Church has chosen sides, declaring Israel guilty and the Palestinians the only injured party,” the senators wrote.

Conservative Senator Nancy Ruth noted that she has no objection to the church wading into weighty international politics, but fears that members of the Jewish community will see itself as being singled out by an anti-Israel-sentiment.

“I’d say it’s a matter of diplomacy,” she said. “I don’t think it will be helpful for Jewish-Christian relations.

The church’s working group said it struggled with that issue. But its report maintained that arguments about the complexity of affairs in the Middle East are not an excuse for silence.

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Some Outrageous Facts about Inequality

by Paul Buchheit, July 2, 2012 by Common Dreams

A homeless person sits under blankets at a Wall Street subway station in New York City. (Credit: AP/Mark Lennihan)

Studying inequality in America reveals some facts that are truly hard to believe. Amidst all the absurdity a few stand out.

1. U.S. companies in total pay a smaller percentage of taxes than the lowest-income 20% of Americans.

Total corporate profits for 2011 were $1.97 trillion. Corporations paid $181 billion in federal taxes (9%) and $40 billion in state taxes (2%), for a total tax burden of 11%. The poorest 20% of American citizens pay 17.4% in federal, state, and local taxes.

2. The high-profit, tax-avoiding tech industry was built on publicly-funded research.

The technology sector has been more dependent on government research and development than any other industry. The U.S. government provided about half of the funding for basic research in technology and communications well into the 1980s. Even today, federal grants support about 60 percent of research performed at universities.

IBM was founded in 1911, Hewlett-Packard in 1947, Intel in 1968, Microsoft in 1975, Apple and Oracle in 1977, Cisco in 1984. All relied on government and military innovations. The more recently incorporated Google, which started in 1996, grew out of the Defense Department’s ARPANET system and the National Science Foundation’s Digital Library Initiative.

The combined 2011 federal tax payment for the eight companies was just 10.6%.

3. The sales tax on a quadrillion dollars of financial sales is ZERO.

The Bank for International Settlements reported in 2008 that total annual derivatives trades were $1.14 quadrillion. The same year, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange reported a trading volume of $1.2 quadrillion.

A quadrillion dollars is the entire world economy, 12 times over. It’s enough to give 3 million dollars to every person in the United States. But in a sense it’s not real money. Most of it is high-volume nanosecond computer trading, the type that almost crashed our economy. So it’s a good candidate for a tiny sales tax. But there is no sales tax.

Go out and buy shoes or an iPhone and you pay up to a 10% sales tax. But walk over to Wall Street and buy a million dollar high-risk credit default swap and pay 0%.

4. Many Americans get just a penny on the dollar.

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Williams: Christians need to confront shame and disgust over homosexuality

Archbishop makes one of strongest interventions yet on issue that lies at heart of some of deepest divisions in church

Ben Quinn, The Guardian, 27 June 2012

Rowan Williams the archbishop of Canterbury has said the church is still ‘scratching its head’ about its position on same-sex marriage Photograph: Nick Cunard/Rex Features

Christians need to confront feelings of embarrassment, shame and disgust over homosexuality, the archbishop of Canterbury has said.

In one of his strongest interventions yet on an issue that lies at the heart of some of the deepest divisions in the church he leads, Dr Rowan Williams said the church was still “scratching its head” about its position on same-sex marriage.

He was speaking at an event involving Christian teenagers at Lambeth Palace, his official residence in London, which was entitled “Help, my friends think I’m mad” and where some of the discussion focused on how Anglicanism was viewed from without.

Dr Williams also turned to the question of women bishops, which is due to be considered by the Church of England’s general synod next week, saying it was another issue that gave the impression that sex was “the only thing the church is interested in”.

The Daily Telegraph reported him as saying: “Same with same-sex marriage, where once more we’re used to being alongside people who are gay; many of our friends may be – indeed we may be – wrestling with that issue ourselves, and the church is scratching its head and trying to work out where it is on all that, and what to think about it.

“What’s frustrating is that we still have Christian people whose feelings about it are so strong, and sometimes so embarrassed and ashamed and disgusted, that that just sends out a message of unwelcome, of lack of understanding, of lack of patience.

“So whatever we think about it, we need, as a church, to be tackling what we feel about it.”

The archbishop’s comments come after the Church of England was criticised this month by gay rights campaigners for delivering an uncompromising warning to the government against pressing ahead with a controversial proposal to legalise gay marriage.

Introducing same-sex marriage could lead to the church being forced out of its role of conducting weddings on behalf of the state, the church claimed in a submission in response to the government’s consultation on gay marriage.

The National Secular Society on Tuesday published a legal opinion it obtained in response to the church’s submission. The opinion, which has been written by barrister and human rights expert Dr Ronan McCrea and sent to equalities minister Lynne Featherstone, said the church’s failure to distinguish between social, religious and legal institutions of marriage “confuses the issues”.

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What a 10-Year-Old Did for the Tar Sands

By Angela Sterritt, YES! Magazine, 24 June 12

Ta’Kaiya Blaney, of the Sliammon First Nation, sings her environmental advocacy song, ‘Shallow Waters,’ 07/31/11. (photo: Richard Walker)

Why a First Nations student from British Columbia is taking on a controversial trans-Canadian pipeline project – through song.

Ten-year-old Ta’Kaiya Blaney stood outside Enbridge Northern Gateway’s office on July 6, waiting for officials to grant her access to the building. She thought she could hand deliver an envelope containing an important message about the company’s pipeline construction. But the doors remained locked.

“I don’t know what they find so scary about me,” she said, as she was ushered off the property by security guards. “I just want them to hear what I have to say.”

The Sliammon First Nation youth put in a great effort learning about environmental issues and the pipeline in particular, and hoped to share her knowledge and carefully crafted words. Enbridge officials said they were unable to provide Ta’Kaiya space or time and failed to comment because the Vancouver office is staffed by a limited number of technical personnel. Their headquarters are located in Calgary.

So Ta’Kaiya stood outside, accompanied by three members of Greenpeace, her mother, and a number of reporters and sang her song “Shallow Waters.” The song’s video has hit YouTube and been viewed more than 53,000 times.

She co-wrote her song after learning of Enbridge’s bid to build twin 1,170 km pipelines to transport oil from the Alberta tar sands to British Columbia’s north coast. Like the proposed TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline that would connect the Canadian tar sands to the U.S. Gulf Coast, Enbridge’s Alberta-B.C. pipeline is widely opposed, largely because it would bring hundreds of oil supertankers a year to the Great Bear Rainforest – an ecologically significant region along a particularly dangerous route for tankers.

“Oil pipelines and tankers will give people jobs, but if there is an oil spill like the [BP spill] in the Gulf of Mexico, that will take other people’s jobs and the wildlife will die,” said Ta’Kaiya.

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Huge Turnout at Michigan Capitol Reading of ‘Vagina Monologues’

By Dawson Bell and Kathleen Gray, Detroit Free Press, 19 June 12

Thousands of people turned out for protest performance of The Vagina Monologues at the State Capitol in Lansing, Mich., in response to Rep. Lisa Brown, D-West Bloomfield being silenced by House Speaker James Bolger for comments she made in opposition to new abortion legislation passed by the House last week. (photo: Susan Tusa/DFP)

Several thousand people thronged the state Capitol lawn this evening, to protest the treatment of two female lawmakers who were barred from speaking on the House floor last Thursday following an emotional debate over abortion.

They heard a recitation by the two lawmakers and others of The Vagina Monologues.

The performance, kicked off by the work’s author Eve Ensler who flew in from California for the occasion, was the culmination of five days of reaction to the decision by House Republican leaders to issue one-day revocations of the right of state Reps. Lisa Brown, D-West Bloomfield, and Barb Byrum, D-Onondaga , to speak on the House floor.

They said the discipline was in response to incivility displayed by the two representatives a day earlier during a debate over legislation to impose new restrictions on abortion clinics. Brown said she was punished for using the word vagina.

Welcoming the crowd today, Brown said the legislation would “effectively overturn Roe v. Wade,” the 1972 U.S. Supreme Court decision which ended most state-level restrictions on abortion, and “turn back the clock to the 60s, when women were denied health care.”

Concluding her remarks during the House debate, Brown had said, “I’m flattered that you are all so interested in my vagina, but ‘no’ means ‘no.'”

Today, she said, “We shouldn’t be legislating vaginas, if you can’t say vagina.”

Byrum got her one-day gag order after she reacted vigorously during the abortion debate when she was not allowed to speak on an amendment she sponsored that would have required a man seeking a vasectomy to have proof of a medical emergency or life-threatening condition.

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A Church Fit Only for Bigots and Hypocrites

By Nick Cohen, The Observer UK, 17 June 12

The Church of England’s stand on homosexuality and women priests is isolating it from the rest of the country.

Archbishop Rowan Williams in Harare in 2011. (photo: Jekesai Njikizana/AFP/Getty Images)

I realised that beards and soft words do not a liberal make when the Archbishop of Canterbury toured the Sudan in 2006. His visit coincided with the first genocide of the 21st century: the massacres in Darfur. The forces of the Arab-supremacist government in Khartoum were fighting a war to the knife with black Africans that left hundreds of thousands dead. The slaughter might not have been happening as far as Rowan Williams was concerned. He was the regime’s guest and refused to bear witness to the suffering or criticise its perpetrators.

I thought at the time that among the reasons why I could not believe in God was the shabbiness of his representatives on Earth. The archbishop’s officials explained that he did not wish to be undiplomatic, but I did not wholly believe them either. Williams seemed just the type to believe that crimes against humanity were colour-coded. One should denounce atrocities committed by the west, of course, but stay silent when the criminals had black or brown skins for fear of being thought a cultural imperialist or neocolonialist.

Now that Williams and his fellow bishops are so angry at the possibility of civil gay marriage they are talking of disestablishing the church, we should acknowledge that Williams has always been prepared to accommodate reactionary forces abroad to further reactionary ends at home.

Those who knew him when he was young are shocked. He was once liberal on the question of whether Anglicans should tolerate gay and lesbian love and openly homosexual priests. As the church has had closet cases for two millenniums, who have lied to themselves, their congregations and, on occasion, to the poor women they manoeuvred into loveless marriages, I would have thought that honesty would have been the best argument for equality. But as we have seen, honesty is not a virtue the archbishop treasures.

Instead, Williams developed an eccentric but, I happily admit, touching line of thought. He took a scene in Paul Scott’s Raj Quartet in which Sarah Layton, a respectable daughter of the regiment, is seduced by a worthless man. Williams told members of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement in 1989: “There may be little love, even little generosity, in Clark’s bedding of Sarah, but Sarah has discovered that her body can be the cause of happiness to her and to another. It is this discovery which most clearly shows why we might want to talk about grace here. Grace, for the Christian believer, is a transformation that depends in large part on knowing yourself to be seen in a certain way: as significant, as wanted.”

Like Sarah Layton, gays and lesbians also deserved the body’s grace. Even in the Bible, “there is a good deal to steer us away from assuming that reproductive sex is a norm”. His words read as well today as they did then, but Williams has forgotten what he once knew.

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Anglicans threaten rift with government over gay marriage

Church says introducing same-sex marriage legislation could lead to it being forced out of traditional wedding role

“It seems odd that the Church of England should be obsessing about a few thousand gay couples once again when there are currently 3 million children in Britain living in single-parent households.” Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall, which campaigns for gay rights.

Ben Quinn, The Guardian, 12 June 2012

The Church of England has delivered an ­uncompromising warning to the ­government against pressing ahead with gay marriage proposals. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA

The threat of an unprecedented clash between church and state over the issue of gay marriage has opened up after the Church of England delivered an uncompromising warning to the government against pressing ahead with controversial proposals.

Introducing same-sex marriage could lead to the church being forced out of its role of conducting weddings on behalf of the state, the church claimed in a potentially explosive submission in response to the government’s consultation on gay marriage, which closes on Thursday.

The submission’s warning of a potential clash between canon law – that marriage is between a man and a woman – and parliament is likely to put pressure on the prime minister, David Cameron, who has spoken out in support of gay marriage and already come under fire from supporters of the proposals for allowing a free vote amongst Tory MPs.

In a 13-page submission, the church says it cannot support the proposal to enable all couples, regardless of their gender, to have a civil marriage ceremony.

“Such a move would alter the intrinsic nature of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, as enshrined in human institutions throughout history,” it says.

“Marriage benefits society in many ways, not only by promoting mutuality and fidelity, but also by acknowledging an underlying biological complementarity which, for many, includes the possibility of procreation.”

The controversy comes at a particularly delicate time for the church itself, which is in the middle of a process that will choose a new Archbishop of Canterbury later this year to replace Dr Rowan Williams.

Internal debates on gay rights have been particularly heated during his tenure as he struggled to balance the CofE’s own factions at the same time as holding together the disparate worldwide Anglican communion of 80 million members.

The church’s submission warns that despite ministerial assurances that churches would not have to conduct gay marriages, it would be “very doubtful” whether limiting same-sex couples to non-religious ceremonies would withstand a challenge at the European court of human rights.

This could make it impossible for the CofE to continue its role conducting marriages on behalf of the state, it warned.

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Women Are Born Free in the US but Everywhere Give Birth in Chains

By Sadhbh Walshe, Guardian UK, 07 June 12

Only 16 of 50 states in the US have any regulations or laws against the shackling of female prisoners during childbirth. (photo: Guardian UK)

In 2007, a 17-year-old girl called Cora Fletcher was charged with retail theft. Over a year later, after she missed a court date, she was sent to the Cook County jail, in Illinois. She was eight months pregnant at the time.

During a pre-natal check-up at the facility, her baby appeared to have no heartbeat, so she was sent to the county hospital. As the medical team tried to induce her, Fletcher claims that both her hands and both her feet were shackled to either side of the bed. Only when she finally went into labor, three days later, was one hand and one foot released. It’s hard to imagine a more crucifying way to force a woman to try to give birth.

Sadly for Fletcher, there was no payoff for the trauma and humiliation she was forced to endure, as her baby was born dead.

Fletcher was one of the plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit brought against Cook County on behalf of 80 female prisoners and detainees who also claimed to have had similar experiences of being shackled during childbirth. Just under two weeks ago, the county agreed to a settlement of $4.1m dollars payable to the women, who will each receive between $5,000 and $45,000.

The Cook County sheriff’s office made it clear, however, that they were agreeing to the deal for expediency’s sake only and were admitting to no wrongdoing. This despite the fact that Illinois became the first state in the union to ban the practice of shackling women during labor, back in 1999 – at least seven years before any of the women named in the lawsuit had their babies. A spokesman for the department, Frank Bilecki, went so far as to issue a statement claiming the jail’s treatment of (female) detainees is the “most progressive in the nation”.

If that is the case, women in America better watch their backs.

The practices of making pregnant women wear belly chains and of shackling their hands and feet before, after and sometimes during labor, are just another way in which the United States distinguishes itself – or fails to distinguish itself, perhaps – as anything but a bastion of liberty and justice and a champion of women’s rights. No other country in the “civilized world” finds shackling pregnant women a necessary or desirable procedure. The practice has been repeatedly and vigorously condemned by the committee against torture at the United Nations; and it has been decried by both the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (You can imagine how doctors relish the prospect of trying to safely deliver a baby whose mother is in chains.)

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Head of Catholic Bishops Paid Pedophiles to Disappear

Timothy Dolan. (Photo: Cy White / Flickr)

By Valerie Tarico, Truthout | News Analysis | 31 May 12

Timothy Dolan, cardinal of New York and head of the Catholic Conference of Bishops, had his prime-time career launched by the pedophile priest scandal. Now, despite efforts to distance himself, his role in pedophile protection may come back to bite him. Wednesday, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee admitted that, during Dolan’s tenure, pedophiles were paid to simply disappear.

In June of 2002, Dolan was appointed archbishop of Milwaukee after his predecessor, Rembert G. Weakland, admitted a confidential settlement of $450,000 to a man who accused Weakland of sexually assaulting him in 1979. In contrast to Weakland, Dolan was a known theological conservative with the trust of the Vatican and, despite questionable management of sexual abuse scandals in his previous position in Saint Louis, he was tasked with cleaning up the mess.

From the start, Dolan positioned himself as a victim’s advocate: “… [i]t is impossible to exaggerate the gravity of the situation, and the suffering that victims feel, because I’ve spent the last four months being with them, crying with them, having them express their anger to me.” His response to those tears and anger, however, foreshadowed events of this winter, when Dolan had consistently argued that the church is above the law.

In the case of the pedophile priests, Dolan almost immediately set about exploring financial incentives that would encourage them to step down and fade away into the community. He emphatically denied in 2006 that this was the case. But during subsequent bankruptcy proceedings for the Milwaukee archdiocese, public documents showed that Dolan had discussed payout options with his finance committee as early as 2003. Now email from Julie Wolf, communications director for the archdiocese, confirms that pedophiles were paid up to $20,000 apiece in exchange for quietly relinquishing their positions in the church.

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A Monetary Policy for the 99%: Twelve-Year-Old Reformer Goes Viral

12-year old Victoria Grant explains why her homeland, Canada, and most of the world, is in debt. April 27, 2012 at the Public Banking in America Conference, Philadelphia, PA. (Screengrab: publicbankingtv)

By Ellen Brown, Truthout | News Analysis | 29 May 2012

The YouTube video of 12-year-old Victoria Grant speaking at the Public Banking in America conference last month has gone viral, topping a million views on various web sites.

Monetary reform – the contention that governments, not banks, should create and lend a nation’s money – has rarely even made the news, so this is a first. Either the times they are a-changin’, or Victoria managed to frame the message in a way that was so simple and clear that even a child could understand it.

Basically, her message was that banks create money “out of thin air” and lend it to people and governments at interest. If governments borrowed from their own banks, they could keep the interest and save a lot of money for the taxpayers.

She said her own country of Canada actually did this, from 1939 to 1974. During that time, the government’s debt was low and sustainable and it funded all sorts of remarkable things. Only when the government switched to borrowing privately did it acquire a crippling national debt.

Borrowing privately means selling bonds at market rates of interest (which in Canada quickly shot up to 22 percent), and the money for these bonds is ultimately created by private banks. For the latter point, Victoria quoted Graham Towers, head of the Bank of Canada for the first twenty years of its history. He said:

Each and every time a bank makes a loan, new bank credit is created – new deposits – brand new money. Broadly speaking, all new money comes out of a Bank in the form of loans. As loans are debts, then under the present system all money is debt.

Towers was asked, “Will you tell me why a government with power to create money, should give that power away to a private monopoly and then borrow that which Parliament can create itself, back at interest, to the point of national bankruptcy?” He replied, “If Parliament wants to change the form of operating the banking system, then certainly that is within the power of Parliament.”

In other words, said Victoria, “If the Canadian government needs money, they can borrow it directly from the Bank of Canada.

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Student group law could push Catholic schools into clash with province, observers say

By Lee Greenberg, The Ottawa Citizen May 14, 2012

TORONTO — Ontario’s Catholic schools are on a constitutional collision course with the province, one that likely will redefine the limits of the church’s influence in its publicly-funded classrooms, experts say.

The battle is shaping up over a proposed law that would force all public schools to embrace student-led groups — such as rainbow clubs and gay-straight alliances — that promote tolerance for homosexual students.

Catholic schools and their supporters argue they should have the right to rule clubs out of bounds if they conflict with their religious views.

But lawyers say that view is one that has not yet been tested in the courts.

“You can’t attack Catholicism in the classroom, because that’s constitutionally protected,” says Ed Morgan, a law professor at the University of Toronto. “It’s not at all clear that anything other than the teaching of Catholicism in the classroom is protected. In fact, there’s a very good argument that that’s the extent of the (British North America) act’s protection.”

The last such test of the Church’s authority in its schools came in 2002, when gay student Marc Hall challenged Durham, Ont.’s school board’s decision to ban him and his boyfriend from his Catholic school prom.

The school board argued it was exercising its religious freedom by banning Hall and his partner from the celebration. Hall’s lawyer argued the public education act forbade the school from discriminating.

Ultimately, Hall won a temporary injunction in what was only a partial victory. The judge in the case, Robert McKinnon, decided not to rule on the larger issues.

Doug Elliott, one of the lawyers involved in that case, says the situation unfolding in Ontario over gay-straight alliances is a chance to finish that argument.

“This is a turning point in the history of our education system,” Elliott says. “Either Catholic schools are going to adapt to this new environment and are going to accept that they are subject to the ultimate regulation of the government of Ontario, which is a secular institution … or they’ll decide to fight it. And if they do decide to fight it, I think quite frankly, they’re going to end up losing.”

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Majority of Ontarians favour gay-straight alliances and oppose Catholic school funding, poll finds

By Robert Benzie, 16 May 2012, Toronto Star

Ontarians favour the right of students to form gay-straight alliance clubs in Catholic schools by a margin of almost two to one, a new poll suggests.

The Forum Research survey also found more than half of Ontario residents — 53 per cent — oppose the public funding of Catholic schools with 40 per cent supportive and 6 per cent unsure.

As the issue of gay-straight alliances dominates debate around new anti-bullying legislation, the poll concluded people are accepting of the anti-homophobia clubs designed to promote tolerance.

Fifty-one per cent agreed that students in publicly funded Catholic schools should be allowed to form clubs under that sometimes contentious name with 28 per cent opposed and 21 per cent undecided.

“Now that people are more familiar with them, there’s more support for them,” Forum president Lorne Bozinoff told the Star on Tuesday.

Forum’s interactive voice response telephone survey of 1,072 Ontarians was conducted Monday.

Bozinoff said it is difficult to say whether high-profile opposition to gay-straight alliances from some Catholic educators has had an impact on support for public funding of the religious schools, which is enshrined in the constitution.

“This is a killer issue in Ontario,” he said of separate school funding. “No one politically is going to go anywhere near this. It’s explosive and uncontrollable.”

Premier Dalton McGuinty, whose opposition to a Progressive Conservative scheme to extend funding to other faith-based schools helped his Liberals win the 2007 election, said he’s “confident” the controversy can be resolved.

“It’s really important that when our kids go to school that they are welcomed there, that they are supported there, that they are accepted for who they are and that they be able to establish these gay-straight alliances, the student-support groups, call them whatever name that you want,” McGuinty told reporters at a St. Clair Ave. West seniors’ home Tuesday.

While Catholic teachers have generally been supportive of the alliances, trustees and many parents have opposed them as not being in accordance with church teachings.

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The People’s Bishop

“‘You can’t sit anymore in churches listening to stodgy liturgies. They put you to sleep. Most of these churches are museums with floorshows. They are a caricature of what Jesus intended. Jesus would be turning over the money-changing tables in their vestibules. Those in the church may be good-hearted and even well-meaning, but they are ignoring the urgent, beckoning call to engage with the world.'”

07 May 2012, By Chris Hedges, Truthdig

Retired Episcopal Bishop George Packard is detained by police, December 17, 2011. (Photo: Ozier Muhammad / The New York Times)

Retired Episcopal Bishop George Packard was arrested in Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza in New York City on Tuesday night as he participated in the May 1 Occupy demonstrations. He and 15 other military veterans were taken into custody after they linked arms to hold the plaza against a police attempt to clear it. There were protesters behind them who, perhaps because of confusion, perhaps because of miscommunication or perhaps they were unwilling to risk arrest, melted into the urban landscape. But those in the thin line from Veterans for Peace, of which the bishop is a member, stood their ground. They were handcuffed, herded into a paddy wagon and taken to jail.
It was Packard’s second arrest as part of the Occupy protests. Last Dec. 17 he was arrested when he leapt over a fence in his flowing bishop’s robe to spearhead an attempt to occupy a vacant lot owned by Trinity Church in lower Manhattan. The December action by the Occupy movement was a response to the New York City Police Department’s storming and eradication of the encampment in Zuccotti Park. Packard will appear in court in June to face the trespassing charge that resulted. Now, because of this second arrest, he faces the possibility of three months in jail.
Packard’s moral and intellectual courage stands in stark contrast with the timidity of nearly all clergy and congregants in all of our major religious institutions. Religious leaders, in churches, synagogues and mosques, at best voice pious and empty platitudes about justice or carry out nominal acts of charity aimed at those bearing the weight of resistance in the streets. And Packard’s arrests serve as a reminder of the price that we—especially those who claim to be informed by the message of the Christian Gospel—must be willing to pay to defy the destruction visited on us all by the corporate state. He is one of the few clergy members who dare to bear a genuine Christian witness in an age that cries out in anguish for moral guidance.

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Does temporary foreign workers program create second class of labourers?

NATHAN VANDERKLIPPE | Globe and Mail | May. 06, 2012

Yessy Byl spent five years dealing with temporary foreign workers and heard first hand stories of neglect and mistreatment. Many of the workers wouldn't make a formal complaint for fear they'd be fired just for speaking out. Jason Franson for The Globe and Mail

Five years of dealing with temporary foreign workers affected Yessy Byl in a way she did not expect. There were the stories, from the more than 1,000 people she spoke with in her job as a labour advocate, of neglect and mistreatment – overtime not paid, commitments not honoured, hefty “hiring fees” deducted from weekly cheques. And yet many of them wouldn’t make a formal complaint for fear they’d be fired just for speaking out.

It left her deflated and disillusioned. “My faith in this country has been badly shaken,” she says. “I have to remind myself: There are some good employers.”

For Ms. Byl, and many other critics, Canada’s growing numbers of temporary foreign workers have raised important questions about the kind of country we are becoming, and how a nation that has long welcomed immigrants is establishing a burgeoning second class of labour, devoid of many of the rights to democratic participation and workplace choice other Canadians enjoy.

As Canadian employers struggle to address a burgeoning labour shortage, temporary foreign workers have become a pillar of the economy – there are now more than 300,000 here, triple the number a decade ago. Visiting workers once associated with harvest time in Canada’s orchards and tobacco fields now turn up everywhere from fast-food chains and abattoirs to the Alberta oil sands.

Anticipating another surge in demand, the Harper government has, in the past few weeks, formalized a series of changes to speed up the program. Now able to bring in people with just 10 days notice and to pay them 15-per-cent less than a Canadian would earn, employers have responded with joy. They still must prove they can’t fill a job any other way, but others see deeper significance in the trend and are holding their breath.

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Methodists Vote to Keep Homosexuality “Incompatible”

by CANDACE CHELLEW-HODGE, May 3, 2012, Religion Dispatches

The United Methodist Church voted today to keep intact its section in the Book of Discipline that call homosexuality “incompatible with Christian teaching” and sanctions only heterosexual marriage. New wording would have removed those passages.

The vote came after a debate that became contentious when one African delegate compared homosexuality to bestiality and declared that God would not create humans as gay or lesbian.

During the vote, supporters of the petition to change the Book of Discipline stood at the edges of the convention floor, or the “bar” as the church calls it. As the debate continued, many delegates moved from their seats to join the members on the margins to show their solidarity. In the end the petition failed to pass.

When the conference reconvened after a break, those who supported the petition remained in the hall, singing as business began again. The presiding bishop, Michael Coyner of the Indiana Conference, shut down the meeting, calling the LGBT advocates a “security concern.”

The morning’s vote and actions by the bishop were a disappointment to David Braden, the director of development for the Reconciling Ministries Network, which works for the full inclusion of LGBT people into the UMC:

“We grieve that the United Methodist Church really had the opportunity to live into inclusive gospel of Jesus Christ and live into its tagline of Open Hearts, Open Doors, Open Minds and extend its welcome to LGBT people and unfortunately, chose not to do that. We grieve that UMC continues to harm and discrimination against LGBT people. We’re already here in the United Methodist Church and we will continue to be that shining light on top of the hill to show the world what it means to be UMC, and that is to welcome all people.”

Even if this petition failed, said Daniel Viana, a Brazilian-born music minister at a small conservative Hispanic UMC in Chicago, the presence of LGBT people and their allies at the convention is a strong witness to just how active the LGBT community already is in the church.

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Calls Grow for Cardinal in Ireland to Resign

By DOUGLAS DALBY, Published: May 3, 2012, New York Times

Ireland Cardinal Sean Brady. Peter Morrison/Associated Press

DUBLIN — Pressure is building on the leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, to resign in the wake of damaging accusations made against him in a BBC television documentary about his role in a secret inquiry into clerical sexual abuse.

Abuse survivors, senior government ministers, serving priests, canon lawyers, newspaper editorials, police officials, human rights groups and the head of the country’s biggest children’s charity were among those calling on the cardinal to step down Thursday over his failure 37 years ago to report damning evidence against the Rev. Brendan Smyth. That failure allowed Father Smyth to continue abusing children for at least 13 more years.

Father Smyth, who died in prison at age 70, was convicted in the 1990s and admitted to molesting and raping about 100 children in Ireland and the United States.

Speaking in Parliament, Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore on Thursday described the disclosures in the BBC program as “another horrific episode of failure by senior members of the Catholic Church to protect children” and said the cardinal should resign for failing to report the accusations.

Prime Minister Enda Kenny, who delivered a landmark speech last year denouncing Vatican interference in investigations into clerical sexual abuse, said the office he held precluded him from calling for the cardinal’s resignation, but on Wednesday he said the primate should “reflect” on the contents of the BBC program.

Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister, Martin McGuinness, a Catholic, said the cardinal’s decision to stay on would “leave many Catholics wondering whether anything is to be done by the leadership of the Catholic Church to ring the changes which many believe are required at such a sad time for all.”

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Imperialism Didn’t End. It’s Now Called International Law.

By George Monbiot, Guardian UK, 03 May 12

The international criminal court has limited power. (photo: Daniel Pudles)

The conviction of Charles Taylor, the former president of Liberia, is said to have sent an unequivocal message to current leaders: that great office confers no immunity. In fact it sent two messages: if you run a small, weak nation, you may be subject to the full force of international law; if you run a powerful nation, you have nothing to fear.

While anyone with an interest in human rights should welcome the verdict, it reminds us that no one has faced legal consequences for launching the illegal war against Iraq. This fits the Nuremberg tribunal’s definition of a “crime of aggression”, which it called “the supreme international crime”. The charges on which, in an impartial system, George Bush, Tony Blair and their associates should have been investigated are far graver than those for which Taylor was found guilty.

The foreign secretary, William Hague, claims that Taylor’s conviction “demonstrates that those who have committed the most serious of crimes can and will be held to account for their actions”. But the international criminal court, though it was established 10 years ago, and though the crime of aggression has been recognised in international law since 1945, still has no jurisdiction over “the most serious of crimes”. This is because the powerful nations, for obvious reasons, are procrastinating. Nor have the United Kingdom, the United States and other western nations incorporated the crime of aggression into their own legislation. International law remains an imperial project, in which only the crimes committed by vassal states are punished.

In this respect it corresponds to other global powers. Despite its trumpeted reforms, the International Monetary Fund remains under the control of the United States and the former colonial powers. All constitutional matters still require an 85% share of the vote. By an inexplicable oversight, the United States retains 16.7%, ensuring that it possesses a veto over subsequent reforms. Belgium still has eight times the votes of Bangladesh, Italy a bigger share than India, and the United Kingdom and France between them more voting power than the 49 African members. The managing director remains, as imperial tradition insists, a European, her deputy an American.

The IMF, as a result, is still the means by which western financial markets project their power into the rest of the world. At the end of last year, for example, it published a paper pressing emerging economies to increase their “financial depth”, which it defines as “the total financial claims and counterclaims of an economy”. This, it claimed, would insulate them from crisis. As the Bretton Woods Project points out, emerging nations with large real economies and small financial sectors were the countries which best weathered the economic crisis, which was caused by advanced economies with large financial sectors. Like the modern opium wars it waged in the 1980s and 1990s – when it forced Asian countries to liberalise their currencies, permitting western financial speculators to attack them – the IMF’s prescriptions are incomprehensible until they are understood as instruments of financial power.

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North Carolina Pastor Sean Harris Urges Parents To ‘Man Up’ And ‘Punch’ Effeminate Children

Erik Kain, 5/02/2012, Forbes

NC Pastor Sean Harris, who urged parents to hit potentially gay children in his sermon

It’s hardly surprising that the ugly rant of Pastor Sean Harris, the senior pastor at Berean Baptist Church in Fayetteville, is going viral online.

The wonderful thing about the combination of the internet and free speech is that when someone says something really ugly and horrifying, their words are called out. We don’t need to clamp down on speech like this through any legal means. The best disinfectant is sunlight, as the saying goes, and social media is the best sunlight we have when it comes to hateful speech.

These days, people can’t simply preach to the choir, as it were. The whole world is right there listening on YouTube and passing it around Facebook and Twitter. Pretty soon your violent sermon is being mocked and scorned across the digital empire. Good thing, too, because Harris’s words deserve condemnation.

Harris says: “So your little son starts to act a little girlish when he is four years old and instead of squashing that like a cockroach and saying, ‘Man up, son, get that dress off you and get outside and dig a ditch, because that is what boys do,’ you get out the camera and you start taking pictures of Johnny acting like a female and then you upload it to YouTube and everybody laughs about it and the next thing you know, this dude, this kid is acting out childhood fantasies that should have been squashed….Can I make it any clearer? Dads, the second you see your son dropping the limp wrist, you walk over there and crack that wrist. Man up. Give him a good punch. Ok? You are not going to act like that. You were made by God to be a male and you are going to be a male.”

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Two-tiered wage system announced by Tories

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

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

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

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

Kenney chimed in from Ottawa. “Going forward our government will consider additional measures to strengthen and improve the program,” he promised.

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

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

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

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American Nuns Busted for Being a Crazy Bunch of Radical Feminists

By Cassie Murdoch, Jezebel, 20 April 12

The Vatican has decided to crack down on American nuns. (photo: Jezebel)

Offering further proof that the world is becoming an increasingly weird place, the Catholic Church has decided to crack down on American nuns who, as anyone who has been around a nun recently knows, are a bunch of freewheeling party sisters. Wait, what? Yes, the Vatican has just taken disciplinary action against a group of American nuns who they say are proponents of “certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.” Oh no?

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), an umbrella group representing most of America’s 55,000 nuns, is in trouble with the Vatican because they’ve apparently have not been vocal enough in their opposition to gay marriage, abortion, and women’s ordination. So now it’s not enough to just be opposed to things the church is against? You also have to stand up and yell about it? That’s some bullshit right there. As far as those radical feminist ideas they’ve been spreading, that evil has supposedly been taking place at conferences sponsored by the LCWR.

This directive came as the result of a two-year-long investigation – excellent use of resources, boys – and appears to be part of what is seen as the church veering into more conservative territory. You might not think nuns would be the obvious target of any investigations, considering it’s the priests who’ve been causing most of the actual problems the church has faced recently, but of course organized religion never lets a little thing like logic get in the way.

In terms of the Vatican’s specific issues with the LCWR, it appears they’re mostly angry because the nuns have been “silent on the right to life from conception to natural death.” Also they maintain the LCWR hasn’t taken certain things seriously enough:

[T]he church’s biblical view of family life and human sexuality, are not part of the LCWR agenda in a way that promotes church teaching. Moreover, occasional public statements by the LCWR that disagree with or challenge positions taken by the bishops, who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals, are not compatible with its purpose.

How dare a sister challenge a bishop!

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Breivik an extreme manifestation of the anti-Muslim right

The other remedy, the only rational and desirable one in my view, is to aggressively enforce a secular state, in every sphere — on municipal councils, in provincial legislatures and in the education system — so that religious faith is located impartially in the church, mosque or synagogue, and in the home, and never in forums funded in any way by taxpayers.

Anders Behring Breivik. Photograph by: Heiko Junge , AFP/Getty Images

At first view, the trial of 33-year-old Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik is a shameful grotesquerie.

Why has this pathetic excuse for a man, who boasted of spending an entire year playing video games in his mother’s basement before carrying out the worst massacre in his country’s history, been granted a platform from which to grandiosely expound his lunatic theories before a global audience?

At the very least, he should be locked away in a hole far from the light of day, as was done to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the planner of 9/11. And yet, some good may come from the Breivik trial, expected to last 10 weeks. For it has early and obviously become impossible, as the court patiently allows the killer his self-aggrandizing disquisitions, to explain him away as an isolated madman who acted outside any political context.

A lone gunman Breivik may have been. A narcissistic sociopath with illusions of grandeur? Certainly. But his writings and statements make clear that he is no more insane than Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, or Osama bin Laden could be considered insane. Therefore, he cannot be viewed in isolation. Breivik is a mass murderer with explicitly political ends — a Christian-European mirror image, by his own deliberate design, of al-Qaida’s Islamist murderers.

In the aftermath of Breivik’s massacre off 77 innocents last July, most of them teenagers, there was intense debate about whether western Christians should be made to “own” Breivik, in the same way Middle Eastern or South Asian Muslims are often exhorted to “own” Islamism — that is, assume some internal responsibility. The consensus among pundits and politicos of the Christian Far Right was, no way, no-how: Breivik’s not ours. This reaction is understandable, as is the similar tendency among even very conservative Muslims to disavow any connection to Bin Laden or to his extremism.

The simple truth, though, is that such connections exist. Bin Laden drew on a radical, literal, fundamentalist interpretation of the Qur’an. Breivik’s ideology draws on a medievalist, arch-conservative and romanticized view of Christian and Norse mythologies. The iconography and imagery in his turgid, 1,500-word manifesto are explicitly Christian. He uses the term “cultural Christian,” to connote a white citizen of Western Europe, who may or may not practise Christianity.

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Vatican Reprimands a Group of U.S. Nuns and Plans Changes

By LAURIE GOODSTEIN | Published: April 18, 2012 | The New York Times

The Vatican has appointed an American bishop to rein in the largest and most influential group of Catholic nuns in the United States, saying that an investigation found that the group had “serious doctrinal problems.”

The Vatican’s assessment, issued on Wednesday, said that members of the group, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, had challenged church teaching on homosexuality and the male-only priesthood, and promoted “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”

The sisters were also reprimanded for making public statements that “disagree with or challenge the bishops, who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals.” During the debate over the health care overhaul in 2010, American bishops came out in opposition to the health plan, but dozens of sisters, many of whom belong to the Leadership Conference, signed a statement supporting it — support that provided crucial cover for the Obama administration in the battle over health care.

The conference is an umbrella organization of women’s religious communities, and claims 1,500 members who represent 80 percent of the Catholic sisters in the United States. It was formed in 1956 at the Vatican’s request, and answers to the Vatican, said Sister Annmarie Sanders, the group’s communications director.

Word of the Vatican’s action took the group completely by surprise, Sister Sanders said. She said that the group’s leaders were in Rome on Wednesday for what they thought was a routine annual visit to the Vatican when they were informed of the outcome of the investigation, which began in 2008.

“I’m stunned,” said Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobby founded by sisters. Her group was also cited in the Vatican document, along with the Leadership Conference, for focusing its work too much on poverty and economic injustice, while keeping “silent” on abortion and same-sex marriage.

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Ontario trans rights decision makes Canadian history

ONTARIO NEWS / Surgery no longer prerequisite for birth certificate change

Andrea Houston / Extra / Monday, April 16, 2012

Lawyer N Nicole Nussbaum.(Facebook)

In what a London lawyer is calling a “game-changing decision,” the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has struck down a rule that required trans people to undergo “transsexual surgery” in order to change the sex category on their birth certificates.

Released April 11, the 95-page decision follows a challenge by one trans woman who complained she was discriminated against because she could not change her legal documents unless she had surgery. However, she did have surgery in 2008.

“She had an orchiectomy (the removal of the testicles), at least in part to satisfy the requirement to change the sex designation,” explains lawyer N Nicole Nussbaum.

The tribunal found that the Vital Statistics Act requirement of “transsexual surgery” prior to changing the sex designation on a birth certificate discriminates against trans people, she says. The provincial government has been ordered to remove this stipulation.

“They completely knocked that out,” Nussbaum says. “The tribunal doesn’t have the authority to strike down a law, but they can say the law is not enforceable.”

An emotional Susan Gapka, the chair of the Trans Lobby Group, says she is still poring over the decision. She tells Xtra it is a key building block toward allowing trans people to be included in society. She hopes it will support Toby’s Law, which is currently moving through the provincial legislature. Toby’s Law would amend the Ontario Human Rights Code to include gender identity and gender expression.

“I’m absolutely ecstatic,” she says, noting Ontario will be the first Canadian province to legally recognize this distinction. “This is a very good decision. It supports what we have been saying all along, and now the court has acknowledged that.”

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The Charter proves to be Canada’s gift to world

By JOHN IBBITSON, From Monday’s Globe and Mail, Published Sunday, Apr. 15, 2012

Queen Elizabeth II signs Canada's constitutional proclamation in Ottawa on April 17, 1982 as Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau looks on. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms has caused no end of squabbles among Canadians. Ron Poling/The Canadian Press

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms was signed 30 years ago Tuesday. Since then, not only has it become a national bedrock, but the Charter has replaced the American Bill of Rights as the constitutional document most emulated by other nations.

“Could it be that Canada has surpassed or even supplanted the United States as a leading global exporter of constitutional law? The data suggest that the answer may be yes.” So conclude two U.S. law professors whose analysis of the declining influence of the American constitution on other nations will be published in New York University Law Review in June.

As the first Commonwealth nation to adopt a bill of rights, Canada has influenced other former British colonies as they create or revise their own constitutions, the study finds. Israel, Hong Kong and Eastern European countries have also drawn from the Canadian example.

Both the Charter itself and the nation that gave birth to it serve as an example to the world. “Some countries may be especially prone to borrow from the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms because they perceive themselves as sharing the same goals and values as Canadian society,” write David S. Law, who is professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis, and Mila Versteeg, who teaches law at University of Virginia.

In contrast, professors Law and Versteeg conclude that the American constitution, once the foundational document for new nations in search of a government, has fallen out of favour. It fails to protect rights, such as freedom from discrimination based on race or sex, that are considered fundamental in our time; it enshrines rights, such as the right to bear arms, that other nations don’t value; its courts increasingly interpret the American document so perversely – by claiming that it must only be applied as the founding fathers originally intended – as to render it useless as a tool for tackling modern problems.

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This Spring, Let Us Commit Ourselves to Life

by Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez,, 7 April 2012

Both Passover and Easter “celebrate” truly horrendous acts committed by men against men.

Passover commemorates how the Jews were spared by the grace of God from the Pharaoh’s evil plan to kill all first-born sons. Easter celebrates the Resurrection of Christ after he was brutally martyred on the cross—a not-uncommon practice at the time.

Of course, both the Christian and the Jewish holidays also build on the much earlier pagan rites of Spring, the welcoming of warmth and rebirth after a season of winter.

I have to wonder why dominant human civilization has moved away from the earlier, simpler pagan celebrations, keyed to the natural world rather than to human doings and misdeeds.

Both Passover and Easter celebrate life—the lives of Jewish children, the miraculous resurrection of Christ, who gave his life in sacrifice for humanity. Hence all the eggs, chicks and bunnies that populate the secular reinterpretations of these holidays, especially the American secular Easter.

Life is indeed something to be celebrated, as the Jewish cheer “L’Chaim!” proclaims.

Celebrated and protected.

As we move forward into the 21st century, into the auspicious year of 2012, let our aim be to reconnect with our prehistoric roots, to the simpler ages when we instinctively celebrated the return of the Light, the annual swing of our planet back towards the Sun.

For much too long, we have allowed religious politics to push us into conflicts and cruelties that do not serve the purpose of Life. In claiming to worship the Divine, we actually find ourselves serving the dark side, the side of Death and Destruction.

I use these capital letters advisedly, to emphasize the symbolism inherent in all these word-concepts.

Beyond the symbolic realm there is the literal bedrock of reality. We are hitting up against that reality now, as the patterns of power-hungry conflict, fueled by greed and a willingness to press on with destruction of the living world no matter the cost to systemic ecological health, play out with relentless precision.

This Easter and Passover season, let us do more than just toast to life. Let us commit ourselves to the service of the divine spark animating our planet, which circulates without distinction through every blade of grass, every insect, and every human being.

It is only in our positive reciprocal commitment to Life that we can consider ourselves truly blessed.

Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez teaches comparative literature and gender studies with an activist bent at Bard College at Simon’s Rock in Great Barrington, MA and blogs at Transition Times.

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Sexual Humiliation, a Tool to Control the Masses

By Naomi Wolf, Guardian UK, 06 April 12

Portrait, author and activist Naomi Wolf, 10/19/11. (photo: Guardian UK)

In a five-four ruling this week, the supreme court decided that anyone can be strip-searched upon arrest for any offense, however minor, at any time. This horror show ruling joins two recent horror show laws: the NDAA, which lets anyone be arrested forever at any time, and HR 347, the “trespass bill”, which gives you a 10-year sentence for protesting anywhere near someone with secret service protection. These criminalizations of being human follow, of course, the mini-uprising of the Occupy movement.

Is American strip-searching benign? The man who had brought the initial suit, Albert Florence, described having been told to “turn around. Squat and cough. Spread your cheeks.” He said he felt humiliated: “It made me feel like less of a man.”

In surreal reasoning, justice Anthony Kennedy explained that this ruling is necessary because the 9/11 bomber could have been stopped for speeding. How would strip searching him have prevented the attack? Did justice Kennedy imagine that plans to blow up the twin towers had been concealed in a body cavity? In still more bizarre non-logic, his and the other justices’ decision rests on concerns about weapons and contraband in prison systems. But people under arrest – that is, who are not yet convicted – haven’t been introduced into a prison population.

Our surveillance state shown considerable determination to intrude on citizens sexually. There’s the sexual abuse of prisoners at Bagram – der Spiegel reports that “former inmates report incidents of … various forms of sexual humiliation. In some cases, an interrogator would place his penis along the face of the detainee while he was being questioned. Other inmates were raped with sticks or threatened with anal sex”. There was the stripping of Bradley Manning is solitary confinement. And there’s the policy set up after the story of the “underwear bomber” to grope US travelers genitally or else force them to go through a machine – made by a company, Rapiscan, owned by terror profiteer and former DHA czar Michael Chertoff – with images so vivid that it has been called the “pornoscanner”.

Believe me: you don’t want the state having the power to strip your clothes off. History shows that the use of forced nudity by a state that is descending into fascism is powerfully effective in controlling and subduing populations.

The political use of forced nudity by anti-democratic regimes is long established. Forcing people to undress is the first step in breaking down their sense of individuality and dignity and reinforcing their powerlessness. Enslaved women were sold naked on the blocks in the American south, and adolescent male slaves served young white ladies at table in the south, while they themselves were naked: their invisible humiliation was a trope for their emasculation. Jewish prisoners herded into concentration camps were stripped of clothing and photographed naked, as iconic images of that Holocaust reiterated.

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British Conservatives lead charge for gay marriage

By Anthony Faiola, Published: March 29, 2012, The Washington Post

Lefteris Pitarakis/AP - Recently, David Cameron’s Conservative-led coalition government has launched an effort to grant gays and lesbians the option of entering civil marriages.

LONDON — Americans watching the latest push for social change in Britain might feel as if they had stepped into an alternate political universe: Here, the Conservatives are leading the charge for same-sex marriage.

Gay couples in Britain won the right to civil partnerships in 2004, which granted them nearly the same legal status as married heterosexual couples while avoiding the controversial use of the word “marriage.” But Prime Minister David Cameron and his Conservative-led coalition have launched a historic drive to grant gay men and lesbians the option of also entering into civil marriages, touching off a surprisingly fierce uproar in largely progressive Britain and fueling a rebellion on the right as the party comes under heavy fire from traditional allies in the British clergy.

Yet challenging tradition appears to be exactly Cameron’s point. The proposal, put forward this month despite the lack of a strong clamor for marriage within Britain’s gay community, is nevertheless emerging as the cornerstone of a bid by the 45-year-old prime minister and other young leaders on the right here to redefine what it means to be a modern Conservative.

“I don’t support gay marriage despite being a Conservative,” Cameron said in a recent landmark speech on the issue. “I support gay marriage because I am a Conservative.”

Spurred to action by a book about a child with two dads, the Conservatives under Margaret Thatcher rushed a ban through Parliament in 1988 forbidding local governments and schools from promoting homosexuality, with same-sex couples then described by law “as a pretended family relationship.” Twenty-four years later, strategists see Cameron’s decision to champion the gay marriage cause as an attempt to seize the mantle of progressive change from the left and broaden the Conservative Party’s appeal among an increasingly key voting group: young urbanites.

To be sure, since returning to power in 2010 after 13 years in the political wilderness, the Conservatives have pursued causes at the core of their founding beliefs: slashing the deficit, cutting public payrolls and moving to lower taxes. Yet the party of Thatcher has also sought to reinvent itself by becoming what one Conservative strategist called “very pro-gay.”

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Catholic students demand right to name clubs ‘gay-straight alliances’

Wed Mar 21 2012, Toronto Star

Trevor James (with glasses) at Queen's Park, who spoke in support of gay-straight alliances in Catholic schools, seen with Leanne Iskander (middle) and Christopher McKerracher. NICHOLAS KEUNG/TORONTO STAR

Trevor James, a straight youth from Peterborough, got up at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday and took a two-hour bus ride to Toronto to talk about school clubs for gay students.

Flanked by Leanne Iskander, 17, who self-identified as queer, and Christopher McKerracher, 16, a bisexual man, both from Mississauga’s St. Joseph Secondary School, James asked the province to strengthen its anti-bullying bill to ensure queer students’ rights aren’t just tolerated but recognized and respected.

At issue is what some critics call weak language in the Liberal government’s Bill 13, which would allow Catholic school officials to deny queer students from naming their clubs ‘gay-straight alliance’ as their public school counterparts do.

Instead, according to new guidelines by the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association, they should be called “Respecting Difference” clubs. Members of these clubs are also banned from peer counselling and activist activities.

James, Iskander and McKerracher said they are torn between their religious upbringing and their commitment to equity and equality.

“I love my school. It’s my home away from home,” James, 17, told a news conference at Queen’s Park. “We are not fighting. We just wanted to be treated equally. If we do not accept racism and nationalism in school, why is it okay to be homophobic?”

To call these clubs anything but gay-straight alliances is a denial of queer students’ existence, further perpetuating their marginalization by society and peers, added James, a student at St. Peter’s Secondary School.

James only started advocating for his gay peers after an incident in his class last month when a classmate made a comment that “gay people are ruining TV.”

“A girl who has two mothers was trying to say something back, but she was basically put down by others,” noted James who, along with three dozen students, has since tried to launch a gay-straight alliance in his school, which has an enrolment of 1,300.

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MDs propose tax increases for wealthiest Canadians

Mar 22 2012 |

DOCTORS FOR FAIR TAXATION Dr Michael Rachlis speaks to media during a news conference at Toronto City Hall. Torstar News Service

TORONTO A group of doctors is calling on federal and provincial governments to raise income taxes levied on high-income Canadians.

They are launching a campaign to get support for the idea, using the slogan “Tax us. Canada’s worth it.”

Doctors for Fair Taxation are proposing new surtaxes that would tax any income over $100,000.

People who earn between $100,000 and $170,000 would pay an extra one per cent on the income between those two figures and income between $170,000 and $640,000 would be subject to an extra two per cent levy.

Income over $640,000 and less than $1.85 million would be hit with an additional three per cent and income over $1.85 million would be subject to an additional surtax of six per cent.

The group estimates that the federal government would earn an extra $3.5 billion a year and Ontario would raise an extra $1.7 billion.

One of the organizers of the campaign, Dr. Michael Rachlis, says more than 50 doctors have signed the petition so far. A website hosting the petition will go live Thursday afternoon.

“Our group considers higher taxes a small price to pay for a more civilized Canada,” says Rachlis, a public health physician and associate professor at the University of Toronto.

“We’re becoming a more economically unequal society and we feel this is bad for our country’s health.”

Rachlis says the aim of the campaign is to get Canadians who would be paying the higher taxes to indicate their willingness, saying the organizers feel it would carry more weight that way.

Though the campaign has been started by doctors, anyone earning over $100,000 who supports the proposal can sign the petition.

One of the early signatories is Dr. Irfan Dalla, a Toronto-based physician who is also a member of Canadian Doctors for Medicare.

“Governments don’t have the resources they need to address some of the causes of ill-health and some of the social programs that people want and need. And I think that people like me who are paid reasonably well can afford to contribute a little bit more to ensure that we have a fair society,” Dalla says.

Rachlis says action needs to be taken to spare crucial public programs.

“We feel that this is a moral argument. We cannot talk about throwing people out of work and cutting needed programs for people,” he says

“If the situations is that dire that governments are really feeling that that should be done, it seems to me that the only way to think of that is to tax higher-income earners who’ve seen their taxes fall a lot.”

The Canadian Press

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Good news for the rich: New GOP budget vs. Jesus of Nazareth

By Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, Posted 03/20/2012, The Washington Post

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) unveils his 2013 budget plan at a press conference surrounded onstage by republican committee members, with budgets in hand, on Capitol Hill Tuesday, March 20, 2012. (Melina Mara - THE WASHINGTON POST)

Jesus announces his ministry as “Good News for the Poor” (Luke 4:18). House Republicans have released their budget and one thing is clear: this budget is “good news for the rich” and bad news for the poor and middle class.

Prominent religious leaders immediately issued a statement, “denouncing” the GOP budget for “its immoral cuts and irresponsible tax breaks for millionaires and corporate special interests.”

These religious leaders are exactly right to condemn this budget as “immoral.” This year’s GOP budget, like last year’s, is far more revealing of the ‘Gospel According to Ayn Rand’ than of the values held by Jesus of Nazareth. The new budget keeps the Bush tax cuts in place, and reduces tax rates to only 2, 10 and 25 percent, though who exactly pays what rate is not revealed. Medicare ends in its current form, corporate tax rates are also cut, Health Care Reform is gone, and student loans are reduced to 2008 levels. What kind of choice does that present to Americans?

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) is on the stump for this new GOP budget in campaign style. There is a déjà vu feeling to this, as many of the so-called solutions are the same, the favor the rich and balance the budget on the poor and middle class ideas that were revealed last year. Ryan claims this will create jobs, but will it?

“I don’t care” about the unemployment rate, said Rick Santorum, currently the GOP presidential candidate of choice of conservative evangelical voters. It’s probably the case that Santorum is saying what he thinks, that he does not care about unemployment, yet Christian evangelicals flock to Santorum.

The choice between the biblical values of “good news for the poor” as announced by Jesus, and the “good news for the rich” of GOP fiscal proposals should be an easy one for Christians across the spectrum from liberal to conservative. But it’s not, as is clear from many polls. Why not?

The support of conservative Christian evangelicals for Santorum, and for GOP fiscal policies in general, rises despite such statements about not caring about unemployment. That’s because, more than any other shift in recent decades, the strong redefinition of the core of the Gospel message away from Jesus’ explicit announcement that his ministry was about “good news for the poor” toward merging biblical values with so-called “family values” defined as anti-gay, anti-abortion, and now, even anti-contraception, is the key to explaining this support.

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Alberta bows to home-schoolers’ pressure on teaching religion

By Karen Kleiss, Postmedia News March 15, 2012

Home-schooling families protest Education Act changes.

EDMONTON — The governing Conservatives have bowed to pressure from Christian home-schooling groups and amended Alberta’s new Education Act, making parental control over education explicit.

Advocates, however, say the changes don’t go far enough and they still fear they will one day be brought before a human rights tribunal for teaching that homosexuality and abortion are sins.

“The amendment doesn’t hurt, but it doesn’t help,” said Paul van den c spokesman for the Alberta Home Education Association, which organized a protest at the legislature last week.

“Home educators can’t swallow this, and neither should any parent in Alberta.”

Their concerns centre on section 16 of the proposed new law, which says all programs of study offered by Alberta schools must respect the Alberta Human Rights Act and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Christian groups worry that because their faith-based curricula teach that God created the Earth and that homosexuality and abortion are sins, they will be sanctioned by authorities and forced to stop home-schooling. Alternatively, they fear that a complaint lodged against them will land them before the Alberta Human Rights Commission.

The solution, van den Bosch says, is to change the law so that home education is not defined as a “school.”

The new Education Act currently says “parents have the right to make informed decisions,” and van den Bosch wants the language changed back to the wording used in the Schools Act, which says “parents have the right to make decisions.”

The amendment passed in the legislature just before midnight Wednesday does not make any of those changes. Instead, the government has added a preamble that details the intent of the law.

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Ugandan Gay Rights Group Sues U.S. Evangelist

By LAURIE GOODSTEIN, March 14, 2012, The New York Times

Dozens marched Wednesday in Springfield, Mass., to the coffee shop of an evangelist accused of inciting persecution in Uganda. Ilana Panich-Linsman for The New York Times

A Ugandan gay rights group filed suit against an American evangelist, Scott Lively, in federal court in Massachusetts on Wednesday, accusing him of violating international law by inciting the persecution of gay men and lesbians in Uganda.

The lawsuit maintains that beginning in 2002, Mr. Lively conspired with religious and political leaders in Uganda to whip up anti-gay hysteria with warnings that gay people would sodomize African children and corrupt their culture.

The Ugandan legislature considered a bill in 2009, proposed by one of Mr. Lively’s Ugandan contacts, that would have imposed the death sentence for the “offense of homosexuality.” That bill languished after an outcry from the United States and European nations that are among major aid donors to Uganda, but was reintroduced last month.

Mr. Lively is being sued by the organization Sexual Minorities Uganda under the alien tort statute, which allows foreigners to sue in American courts in situations asserting the violation of international law. The suit says that Mr. Lively’s actions resulted in the persecution, arrest, torture and murder of gay men and lesbians in Uganda.

Reached by telephone in Springfield, Mass., where he runs Holy Grounds Coffee House, a storefront mission and shop, Mr. Lively said he did not know about the lawsuit. Nevertheless, he said: “That’s about as ridiculous as it gets. I’ve never done anything in Uganda except preach the Gospel and speak my opinion about the homosexual issue.”

Mr. Lively is the founder and president of Abiding Truth Ministries. He is also the author of “The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party,” which says that Nazism was a movement inspired by homosexuals, and “Seven Steps to Recruit-Proof Your Child,” a guide to prevent what he calls “pro-homosexual indoctrination.”

He has traveled to Uganda, Latvia and Moldova to warn Christian clergy members to defend their countries against what he says is an onslaught by gay rights advocates based in the West.

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Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs

By GREG SMITH, March 14, 2012, The New York Times

TODAY is my last day at Goldman Sachs. After almost 12 years at the firm — first as a summer intern while at Stanford, then in New York for 10 years, and now in London — I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people and its identity. And I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.

Victor Kerlow

To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money. Goldman Sachs is one of the world’s largest and most important investment banks and it is too integral to global finance to continue to act this way. The firm has veered so far from the place I joined right out of college that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for.

It might sound surprising to a skeptical public, but culture was always a vital part of Goldman Sachs’s success. It revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by our clients. The culture was the secret sauce that made this place great and allowed us to earn our clients’ trust for 143 years. It wasn’t just about making money; this alone will not sustain a firm for so long. It had something to do with pride and belief in the organization. I am sad to say that I look around today and see virtually no trace of the culture that made me love working for this firm for many years. I no longer have the pride, or the belief.

But this was not always the case. For more than a decade I recruited and mentored candidates through our grueling interview process. I was selected as one of 10 people (out of a firm of more than 30,000) to appear on our recruiting video, which is played on every college campus we visit around the world. In 2006 I managed the summer intern program in sales and trading in New York for the 80 college students who made the cut, out of the thousands who applied.

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1 in 10 Alberta men say violence against women is OK: Poll

Richard J. Brennan, Mar 14 2012,


Almost one in 10 Alberta men contacted for a recent survey believes hitting a woman is okay if she makes them angry.

That was one of several troubling findings in a Leger Marketing survey of 1,000 men in the western province made public this week. The survey also found that 40 per cent of men surveyed say women who dress provocatively risk being raped.

“This is first study of its kind that has been done in Alberta and I believe in the rest of the country,” Ian Large, vice-president for the Alberta branch of Leger Marketing, said Wednesday.

“Alberta has a particularly bad reputation in this area,” Large told Torstar News, adding that the men surveyed were remarkably honest.

According to a report released by Statistics Canada in 2011, Alberta and Saskatchewan have the highest rates of spousal abuse in the country at eight per cent.

Those taken aback by the “ground-breaking” results include Alberta Premier Alison Redford, who says she was sickened by some of the findings.

Redford said the statistic showing that 21 per cent of men surveyed said slapping a child’s face is acceptable behaviour “made me sick to my stomach.”

“I think that is very troubling, and as a mother of a nine-year-old, I want us to do better as a community,” she said. “We have to start saying to people that this behaviour is inappropriate … It’s not acceptable in Alberta in 2012.”

Redford said the “silent majority” has a role in ensuring this kind of behaviour is not tolerated and that families feel safe in their own homes.

The Leger survey results were released in Calgary Monday at the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters (ACWS) annual “Breakfast With the Guys” fundraiser, designed to encourage men and boys to take a stand against domestic violence.

The survey was completed from February 6 – 27, with 1,000 men, 18 years of age or older, living in Alberta. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 per cent 19 times out of 20.

Among the alarming results:

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A War Turns Into a Madhouse

By Charles P. Pierce, Esquire Magazine, 13 March 2012

I honestly don’t believe that anyone knows anymore what in hell we’re supposed to be doing over there.

An Afghan woman gestures to the body of a child, who was allegedly killed by a US service member, in Panjwai, Kandahar province south of Kabul, Afghanistan, 03/11/12. (photo: Allauddin Khan/AP)

This weekend, everything about the United States policy in Afghanistan stopped making whatever sense it ever made in the first place.

An American soldier, Christ alone knows why, committed an act of terrorism against the Afghan people. According to reports, the soldier wandered off the base and into an Afghan village, where he systematically went door to door and murdered 16 people, including nine children. There are now the low, mumbling noises of regret from the U.S. government, and the general tone of the commentary in this country is to ponder deeply how this might affect the American “mission” in Afghanistan.

(Also, if I see one more headline calling this thing a “spree,” I may be forced to regret my own career choice. A spree is when some drunken frat-boy shoots out the streetlights on campus. This was mass murder, no different from the mass murders committed by Richard Speck or Jeffrey Dahmer or William Calley. If the American press tries to soften the edges of what happened with euphemism, which is what I suspect is already underway, the American press is guilty of one more crime against truth.)

I honestly don’t believe that anyone knows anymore what in hell we’re supposed to be doing over there. The main stated goal of our military operations – the destruction of the Afghan-based al Qaeda, including the killing of Osama bin Laden – has been accomplished. You hear a lot of vague talk about making Afghanistan “safe” for the Afghan people, and about how we have to be sure that Hamid Karzai’s government is secure, and about how we’re training the Afghan military to perform that task because we can’t allow the Taliban “to make a comeback.” Even if you accept them as legitimate, and, in poll after poll, the American people keep saying they don’t, how do the events of just the past two months render those goals anything but obviously futile? Our soldiers shoot up civilians. Afghan men in police and army uniforms shoot up our soldiers. After almost 11 years of our occupying a Muslim country, somebody in our military still is stupid enough to burn Korans in a garbage pit, or get photographed urinating on dead Afghans. More violence ensues. You’ll pardon me if I start to believe that the whole place is simply turning from a war into a madhouse. Better empires than ours have gone crazy in Afghanistan. Now, apparently, it’s our turn.

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Homophobic group to help award Diamond Jubilee Medals

REAL Women of Canada website states that bullying may be justified

Dale Smith / Xtra / March 07, 2012

A Canadian group whose homepage currently states that one of the biggest threats to families is the “homosexual lobby” and “the media” has been appointed to help government decide how to award Diamond Jubilee Medals to honour Queen Elizabeth’s 60 years of service to Canada.

REAL Women of Canada, a socially conservative, anti-feminist group that often acts as an intervenor in court cases that oppose queer rights, will recommend medals under the social and volunteer category.

An article on the group’s homepage also dismisses bullying as a justified reaction on the part of youth frustrated by the “special treatment” granted to queer or non-Christian youth in schools.

The Canadian Queen’s Diamond Jubilee program is awarding medals to 60,000 “outstanding” Canadians, according to the Governor General’s website.

Coordinators have invited non-governmental partners to advise government about worthy Canadians who deserve a medal.

A spokesperson for the Governor General’s program says a committee decided on partner organizations based on a number of different categories such as health, multiculturalism, and arts and culture.

“I don’t think they reflect the general views of women in Canada,” says Helen Kennedy, executive director of Egale Canada, which was not asked to participate. “I’m not saying they don’t have a right to be there; however, you need to balance the playing field a little bit, and if you’re going to appoint them, then you should appoint women from any number of women’s groups who are very progressive, aren’t homophobic and transphobic, and deserve to be at the table.”

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One Jesus for liberals, another for conservatives

by Johnjoe McFadden,, 5 March 2012

New research shows how believers tailor Christian teachings to fit their own political viewpoint

Creating God in our own image: a poster shows Jesus in an Argentinian football shirt. Photograph: Arnaldo Pampillon/AP

Love thy neighbour, so long as he is not an illegal immigrant. Blessed are the poor, so long as they are deserving. And, though it may be harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven than to pass through the eye of a needle, multimillionaires should have no problem passing through the door of the Oval Office.

Religion and politics have always made uneasy bedfellows; yet how can Christians from all shades of the political spectrum reconcile their diverse views with the teachings of a single man?

A study led by Lee Ross of Stanford University in California has found that the Jesus of liberal Christians is very different from the one envisaged by conservatives. The researchers asked respondents to imagine what Jesus would have thought about contemporary issues such as taxation, immigration, same-sex marriage and abortion. Perhaps not surprisingly, Christian Republicans imagined a Jesus who tended to be against wealth redistribution, illegal immigrants, abortion and same-sex marriage; whereas the Jesus of Democrat-voting Christians would have had far more liberal opinions. The Bible may claim that God created man in his own image, but the study suggests man creates God in his own image.

Yet both groups recognised that their own views were not always identical to those of Jesus. The researchers divided issues into those concerned with fellowship (wealth distribution, immigration), and those concerned with morality (gay rights, abortion). Conservatives envisaged a Jesus with views close to their own on morality issues; but they recognised that the man who gave all his possessions to the poor would probably have advocated more progressive taxation policies than those of the Republican party. Conversely, liberals saw Jesus as having similar views as themselves on fellowship issues but they believed his views on gay rights would be to the right of their own.

The social psychologist Leon Festinger coined the term “cognitive dissonance” for the discomfort felt when we recognise conflict between our ideas and perceptions. He proposed that we tend to reduce conflict by altering our view of reality. This process of “dissonance reduction” (“I didn’t want that job anyway”) has been used down the centuries to reduce the conflict between a person’s religious convictions and their actions. When in the 13th century the Abbot Arnaud Amaury was asked by crusaders what do with the citizens of the town of Beziers who were a mix of both pious Christians and heretical Albigensians, he famously initiated a massacre of all the town’s inhabitants with the instructions, “Kill them all. God will know his own.” Similarly, in the 19th century, Christian slavers insisted that the enforced transport and enslavement of millions of Africans was justified because it brought God to a pagan people.

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UK Report alleging discrimination against Christians ‘confused’

Civil rights advocates are expressing puzzlement at a new report from Christians in Parliament and the Evangelical Alliance UK which claims that Christians are victims of prejudice in Britain.

By staff writers | 27 Feb 2012 | Ekklesia - The inquiry has been launched by Christians in Parliament, an all-party group.

The report, ‘Clearing the Ground’, suggests that civic and legal authorities in the UK are suffering from ‘religious illiteracy’ and that there is a failure to treat Christians who hold conservative social views – including those who say that their beliefs should allow them to discriminate against others in the provision of goods and services – with fairness.

During a six-month inquiry, the Christians in Parliament all-party group, led by Conservative MP Gary Streeter, analysed a range of instances, including employment tribunals and court cases, where Christians claimed they had received unfair treatment under the law.

It also took evidence from what are described by the group as “key organisations, denominations and experts” and received written evidence from a further 40 groups and individuals.

The report criticises the Equality Act 2010, despite the exemptions churches have from it, and indicates that some Christian groups believe that the Equalities and Human Rights Commission is biased against Christians – even though it made a high-profile attempt last year, criticised by other equalities groups, to intervene at the European Court of Human Rights in four cases in which Christians alleged they had been unfairly treated.

The new report alleges that “indications from court judgments are that sexual orientation takes precedence and religious belief is required to adapt in the light of this. We see this as an unacceptable and unsustainable situation.”

‘Clearing the Ground’ makes a number of recommendations for correcting what it sees as ‘religious illiteracy’ in public life, and it promotes the notion of ‘reasonable accommodation’ as a concept “that has merit and warrants further consideration. If proved viable it may help prevent legal cases where religious activity is” [according to the report] “unduly restricted”.

Writing for the Daily Telegraph website to accompany the launch of the report, Gary Streeter MP and Jim Dobbin, a Labour MP, call on the Government to consider requiring judges to weigh up whether employers have taken “reasonable” steps to accommodate the religious beliefs of workers. The MPs say new guidelines could help balance what they say are “competing” rights.

But critics say that the report is confused and confusing in its understanding and approach to a range of complex issues.

Simon Barrow, co-director of the religion and society thinktank Ekklesia, commented: “Initial impressions from this report are that it raises significantly more questions than it answers. For example, it seems to assume that most people who are convinced Christians automatically share, or should share, a range of prejudices – notably against LGBT people – which make them unwilling to comply with requirements to act in a non-discriminatory way in the provision of public services. This is not the case. Many Christians from all traditions believe that equal treatment of others is not simply a legal requirement but a Christian obligation.

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The Gospel according to “Glee”?

Recent polls would indicate that “Glee’s” live-and-let-live attitude toward sexual politics and religion are in line with much of the population in the United States.

By Brian Kirk, February 23, 2012, RETHINKING YOUTH MINISTRY

Glee cast

Does high school musical sitcom “Glee” go out of its way to be hostile to Christianity? Some may think so, given the matter-of-fact treatment in so many episodes of teen drinking, drug use, sex, pregnancy, and its acceptance of same-gendered relationships. As a progressive Christian and fan of the show, even I wonder at times if they are pushing the envelope a bit too far. I’ve often commented that I’m not sure younger teens should be watching the show. It is, after all, an exaggerated, satirical look at how adults view adolescence. I’d be a little worried if some middle-schooler watching the series sits there thinking, “Oh, so that’s what high school is going to be like!”
Several episodes have dealt with the issue of faith (most famously the season two episode “Grilled Cheezus”), but most often the Christian characters are depicted as either hypocrites or espousing a sort of “believe whatever you want but believe something” sort of attitude. In fact, the writers depict the few nominally Christian characters as perfect examples of moralistic therapeutic deism—an understanding of the Christian faith that maintains that God is only important to life when we need something from “him” and faith is ultimately only necessary to the degree to which it helps us live happily and achieve our personal goals. All of this to say that “Glee’s” depiction of Christianity up to now has been somewhat realistic perhaps, but definitely not flattering.
Then comes along the February 14 episode “Heart.” It’s Valentine’s Day and the McKinley High Christian club, the God Squad, has decided to raise money by performing singing telegrams throughout the school. Meanwhile, girlfriends Brittany and Santana are called into the principal’s office for a minor public display of affection in the hallway. When Santana argues that straight students kiss in the hallways all the time, the principal admits to the double standard but says he’s responding to complaints from several conservative students. Unwilling to let this injustice stand, Santana pays The God Squad to perform a singing love letter to her girlfriend.

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A Quiet Struggle Within the Gay Marriage Fight

By MATT SMITH | February 18, 2012 | The New York Times

Worshippers at a service at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley. Clergy members and the church are in a battle of their own over gay rights. Noah Berger for The Bay Citizen

Straight couples dressed in tuxedoes and pastel-colored gowns were forced to wait in a hallway outside the San Francisco recorder’s office on Tuesday as 10 Bay Area Christian leaders sat in a circle inside singing “We Shall Overcome,” “Chapel of Love,” and “We Shall Not Be Moved.” It has become an annual Valentine’s Day protest of the city’s inability to give marriage licenses to same-sex couples, an authority that is on hold until appeals of a court’s decision to strike down California’s gay marriage ban are exhausted.

“We’re just going to keep knocking at the door until justice is available to all people,” the Rev. Karen Oliveto, a Methodist pastor of San Francisco’s Glide Memorial Church, said after sheriff’s deputies handcuffed her and her fellow protesters and led them to jail.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit earlier this month upheld a decision declaring Proposition 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriage, unconstitutional. The ruling represented a milestone in the secular struggle over gay rights. In the shadow of that struggle, however, a quieter battle is being waged within churches over whether gay people can be married and ordained.

Long before the issue of same-sex marriage grabbed the spotlight, liberal Protestant pastors in Northern California were fighting against church rules prohibiting ordination and marriage of homosexuals. That internal church struggle is broadening nationwide.

In recent years, mainline Protestant denominations — which are different from evangelical Christian churches that read the Bible as literal truth and emphasize a personal relationship with Jesus — have one by one changed rules that had prohibited marriage and ordination of gays and lesbians. The Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church U.S.A., Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the United Church of Christ at one time all barred same-sex wedding ceremonies and ordination of gay clergy members, but they have changed those rules over time.

The last holdout among major mainline Protestant groups has been the United Methodist Church,

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About My ‘Spilled Semen’ Amendment to Oklahoma’s Personhood Bill

By Constance Johnson, Guardian UK, 10 February 12 – via

Oklahoma state Sen. Constance Johnson, 08/17/11. (photo: AP)

As a woman and a 31-year veteran of the legislative process in Oklahoma, I am increasingly offended by state law trends that solely focus on the female’s role in the reproductive process. With Oklahoma’s new, never-before-experienced Republican majority, we are seeing enactment of more and more measures that adversely affect women and their rights to access safe medical procedures when making reproductive healthcare decisions.

My action to amend the so-called “Personhood” bill – SB 1433, introduced by Senator Brian Crain (Republican, Tulsa) – represents the culmination of my and many other Oklahomans’ frustration regarding the ridiculousness of our reproductive policy initiatives in Oklahoma. I have received overwhelmingly positive responses from men and women in Oklahoma – and worldwide. The Personhood bill would potentially allow governmental intrusion into families’ personal lives by policing what happens to a woman’s eggs without any similar thought to what happens to a man’s sperm.

My amendment seeks to draw attention to the absurdity, duplicity and lack of balance inherent in the policies of this state in regard to women. Oklahoma already incarcerates more women than any other place in the world. Under the latest provisions, a woman in Oklahoma may now face additional criminal charges and potential incarceration for biological functions that produce or, in some cases, destroy eggs or embryos, such as a miscarriage. In vitro fertilization, involving the fertilization outside the womb for implantation into the womb, would also potentially represent a violation of the proposed Personhood statute.

Finally, this amendment seeks to draw humorous attention to the hypocrisy and inconsistency of this proposal – from the Republican perspective of down-sized government and less government intrusion into people’s private affairs. Despite the great challenges our state faces, it is far more important that we address issues such as affordable healthcare to help improve our state’s ranking of 48th in health status; to create good, secure jobs that grow our economy; and ensure that all citizens have access to quality, affordable education.

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Welfare Reform Bill reveals a dysfunctional political culture

By Jill Segger | 7 Feb 2012 | Ekklesia

Protest against the Welfare Reform Bill -

Empathy and compassion are possessed, albeit in in differing degrees, by most human beings and their total absence is usually taken as evidence of a personality disorder. The attitude of the government over the damage that will be done to so many people by the Welfare Reform Bill has shown such a level of dissociation from from those qualities which enable us to relate and cohere, that there is a strong temptation to attribute strange pathologies to some of our elected representatives.

The misrepresentation of fact and the failure of consultation exposed by the Spartacus Report, the ignorance of, and indifference to, the plight of extremely vulnerable individuals and families and the collusion with right-wing papers in stirring up animosity through the false and mean-spirited rhetoric of “scroungers” and “hard working families”, was recognised by a majority in the Lords. Members of the revising chamber, listening to reasoned arguments and accessing the innate compassion which one hopes to find in the majority of people, made seven amendments to the Bill ahead of its return to the Commons.

During this process, there were a few moments which revealed the complete failure of some wealthy and privileged politicians to comprehend the realities of life for less fortunate citizens. Most notable was the view expressed by Lord Freud, the Welfare Minister, that the proposed loss of £1500 for some families with disabled children was “not a heavy cut”. Astonishing though this may be, it can be seen as an index of limited life experience rather than of moral disorder.

It is not possible to say the same of some of the behaviour which was on display during the Commons debate on 1 February when MPs overturned all the humane amendments of the second chamber. This made for difficult watching. MPs supporting the amendments referred to the experiences of their own disabled constituents and the manner in which they would be affected by measures such as the cutting of payments for disabled children, and the requirement for terminally ill cancer sufferers on chemotherapy to undergo work capability assessments. As they did so, members on the government benches jeered and sniggered.

This is so far removed from the usages of decency that I would like to posit at least the possibility that these individuals had fallen victim to the twin deformities of group-think and of a distorted view of masculinity.

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Corporations Have No Use for Borders

By Chris Hedges, January 30, 2012 by

What happened to Canada? It used to be the country we would flee to if life in the United States became unpalatable. No nuclear weapons. No huge military-industrial complex. Universal health care. Funding for the arts. A good record on the environment.

But that was the old Canada. I was in Montreal on Friday and Saturday and saw the familiar and disturbing tentacles of the security and surveillance state. Canada has withdrawn from the Kyoto Accords so it can dig up the Alberta tar sands in an orgy of environmental degradation. It carried out the largest mass arrests of demonstrators in Canadian history at 2010’s G-8 and G-20 meetings, rounding up more than 1,000 people. It sends undercover police into indigenous communities and activist groups and is handing out stiff prison terms to dissenters. And Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a diminished version of George W. Bush. He champions the rabid right wing in Israel, bows to the whims of global financiers and is a Christian fundamentalist.

The voices of dissent sound like our own. And the forms of persecution are familiar. This is not an accident. We are fighting the same corporate leviathan.

“I want to tell you that I was arrested because I am seen as a threat,” Canadian activist Leah Henderson wrote to fellow dissidents before being sent to Vanier prison in Milton, Ontario, to serve a 10-month sentence. “I want to tell you that you might be too. I want to tell you that this is something we need to prepare for. I want to tell you that the risk of incarceration alone should not determine our organizing.”

“My skills and experience—as a facilitator, as a trainer, as a legal professional and as someone linking different communities and movements—were all targeted in this case, with the state trying to depict me as a ‘brainwasher’ and as a mastermind of mayhem, violence and destruction,” she went on. “During the week of the G8 & G20 summits, the police targeted legal observers, street medics and independent media. It is clear that the skills that make us strong, the alternatives that reduce our reliance on their systems and prefigure a new world, are the very things that they are most afraid of.”

The decay of Canada illustrates two things. Corporate power is global, and resistance to it cannot be restricted by national boundaries.

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Washington State Senate Passes Gay Marriage Bill

By WILLIAM YARDLEY | February 2, 2012 | The New York Times

the Washington state Senate passed a bill to legalize same-sex marriage!

SEATTLE — Washington appeared almost certain to become the seventh state to allow same-sex marriage after the State Senate voted late Wednesday for a measure that would allow gay and lesbian couples to marry beginning this summer.

Supporters had considered the Senate to be the more challenging chamber in which to pass the bill, but it was approved easily, by a vote of 28 to 21, after less than 90 minutes of debate. The measure now moves to the House, where it has wide support and could be voted on as soon as next week. Gov. Christine Gregoire has urged the bill’s approval. The governor is a Democrat, and both legislative chambers are controlled by Democrats.

“Regardless of how you vote on this bill, an invitation will be in the mail,” Senator Ed Murray of Seattle, the prime sponsor in the Senate, said in his final remarks before the vote. Mr. Murray, who is gay, has noted many times publicly that he and his longtime partner hope to marry in their home state.

The measure, echoing one passed in New York last June, includes language assuring religious groups that they would not be required to marry same-sex couples or allow them to marry in their facilities. Washington would join New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont and Iowa as states where same-sex couples can marry. Washington, D.C., also allows same-sex marriage.

Washington has steadily expanded rights for gay and lesbian couples since 2006, when it approved domestic partnerships. In 2009, it passed a so-called everything-but-marriage bill, which was challenged in a public referendum and upheld by voters, 53 to 47. Opponents of the marriage bill say they will challenge it in a referendum this fall. The Roman Catholic Church is among the opponents.

The floor debate late Wednesday was civil and relatively succinct.

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Coalition overturns Lords amendments on welfare and bans further dissent

Patrick Wintour, political editor |, | 2 February 2012

The coalition has raised the stakes over its welfare bill by overturning seven key Lords amendments passed to soften the reforms, and taken the rare step to direct peers they have no constitutional right to challenge the Commons’ decisions further.

On most bills, the Lords can send amendments back and forth in what is known as parliamentary ping pong. The coalition, deploying a rarely used parliamentary device, claimed “financial privilege” asserting that only the Commons had the right to make decisions on bills that have large financial implications.

It argued that the Lords amendments collectively cut billions of planned savings. A similar tactic could also be used to throw out likely Lords amendments to the legal aid and health bills.

It is for the Speaker on the advice of clerks and the coalition to decide if financial privilege should be applied.

MPs backed the government’s plans for a £26,000 annual cap on overall household benefits including child benefit, overturning a defeat in the Lords. The Lords amendment, which was led by Church of England bishops, was overturned by 334 votes to 251.

The shadow work and pensions secretary, Liam Byrne, said he favoured a regionally based cap, reflecting different housing costs. He refused to say if this would mean the cap would be lower than £26,000 in the north of England.

Labour peers and some crossbenchers argued that the understood convention was that financial privilege only applied to money bills, such as the bill implementing the budget, adding that almost all Lords amendments have some financial consequence for the government.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, the deputy leader of Labour peers, said ministers were “hiding behind parliamentary procedure to curtail consideration of the amendments that we passed. If the government continues to do this on these bills, our role as a revising chamber is effectively undermined”.

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Transgendered people outraged over Canada’s identification rules for air travel

Joanna Smith | Published Jan 31, 2012 | the

OTTAWA—The Canadian transgendered community fears being grounded by rules forbidding airlines from allowing someone to board if their hair and clothing do not match the gender identity listed on their passport or other identification.

“We cannot have regulations which judge people on how they appear to be gendered. It’s unacceptable,” said Christin Milloy, a trans-identified blogger whose Monday post about the identity requirements for air travel was one of those widely discussed by the transgendered community online this week.

At issue were a couple dozen words buried in the identity screening regulations that airlines must follow when it comes to deciding who can — and can’t — board their aircraft.

“An air carrier shall not transport a passenger if . . . the passenger does not appear to be of the gender indicated on the identification he or she presents,” says the amendment to Transport Canada regulations, first published in August 2010 but apparently unnoticed until now.

No stories about transgendered people being banned from flights have emerged and one likely reason is the existence of a loophole that was missed in all the uproar.

“If, for medical reasons, a passenger’s facial features do not correspond to the photo on his or her identification, the air carrier may authorize the passenger to board a plane if he or she provides a medical certificate relating to this,” Transport Canada spokesman Patrick Charette wrote on Tuesday, noting the department was unaware of any transgendered or transsexual person with a medical document being refused on board since the rules changed.

Charette said the regulations are those of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) used in every country and were amended because they did not previously explicitly require airlines to match what passengers actually looked like with the identification they were using.

New Democrat MP Randal Garrison, the LGBT critic for his party, said the medical exemption solves the immediate problem but is not enough.

“If they’re going to interpret that to cover transgendered people I suppose that’s better than denying them the right to fly, but what’s the problem we’re fixing?” said Garrison, who has written to Transport Minister Denis Lebel for an explanation. “How does it make every person at the gate of an airplane a gender expert? It’s sledgehammer for a flea again.”

Liberal MP Justin Trudeau (Papineau), who drew attention to the issue on Twitter on Tuesday, said there is no need to look at the ‘M’ or ‘F’ on a passport or other government-issued card in the days of photo identification.

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Showdown at Caterpillar Plant ‘Watershed Moment’ for North American Labor

Canada’s Labor Movement Digs in for ‘PATCO Equivalent,’ as Lockouts Drag On

Published on January 30, 2012 by Common Dreams

Workers at Caterpillar's locomotive plant in London, Ontario, are gaining wide support as the profitable company seeks to cut their pay in half. (Photo: Canadian Auto Workers)

Caterpillar, Inc. (CAT), the world’s largest manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, has brought its well-worn job-crushing efforts to Canada, replicating wage suppression tactics used in the US and cutting benefits of union workers. But as the union fights back and gains support from citizens — including members of the Occupy movement — observers wonder if the battle against the internationally known corporation can highlight the ‘race to the bottom’ when it comes to international labor and cross-border manufacturing.

Mike Elk, writing for In These Times, suggests the battle taking place in London, Ontario coupled with recent developments with lockouts of United Steel Workers in Quebec, could mark a “pivotal moment” for Canada’s labor movement. If things go well for CAT, but bad for the embattled Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) Local 27 and the steel workers, it could be the equivalent of “the failed 1981 air traffic controllers union (PATCO) strike that kicked of an era of unionbusting in the United States.”

Canada’s Labor Movement Digs in for ‘PATCO Equivalent,’ as Lockouts Drag On

According to Mike Elk:

U.S.-based Caterpillar, which owns the Electro-Motive Diesel locomotive plant through a subsidiary, locked out 420 members of the Canadian Auto Workers Local 27. Despite Caterpillar increasing its profits by 44 percent over the last year, the company is asking union workers to let it cut wages by by as $18.50 an hour (55 percent) in some cases. The company is also asking for the elimination of defined benefits pensions as well as reduction in overtime and vacation plans.

“It’s no coincidence in my view that two different companies decided to lock out the two biggest industrial unions in Canada—the Steelworkers and the CAW—on the same day. This looks like an orchestrated attack,” said Communication, Energy, and Paperworkers Union President Dave Coles, whose union is in the process of merging with the CAW. “When you have these kind of big gigantic struggles, you don’t who is going to win, but by the time this is done, these employer are going to have a goddamn bloody noses. We are not going to allow Canadian employers to kick the shit out of Canadian workers.”

Both unions and their supporters are demanding that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper get involved, since these are foreign-owned companies. “Get back to the table, Caterpillar,” London, Ontario’s Mayor Joe Fontana said at the rally. “Get your ass down here, Prime Minister Harper.”

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