Friday, November 30, 2007

Our 15 year olds rank well globally in science skills.

This is quite an impressive jump from 11th to 3rd. The US does not seem to doing very well at all at 29th. I did not think that there would be such a difference. Years ago we always thought the UK had a better educational system than ours but perhaps it has fallen down over the years since its rating is just 14th. However, this is just one test of one group so who knows how things are overall. It is unfortunate that not more students go on to graduate in the sciences from universities. Of course I should talk I went through liberal arts and on to graduate philosophy!

Canadian students move up in rankings
Janice Tibbetts , CanWest News Service
Published: Friday, November 30, 2007
OTTAWA - Canadian students are on a roll in their academic performance on the world stage, this time ranking third in an international test of science ability that compared 15-year-olds in 57 countries.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development reported Thursday that Canadian pupils were outscored only by Finland and Hong Kong in an assessment of how much they know about science and their ability to use scientific knowledge and understanding to solve problems.

The results show "a bit of a disconnect" in that young Canadians appear to excel in science, yet Canada is failing to keep pace with other developed countries in turning out science graduates from university, said Paul Cappon, president of the Canadian Council on Learning.

"Science literacy at age 15 does not guarantee what choices these children are going to make later in life," said Cappon. "What is happening is there is a certain fear of going into the disciplines of science and technology that are considered to be more difficult than others. If we could take this test as encouragement that Canadians can do science, that would be a good signal."

The scientific ability of 28,000 Canadian 15-year-olds was measured in 2006, the third time that the Program for International Student Assessment was administered to more than 400,000 students internationally.

Canadian students moved up handily from the last time they were tested in 2003, when they landed in 11th place in science. Many European countries, on the other hand, have slipped in the ranks.

Canadian students outscored their counterparts in the United States, who placed 29th, and England, who ranked 14th.

The two-hour written test measures science, math and reading skills, although its focus shifts each time. The 2006 results were scheduled to be made public next week, but the OECD released an abbreviated version of the science portion Thursday, following a leak of the findings in Spain.

The full report, to be publicized Tuesday, will include results for each province, a breakdown of the scores of girls and boys, and the rankings for reading and math.

It is the second time this week that Canadians have received top marks in international testing. A separate global study Wednesday from the International Association for the Evaluation of Education Achievement showed that Grade 4 students in Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario are among the best readers in the world, when compared to students in 40 countries.

"One after another, Canadian children are doing well," said Cappon. "Obviously, it's encouraging they are performing at an international level."

Study ranks hospital mortality rates.

This report is from the Globe and Mail.Study ranks hospital mortality rates. While such a study is of some use in that some possible problem areas can be identified the factors that cause higher or lower death rates may have little to do with the quality of care at a particular institution.Before getting excited about poor quality care these would need to be examined. If you happen to get more seriously ill and dying patients than the average hospital of course your waits should be higher. The way to improve performance would be to send the worst patients to the hospital next door! Nevertheless the article does point out that many patients die in hospitals who would have lived if procedures were better.

Study ranks hospital mortality rates.
Facilities in New Brunswick, Alberta and Saskatchewan come out on top, boasting some of the lowest numbers

With reports from Avis Favaro, CTV News and The Canadian Press

November 30, 2007

For the first time, a national study has tackled the contentious and provocative issue of death rates in hospitals, listing Canadian institutions by name and revealing where patients are likely dying avoidable deaths.

Though the Canadian Institute for Health Information researchers say the Hospital Standardized Mortality Ratio study should not be used to compare hospitals, it is inevitable.

By province, hospitals in Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia had some of the highest in-hospital mortality while many hospitals in New Brunswick, Alberta and Saskatchewan boasted some of the lowest.

In Canada's biggest city, the numbers are so dramatic that ailing patients in search of a specialist referral may wish to consider taking the subway downtown to Toronto's University Health Network, which not only sees the sickest patients but also had one of the lowest ratios. The same goes for St. Michael's Hospital, which also had low mortality figures.

The Hospital Standardized Mortality Ratio (HSMR) examines the numbers of expected deaths versus actual deaths in 85 acute-care hospitals at 92 sites across Canada. Of those, eight hospitals had some or all of their results suspended from publication, after hospital officials argued successfully issues of data quality. Other, smaller hospitals are also using the measure but were not included in the published report, due to small patient numbers.

The measure looked at 65 diagnoses that account for 80 per cent of in-hospital deaths including the top five: heart attack, heart failure, pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and septicemia, which is blood poisoning.

Data were adjusted for age, gender, urgent versus planned hospital admissions, whether patients were transferred from another hospital, the length of stay and other health problems, to name a few. In making those adjustments, researchers sought to make a level playing field for all hospitals.

Each hospital was graded against the Canadian average, which was assigned an HSMR of 100. A ratio equal to 100 suggests there is no difference between a local mortality rate and the average national death rate. A figure greater than 100 means a higher mortality rate, while below 100 spells a lower mortality rate.

Cape Breton Healthcare Complex in Nova Scotia fared the worst, with the highest overall figure of 137 from 2004-2007. Conversely, Regina General Hospital had the lowest figure - 71 - suggesting far fewer deaths than expected.

Nova Scotia Health Minister Chris d'Entremont conceded yesterday that the numbers are "particularly bad in Cape Breton," but said his ministry needs to look at exactly what the figures mean.

"We don't know if it's quality of care or just the kind of patients we have. Is it an issue with funding? I don't think it's to do with funding. It's to do with the aging and infirmity of the patients we do have."

Yesterday, Phil Hassen, chief executive officer of the Canadian Patient Safety Institute, said: "The big thing is to help people understand that there is work to be done. We have adverse events occurring and people are dying, but some of these can be avoided."

Each year, an estimated 23,000 Canadian patients die avoidable deaths in hospital, Mr. Hassen said, relying on figures in a different study. Even that number is conservative, he said, given that 8,000 to 12,000 of those casualties are due solely to hospital-acquired infections.

And yet efforts to reduce injury and death are not a secret to hospitals. Areas where the biggest reductions can be made to whittle down death rates and avoidable injuries include introducing rapid-response teams, ensuring best-practice management of heart attacks and cutting down on medication errors.

Though yesterday was the first public announcement of the HSMR data, it has been used by hospitals since 2004-2005. And since then, it has resulted in a 6-per-cent drop in standardized mortality over the past three years, which translates into 2,500 fewer in-hospital deaths, said Jennifer Zelmer, CIHI's vice-president of research and analysis.

However, researchers cautioned yesterday that the public should not use it as a shopping guide, saying patients with heart attacks or some oth

REV JO is no mo.

I am glad I do not serve on that review board. I suffer from committee rage rather than road rage. When I feel that a committee is getting goofy I sometimes lash out and then walk out in a huff! The reasons given are really absurd, political correctness carried to absurdity, as the article points out reality often imitates satire so that satire becomes impossible.

Licence to stifle plate expression

Nov 29, 2007 04:30 AM
Jim Coyle

If there's any cosmic justice, the devil himself will be firing up a special ring in hell for the Ministry of Transportation.

Only a body called the Personalized Licence Plate Review Committee, after all, could have so lost touch with goodness and decency as to object to a United Church minister from Whitby – Rev. Joanne Sorrill by name – having the vanity plates REV JO on her car.

That the objection has been made almost 20 years after Sorrill got the plates as a 50th birthday present, shortly after her ordination, takes matters from the merely absurd to the utterly bizarre.

As the Star's Carola Vyhnak so delightfully reported yesterday, satire is rarely a match for reality.

Evidently, the ministry refused Sorrill's recent request for fresh REV JO plates to replace her rusted ones on the grounds that (a) the term REV might be taken as an incitement to dangerous driving or (b) could incite road rage among those construing it as government bias toward Christianity.

Kyoto framework is still best hope for the world.

Anderson is probably correct but he should have added a caveat: only if signers actually keep their promises. The Liberal government signed the Kyoto accords but let emissions rise during their tenure. The Liberals take the moral high ground and then go on to make the environment worse. The Conservatives on the other hand have been blowing hot air from the beginning and the Bush, Harper, tag team will spend the time at Bali beating developing countries into submission. When the developing nations refuse to submit or participate in a rigged fight Canada and the US can go home champions. Hot air will continue to pollute the political and real world atmosphere.

Kyoto framework is still best hope for the world

Nov 30, 2007 04:30 AM
David Anderson

The major objective of President George Bush and Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the Bali Meeting of Parties to the Kyoto Protocol that begins Monday is to replace the emission reduction Kyoto targets for the developed countries with an agreement that also includes targets for the developing countries.

Unfortunately, by abandoning the Kyoto approach of starting global reductions of greenhouse gas emissions with the developed industrial nations, Bush and Harper make the chances of getting the developing countries to accept emission reduction targets less likely, not more so.

The starting point for the developing countries is their firm and correct understanding that the increase in the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere over the past two centuries overwhelmingly has been caused by the use of fossil fuels in the developed countries of the world.

The global warming problem thus is a problem created by those developed countries, not by them. This belief then leads to the not unreasonable conclusion that if the atmosphere now has a dangerous level of greenhouse gases, then those responsible for those emissions should be the first to step up to the plate and do something about it.

The position of Bush and Harper, by contrast, is not based on that increase in the contamination level of the past two centuries, but rather on the emissions currently occurring. It is not a two-century buildup of the stock of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that they focus on; instead, they talk of the current rate of flow of contaminants into the atmosphere. Thus, the responsibility of the developed nations for the acute nature of the current problem is not, in their view, relevant to the current question of reducing emission levels today.

We have a dialogue of the deaf. Canada and the U.S. are talking of current flows of greenhouse gas emissions, while the developing countries are talking of accumulated stocks of greenhouse gas emissions. As long as each ignores the argument of the other, the likelihood of agreement is nil. One is talking of the contaminated pond, the other of the contaminating stream.

The Kyoto process bridged this gap by introducing a staged approach to emission reductions. The developed countries that ratified (essentially the European Union countries, Japan and Canada under the Chrétien government) agreed that the developed nations of the world should be the first to implement serious reductions. Then, after their good faith in dealing with a problem that they were responsible for had been demonstrated through significant reductions in emissions, discussions would take place on emission reduction programs for developing countries as well.

The key was overcoming the suspicion of developing countries that international greenhouse gas emission reduction programs would be used to hamper the development of their economies and their efforts to provide a better life for their citizens.

An important component of the developing countries' argument was the issue of international fairness. The atmosphere surrounding our world is equally necessary to the survival of each and every one of us. Therefore, fairness dictates that we each have an equal share of this common resource. Why then, they ask, are the per capita emissions of the developed countries so flagrantly in excess of the global averages and why are the developed countries not reducing their per capita emissions to that global average?

The question of equal share of the common global resource was sidelined by the agreement of the developed countries in the Kyoto Protocol to reduce emissions, as the reduction targets they accepted implicitly recognized the validity of the fairness claim of the developing countries.

Without Kyoto, this fairness or moral question will come once more to the fore. Indeed, the failure to achieve the Kyoto emission reduction targets that we in the developed world committed ourselves to 10 years ago will increase the suspicion of the developing countries that emission targets are not in their interests, and make this issue even more difficult to handle than ever.

The Kyoto Protocol was the result of extremely difficult negotiations, took a very long time, was a compromise, and is by no means perfect. Unfortunately, it was and still is the best the international community, working together, has been able to come up with.

The central problem with Harper's and Bush's proposed changes for a system with emission targets for all countries is that if they return to that starting point and ignore the difficult factors that Kyoto took into account through so many painstaking compromises, they will likely achieve far less in Bali than was achieved at Kyoto. The Kyoto approach, imperfect though it may be, is still the world's best hope.

David Anderson is director of the Guelph Institute of the Environment at the University of Guelph. He served from 1999 to 2004 as the federal minister responsible for the climate change file, and during that time represented Canada at the international meetings on climate change.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Nicholson: Has he or hasn't he?

Until late Wednesday Nicholson claimed he did not have the power to delay the extradition of Schreiber on Saturday. Most legal beagles claim that he has but Nicholson stuck to his opinion although not providing any reasons why he didn't have discretionary power as his critics claim. But late Wednesday lo and behold:
The government announced late Wednesday that it would not extradite him while a last-ditch appeal remains before the courts, a surprising turn of events, given that Justice Minister Rob Nicholson has said repeatedly that he had no authority to take such action. (from the Globe and Mail)
Wow! Nicholson has newfound powers but also displays his ignorance in not knowing he had them apparently. Or maybe he is just plain incompetent.
The National Post has an article on the background of Schreiber's testimony. In his testimony although Schreiber refused to say very much until he has an opportunity to review his notes he did say that originally he was to pay Mulroney 500,000 dollars.
CBC has an article that discusses the Liberal attack on Nicholson's flip flop.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Bickerton analyses first collective agreement with Magna and CAW

As this article shows the agreement restricts rights of workers. However, the workers ratified the agreement "overwhelmingly" according to Bickerton so they must think there is some value in the agreement. One thing that the agreement certaindly does and that is weaken the power of the union drastically. The whole new model seems to me to be a big snowjob that gives the company more power with the illusion of participation by workers. Certainly the company is given power to fire anyone who might "poison the atmosphere" by creating a negative work environment. For example, someone campaigning for a real union.

First FFA Collective
Restricts Workers Democratic rights
By Geoff Bickerton

On November 5, 2007 the CAW and Magna International signed their first Collective Agreement under the terms of the Framework of Fairness Agreement (FFA). Most of the anti-democratic features of the FFA have been incorporated into the collective agreement which was ratified overwhelmingly by the workers at Magna's Windsor Modules plant with one important exception regarding the selection process for the Employee Advocates. Each plant will still only have one union representative, called an Employee Advocate. However, unlike the original FFA, the collective agreement clearly stipulates that only bargaining unit members will be involved in the process by which the short list of applicants is determined.

While management may not have any direct influence on who is chosen to be Employee Advocate it can effectively veto any attempts by CAW members to change the undemocratic system of representation which has been incorporated into the collective agreement. One of the many unique features of the Magna agreement is that it incorporates fundamentally undemocratic practices into the collective agreement. Not only does the collective agreement place significant restrictions on union representation, it also establishes a process that eliminates the right of workers to run for office and elect their representatives. Since these provisions of the collective agreement can only be changed with the permission of management of Magna it means that the employer will be able to veto any future attempts to democratize the process.

The process will work as follows. Each Magna facility will have a union - management consultative committee called The Fairness Committee. The purpose of this committee is to facilitate the resolutions of disputes and build a positive and productive work environment. Fifty percent plus one of the members of this committee are to be "non-managerial" members which are selected by the workers by secret vote. These are the only individuals that Magna workers can elect and the FFA clearly states that these individuals "are not union representatives nor does their role include the representation of employees".

Like the FFA the collective agreement restricts union representation to one individual called an Employee Advocate. This person is not elected by anyone. Workers that want to "run" for the position of Employee Advocate will submit an application to a sub committee of the plant's Fairness Committee, comprised of bargaining unit members. These individuals will interview the applicants and forward three names to the Assistant to the President of the CAW who will make the final decision.

Under the FFA it has been agreed that the Employee Advocates will also constitute the executive council of the single amalgamated CAW local which will represent all CAW Magna workers. These Employee Advocates will elect the local executive including the local President. Thus it is the Assistant to the President of the CAW who will ultimately determine the pool of members who will be eligible to stand for office and also elect the local executive.

It is impossible to reconcile this process with the Code of Ethical Practices, included in the Constitution of the Canadian Labour Congress, which states that all union members have the right to take part fully and freely in their union, vote for their officers and stand for and hold office, subject only to fair qualifications uniformly imposed.

The collective agreement also contains some new provisions which do not appear in the original FFA. Not only is there a prohibition of strikes and lockouts. In the collective agreement the union and management have agreed that any employee who participates in any activity that impedes the operation of the business shall be subject to immediate dismissal.

There is also a letter of understanding called "Depoliticization of the Work Environment". It states that both CAW and Magna recognize and agree that "activities in a division that politicize or polarize the workplace have the potential to disrupt the operations and create a negative work environment." It commits the union to ensure that no such activities take place.

Although the first collective agreement signed under the FFA has corrected the problem concerning direct employer interference in the selection of union representatives it has also entrenched a very undemocratic process and provides Magna management with the power to veto future attempts to change it.

Geoff Bickerton is a member of CUPE 1979 and labour columnist for Canadian Dimension.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~(((( T h e B u l l e t))))~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The Bullet is produced by the Socialist Project. Readers are
encouraged to distribute widely. Comments, criticisms and
suggestions are welcome. Write to

If you wish to subscribe:

The Bullet archive is available at

Harper meets with Barrick as Tanzanian strike continues

Foreign aid in Tanzania is obviously well spent, it has bought the president of Tanzania who is quite unwilling to criticize Barrick for fear aid and investment might be turned off. While Harper's foreign aid announcement is welcome it is in total not the .7 of GDP pledged some time ago. As the Tanzania case shows it is often used to keep countries quiet and pliant.

PM meets with Barrick as Tanzanian strike continues

Nov 27, 2007 04:30 AM
Richard Brennan

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania–Prime Minister Stephen Harper fanned the flames of controversy yesterday when he used another international trip to meet with officials of Canadian mining giant Barrick Gold.

"We will be discussing obviously general business (and) what the government of Canada can do to assist in building our investments here," he said before the meeting.

The 45-minute private meeting was not on Harper's official agenda for his trip to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kampala and the one-day side trip to the Tanzanian capital.

Miners at Barrick's Bulyanhulu gold mine have been on strike since last month. They have complained of inequalities in salaries between foreign and local workers, and non-payment of health and risk allowances as well as bonuses to local workers.

Barrick has called the strike illegal and says it will hire new workers to replace about 1,000 miners who continue their strike. The miners say they will challenge the move in court.

"Instead of meeting with representatives of Barrick, a Canadian mining company that has caused conflict in the community, the Prime Minister should be meeting with the people directly touched by the action of this company that has fired unionized workers, totally disregarded the environment and failed to protect worker safety," NDP foreign affairs critic MP Paul Dewar (Ottawa-Centre) told the Toronto Star from Ottawa.

Harper has been accused of putting the interests of Canadian corporations first. During a July trip to Chile he met officials from the company that has been criticized for its environmental and labour practices.

"We always expected our companies to act responsibly within the laws of the land," Harper told reporters yesterday.

A Tanzanian commission has been struck to determine whether Barrick and other extraction companies are paying the country a fair share of the resources they are mining. But President Jakaya Kikwete, whose country depends on foreign aid and investment, was careful not to criticize.

"We are not blaming the mining companies," he said.

Harper reminded reporters, "Canada has contributed a billion dollars in aid to Tanzania since 1961 ... and Canadian mining companies are the largest investors in Tanzania."

Yesterday, Harper pledged $105 million over five years to improve health care for the impoverished in Africa and Asia. At the same time, his own government, according to a finance briefing note obtained by CTV, will not live up to a 2005 all-party agreement to provide 0.7 per cent of GDP to foreign aid by 2015.

Harper stressed his government, however, is doubling aid to Africa.

Called the Initiative to Save a Million Lives, Canada is joining forces with several organizations to provide training for front-line health workers and to deliver affordable health care to communities. The program was previously announced but no money was attached.

"The Canadian-led (program) ... will deliver basic, cost-effective and life-saving health services to mothers and children in countries where the needs are the greatest," said Harper, noting that when fully implemented the initiative will save 500 children's lives every day.

Canada is in partnership with UNICEF, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Health Organization, the World Bank and other donor countries.

Harper said the Canadian health aid will be used to train more than 40,000 health workers and provide much-needed treatment for malaria, measles and malnutrition, which the government says is expected to save 200,000 lives in Africa.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Special advocates system in UK does not protect liberties.

This comes from the Lawyer's Weekly. Harper seems not to be much interested in human rights when they are those of suspected terrorists, the one exception being the Arar case when he and Day both stood up to the barbarian administration on our southern border. I doubt though that Harper will reform his bill so that a government case could be exposed as has been done by the SIRC as the article notes.
There will be no more Arar inquiries either as the secrecy bound Iacobucci Inquiry shows.

British-style ‘special advocate’ scheme fails to protect liberties, experts urge

By Cristin Schmitz
November 23 2007

The federal government’s proposed new “special advocate” regime falls far short of what legal experts and law societies say is required to protect the rights of non-citizens who are subject to security certificates.

Ian Macdonald, a prominent British QC who resigned as a special advocate in 2004, calling his country’s law “an odious blot on our legal landscape,” said he hopes Canada rethinks its reforms to the Immigration and Refugee Act to the extent that they mirror flaws in the much-criticized special advocate system pioneered by the U.K. in 1998.

“The reason I quit as a special advocate was because I didn’t think that it was conscionable for me to lend, as it were, legitimacy to a system of internment without trial based on reasonable suspicion,” Macdonald told The Lawyers Weekly in a telephone interview from Garden Court North Chambers in Manchester, England.

During seven years as one the U.K.’s first 15 special advocates, Macdonald represented more than 10 foreigners, including a handful who were detained after 9/11, based on secret evidence, on suspicion of links to al-Qaida.

“Obviously when I took appointment in 1998 I felt that the role of the special advocate in certain types of cases was a much fairer procedure than what had previously existed,” said Macdonald, author of the U.K.’s leading immigration law textbook.

“My real objection was that after 9/11 the government decided to have internment of suspected terrorists,... and tacked this on to the jurisdiction of the special immigration appeals commission. As a special advocate[,] I felt that I was in an impossible situation because I knew things when I got the [secret] closed material which I was not in any way able to take instructions on from the man who was being interned. What was impossible about it was there was no way of knowing, and no way of finding out, what the person being interned had to say about this particular allegation against him, and there was no way that he would know what the allegation against him was because it was only in the closed material. And so there was a fundamental unfairness in the procedure, and that’s what the majority of the House of Lords have held in their latest decision, Secretary of State v. MB, [2007] UKHL 46.”

Macdonald warned “it would be a mistake” to adopt the British system “lock, stock and barrel” in light of the law lords’ decision in late October condemning the inability of judges in national security proceedings to order the disclosure of secret information which is necessary to preserve a fair trial.

“As our House of Lords has now recognized[,] there has to be in-built into any legislation of this kind, involving special advocates, a much greater system of fairness in the very fundamental sense of letting the person accused know the substance of the accusation to the extent that that person can” defend him or herself, Macdonald said.

Notwithstanding widespread criticism of the special advocate immigration scheme within Britain, Bill C-3 closely tracks the U.K. model. It diverges substantially from what was recommended to Parliament by the Federation of Law Societies.

Two years ago, the national umbrella group for the country’s 14 legal regulators urged that those who are subject to proceedings where secret evidence is presented should have the right to be represented by a lawyer of their own choice. Their lawyer should be granted access not only to all the material and information submitted to the court, but also to the underlying government files, subject to the government’s right to have the counsel first undergo a security check, the law societies argued.

Failing that, the Federation recommended that such persons be entitled to choose from special security-cleared advocates. The law societies stressed that the special advocate should be given access to the government’s underlying file, as well as scope to discuss the case with the individual’s own counsel throughout the entire proceeding (while at all times ensuring that the secret information is not disclosed to anyone, including to the individual and his or her own counsel).

The federation also emphasized that the government should properly resource special advocates so they can effectively perform their difficult role by retaining experts in national security investigations, translators, or other experts to help review the secret evidence.

The federation’s concerns were echoed by University of Ottawa law professor Craig Forcese and Toronto immigration law specialist Lorne Waldman, who co-authored an in-depth study last August on the use of special advocates in national security proceedings in the U.K. and New Zealand.

“In the early days in the U.K. it was the lonely special advocate, a single barrister usually assisted by a junior, against MI5” (the British intelligence service), Forcese told The Lawyers Weekly. “There was no equality of arms. No balance in terms of resources. So the special advocate was left to fight this phalanx of government lawyers.” In the meantime, however, the U.K. has established a special advocate support office which provides institutional knowledge, a database, and training for special advocates, he said. “We really need that.”

Echoing Macdonald’s concern, Forcese said Bill C-3 should be changed to ensure that the special advocate can maintain contact with the person named in the security certificate, even after the special advocate sees the government’s secret case. Bill C-3 stipulates that after a special advocate sees the secret material, she or he must seek judicial approval before discussing the case with the person named in the security certificate.

Forcese said the same rule in the U.K. has meant in practice that special advocates do not continue to communicate with the named person, since they have only been allowed to do so in writing, after the government vets all the questions.

Forcese and Waldman suggest that concerns about the risk of involuntary disclosure of sensitive information by the special advocate can be allayed by requiring the presence of a third, independent person, such as a member of the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) or its legal counsel, who are well-versed in such matters.

SIRC is the independent agency which reviews CSIS, including complaints that the intelligence service has improperly denied security clearances. Unlike what is proposed for special advocates in security certificate cases, SIRC counsel have full access to CSIS files (excepting Cabinet confidences) and may communicate with a complainant after they have seen the secret security information.

Forcese said the importance of continuing communication between the special advocate and the named person throughout the proceeding has already been demonstrated in other contexts involving secret CSIS information, when the government’s case has collapsed after SIRC counsel reviewed the CSIS file and then was able to glean key information by speaking with the person in question.
Forcese and Waldman argue C-3’s “minimalist” U.K.-style approach to constitutional rights should be jettisoned in favour of the robust SIRC system which has worked successfully in Canada for more than two decades.

They note that special advocates in the U.K. have complained that their government has withheld relevant, and sometimes exculpatory, information in its possession.

Forcese and Waldman therefore argue for an amendment to Bill C-3 that would impose an express obligation on the government to disclose all relevant information to the court and to the special advocate, while giving the special advocate the right to ask SIRC to thoroughly review the government’s secret files, and then certify that full disclosure has been made.

The pair also urge that Bill C-3 clarify the relationship between the person named in the security certificate and the special advocate.

The proposed law states clearly that there is no solicitor-client relationship; however, Forcese and Waldman recommend the addition of express language affirming that a special advocate nevertheless owes a duty of confidentiality to the named person and therefore cannot be compelled to reveal information disclosed by that person.

Bill C-3 should also be amended to ensure that special advocates are sufficiently independent of government, including an express stipulation that government lawyers are not to be special advocates, they say.

In Britain, independence has not been a live issue in the sense that special advocates have all been senior and experienced barristers who are widely seen to be independent of the government.
Macdonald told The Lawyers Weekly Waldman and Forcese’s recommendations would avoid many of the pitfalls in the U.K. regime. “I think that’s a preferable way to go than the way that seems to have been chosen by the Canadian government,” he remarked.

Child poverty rate unchanged in nearly 2 decades.

In spite of the commitment to end poverty passed by the government in 1989 the rate remains unchanged. Instead we have tax cuts and a much larger military expenditure. Surpluses are not used to reduce poverty but to reduce debt or taxes.
Liberals and Conservatives share a bipartisan silent agreement not to make this commitment a priority except for occasional rhetorical flourishes that do nothing to reduce child poverty but simply add to global warming.

Child poverty rates unchanged in nearly 2 decades: report
Last Updated: Monday, November 26, 2007 | 2:40 PM ET
CBC News
The rate of child poverty in Canada is the same as it was in 1989, an advocacy group reported Monday while calling on the federal government to skip a planned GST cut to help tackle the issue.

As Campaign 2000 released the results of its annual report card on child poverty at a news conference in Ottawa, it called for the federal government to cancel the next one percentage point GST cut and use the money instead for efforts to eliminate child poverty.

The report says that, in 1989, the House of Commons unanimously resolved to end child poverty.

Eighteen years later, despite a 50 per cent increase in the size of the economy, the child poverty rate remains unchanged at 11.7 per cent in 2005, according to the report, citing after-tax income data from Statistics Canada.

When income was measured before income taxes, the number rose to one in six children, or 16.8 per cent.

"Child poverty is a national shame," New Democrat MP Olivia Chow said at the news conference.

Wait Time Alliance calls for new medical benchmarks

As noted the wait times might become "ideal" wait times rather than maximum wait times or medically reasonable wait times. The article gives no information as to how well the earlier designated benchmarks have been met.

Wait Time Alliance calls for new medical benchmarks
Last Updated: Monday, November 26, 2007 | 11:57 AM ET
CBC News
The government needs to commit to reducing lengthy wait times for medical services outside the five priority areas established three years ago, says a report released Monday by the Wait Time Alliance.

The group calls for the establishment of wait-time benchmarks for five additional medical specialities: emergency care, psychiatric care, plastic surgery, gastroenterology and anesthesiology. These have been developed by the Canadian Psychiatric Association, the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians, the Canadian Society of Plastic Surgeons, and the Canadian Association of Gastroenterology.

The emergency ward of Hull hospital. The report calls for changes to emergency wait times.
(CBC) A 10-year Plan to Strengthen Health Care was signed by first ministers in September 2004 and included commitments to reduce wait times for diagnostic imaging, hip and knee replacement, radiation oncology, cataract surgery and cardiac care.

"They should be viewed as health system performance goals that reflect a broad consensus on medically reasonable wait times," reads the report. "Nevertheless, for the most part, these benchmarks should be viewed as 'maximum acceptable' wait-times, not 'ideal' wait times."

The new wait-time benchmarks are:

Emergency care – Level 1 (e.g. cardiac arrest): immediate; Level 2 (e.g. chest pain): less than 15 minutes; Level 3 (e.g. moderate asthma): less than 30 minutes; Level 4 (e.g. minor trauma): less than 60 minutes; Level 5 (sprains): under 120 minutes.
Psychiatric care – Emergency cases: within 24 hours to see a psychiatrist; Urgent cases: within 24 hours to see a family doctor and within 1-2 weeks see to a psychiatrist; Scheduled cases: within 1 week to see a family doctor and within 2-4 weeks to see a psychiatrist.
Plastic surgery – Emergency cases: within 24 hours (e.g. burns, infections, hand and facial trauma); Urgent cases: within 2-8 weeks (e.g. most malignant neoplastic conditions, some cranofacial conditions); Scheduled cases: within 2-6 months (e.g. congenital abnormalities, wounds, elective hand procedures).
Gastroenterology – Emergency cases: within 24 hours; Urgent cases: within two weeks; Scheduled cases: within 6 months.
Anesthesiology: Acute neuropathic pain of less than 6 months duration: 30 days; Acute lumbar disc protrusion: 3 months; Cancer pain: 14 days; Subacute chronic pain in an adult of working age where intervention may improve function: 3 months; Other types of chronic pain: 6 months
"What we need now is a similar commitment on the part of governments to act now to fulfil their promises to meet deadlines around the initial five clinical areas identified in the 10-year Plan to Strengthen Health Care and to take action in these newly-identified areas," Dr. Colin Macmillan, past president of the Canadian Medical Association, said Monday in a release.

Lawyers earn big bucks from residential schools settlement

There is no mention of Frank Iacobucci, chair of the Iacobucci Inquiry, who received 2.5 million as fees for his role in the cases. See this site. The lawyers certainly have done well but probably without them the settlement would have been much lower. The payout to the claimants seems to be slower than that to the lawyers!

Ottawa pays $45.6M to lawyers involved in residential school cases
Last Updated: Monday, November 26, 2007 | 9:35 AM CT
CBC News
More than $45 million has recently been paid to residential school lawyers — one of the largest legal bills in Canadian history.

According to federal officials, a government cheque for $45.6 million has been sent to a consortium of lawyers — most of them in Alberta and Ontario — who had been involved in the Indian residential schools class action.

Former students like Roy Sanderson aren't impressed that, in some cases, lawyers are getting paid first.

"That hurts me. Why did they get paid first, get the money first and we never got nothing yet — the survivors, a lot of us," said Sanderson, who went to a residential school in the 1950s.

Over the past two decades, more than 12,000 former students have filed legal claims against the federal government and the churches that ran the schools for much of the 20th century. Many of the claims alleged physical and sexual abuse and said that the schools caused them to lose their language and culture.

Under a $2-billion compensation plan approved earlier this year, every student who went to school is entitled to $10,000 plus an extra $3,000 for each year the student attended.

Sanderson said he didn't benefit much from his education at the school.

"I was stuck in Grade 4 for many, many years for no reason," he said. "They put you in the barns and we used to work. They didn't give you a proper education."

Sanderson is among more than 50,000 former students who have asked for settlement money and are still waiting.

Sanderson's lawyer is Regina-based Tony Merchant, who is not among the group that has been paid. Federal officials said Merchant's legal bill, which will be at least $25 million, is still under dispute.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Stephen Harper's Environmental Bridge to Nowhere

I reproduce below a recent entry from James Laxer's blog. His position is much like my own. I guess that is a good reason to reproduce it LOL. Certainly Laxer is correct that aspirational targets are usually just hot air, hot air that just increases global warming by doing nothing. In Kampala Canada used its talent for bringing people together to create a watered down reactionary statement at the end of the meeting. This is Canada's new leadership role on the world stage, to have everyone join in moving backwards on the environment.

Stephen Harper’s Environmental Bridge to Nowhere

It is not often that an emperor’s clothes are torn from him in full public view, but that is precisely what happened to Stephen Harper at the Commonwealth summit in Kampala.

On the crucial issue of climate change, Harper had one ally when he arrived in Uganda, the right-wing government of Australian Prime Minister John Howard. Alone among the fifty-three countries at the conclave, Canada and Australia opposed the inclusion of binding greenhouse gas reduction targets in a Commonwealth statement.

The problem for Harper is that midway through the meeting, the Australian people threw John Howard’s government out of office and resoundingly chose the Labour Party, which plans to sign on to the Kyoto Accord, to govern the country.

That left Harper all by himself in Kampala. After long negotiations between the Harper contingent and the rest of the Commonwealth, a “compromise” statement on climate change was agreed to, a statement which drops mandatory targets in favour of “aspirational” goals.

Aspirational targets are the Alberta’s oil patch’s synonym for hot air. Having had his robes stripped off in Kampala, Harper still is outfitted with his fig leaf. We can expect that leaf to be front and centre on his persona when he returns to parliament. Harper will insist that while the Commonwealth’s eventual statement dispensed with hard emission targets for developed countries, it declared that developing as well as developed nations should “aspire” to greenhouse gas emission reductions. Or, as a Calgary oilman might say, hot air for everyone, hard targets for no one.

Last week, Environment Minister John Baird claimed on CBC television that Canada was on the same page as Europe on climate change, but that Canada has set out to construct a bridge to nations such as the U.S. on the issue at the global climate change conference in Indonesia next month. He insisted that Canada has a special talent for bringing people together.

His bridge building metaphor implies an effort to find common ground on which two groups of countries with different approaches can stand. But at Kampala, it was all the other countries that had to build a bridge to Canada. The result was a statement on climate change that had been modified due to Canada’s efforts from serious to frivolous.

The Harperites will no doubt point to the Commonwealth statement as evidence of Canada’s growing influence in the world. But now that Australia has gone over to the European side on climate change, to whose shores can Harper and Baird construct their bridge.

The obvious answer is the United States. The trouble, though, is that even the Americans are not standing still on the issue of climate change. Most Americans now revile George W. Bush who is Harper’s only remaining foreign ally on the issue. Next fall the United States will elect a new president who will be almost certain to take a tougher line on global warming than the Harper Conservatives.

The Harper Bridge is a bridge to nowhere. The sad fact is that as long as Canadians have this government at the helm, we will be bringing up the rear on the greatest global question of our time. Or to keep up the metaphor, we will be sitting on a shoal, connected to the rest of the world by the Harper government’s pontoon.

Opposition barred from Canadian delegation to Bali climate change talks.

The Harper government just can't stand opposition and will do anything possible prevent it. The government apparently will take some other people with them to advise them. I assume this will be at taxpayer expense. They are unmentionable apparently but I would venture to guess that they are supporters of Harper's positions.
The opposition will have to go to Bali at their own expense a trip that will not come that cheap. Even when there they will only get to go to some of the meetings. Perhaps they can lobby with local and international media to criticise Harper's position and show that Harper does not represent all Canadians, in fact probably not even a majority. At least Harper will not be able to hobknob with John Howard at Bali. He will be history. Let us hope that soon Harper will be history as well.

Opposition barred from Canadian delegation to Bali climate change talks
Last Updated: Thursday, November 22, 2007 | 3:58 PM ET
CBC News
The Conservative government has broken a long-standing tradition by deciding not to invite opposition MPs to the United Nations' major climate change meeting next month in Bali, Indonesia.

The Environment Ministry told the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Québécois on Wednesday that they will not be part of the official Canadian delegation at the Climate Change Conference, which will include talks about a new agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012.

Environment Minister John Baird told the House of Commons on Thursday that he didn't want a partisan political debate to take place at the forum.

But Liberal MP David McGuinty called the move censorship. Canadian governments have for years invited opposition critics and MPs to major international meetings.

"I thought I had a responsibility as the official Opposition critic for the environment, who ran elected to work in this field. I kind of thought I had a special responsibility to represent millions of Canadians who have a competing point of view," McGuinty said Wednesday.

On Thursday, McGuinty accused the government of wanting to "hide the facts" that they have no climate change plans for Canada

But Baird shot back at McGuinty, saying that it has been 160 days since he asked him a question in the House of Commons about the environment.

"And you know what his question is? Why can't I come on that nice trip with you."

The Environment Ministry has said opposition MPs could still pay their own way and attend public discussions, although they would not be awarded any of the privileges that come with being part of an official delegation, which includes access to briefings and some of the talks.

The Conservatives invited opposition MPs to the 2006 UN environmental conference in Nairobi and during the event, the opposition lambasted then environment minister Rona Ambrose on her government's environmental policies. Others joined in the attack, including France's environment minister.

Nathan Cullen, the NDP's environment critic, said Baird brought up Nairobi when he stopped him in the House of Commons on Wednesday to tell him about the Bali decision.

"He said he looked at what happened in Africa and Nairobi at the last meeting and he said he is worried about criticism," Cullen said. "And his government has a lot to be criticized for."

Opposition leaders have criticized the Conservatives for their environmental plan, which does not see Canada meeting its Kyoto emissions targets in time. The plan, laid out in April, has Canada reaching its targets by 2020 or 2025, instead of 2012, the year laid out in the international treaty to curb climate change.

Opposition had chance to give input: Baird
Baird said the opposition has already had its opportunity to give its advice and opinions on the environment during debates and votes in the House of Commons.

"The House of Commons did vote just over a month ago on the speech from the throne where we set out the agenda of the environment and that speech and that direction was endorsed by the House of Commons."

But the Bloc said the opposition still has to have its chance to participate in the climate conference.

"Excluding the opposition members is essentially rejecting the majority's views," Bloc MP Bernard Bigras said.

Combined, the opposition parties and independent candidates hold a majority of seats (178) in the House. The Conservatives have 126, while four seats are vacant.

Other Canadians will be invited
The Conservatives said they will bring a number of Canadians to the conference with them to advise during the talks, but they have not said who these Canadians will be.

The David Suzuki Foundation has confirmed the organization did not get an invitation, but plans to send members as official conference observers. The Sierra Club of Canada plans to do the same.

"To me this is just another example of this government trying to control the message on climate change," said Emily Moorehouse of the Sierra Club.

With files from the Canadian Press

Excited Delirium

We are about to catch up and surpass the US in cases of excited delirium. What is excited delirium? Well the main psychiatric reference book doesn't recognise its existence. However the symptoms are extreme aggressiveness, almost superhuman strength, and most important resistance to arrest should police intervene. If police have really big problems restraining someone during arrest this may be because the person is suffering excited delirium and thus according to recent RCMP manuals they can taser the person not just once but multiple times. If the person dies as a result the death will likely not be because of the tasering but because of excited delirium. This is a win win conclusion. The cops get to control people without hurting themselves and Taser Inc. and the cops get to win any lawsuits because death is not due to tasering. With animals we have a tranquilizer dart. Instead of developing one for humans apparently we prefer a weapon that is used by numerous countries as an instrument of torture.

The following quote is from this site.

The chief psychiatric reference book, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, does not specifically recognize "excited delirium" as a diagnosis. The International Association of Chiefs of Police says not enough is known about it.

"It is not a recognized medical or psychiatric condition," said spokeswoman Wendy Balazik. "That is why we don't use it and have not taken a position on it."

Never mind the Psychiatric establishment does not recognise. THe police are given
study sessions on it as this NPR piece points out.

Excited delirium has helped Taser International in the past. In recent years, the company has successfully defended itself against at least eight lawsuits involving people who died in police custody, arguing that the cause of death was excited delirium, not the Taser.

Taser International spokesman Steve Tuttle acknowledges that each year, his company sends hundreds of pamphlets to medical examiners explaining how to detect excited delirium. Taser also holds seminars across the country, which hundreds of law-enforcement officials attend. But Tuttle says his company is only providing information that has been vetted by researchers.

"We're not telling departments [that] excited delirium is always the cause of death following a Taser application," Tuttle said. "We're simply pointing out the facts: that excited delirium is an issue out there, and they need to treat this as a medical emergency if they see these signs."

Taser is also reaching out to the medical community.

John Peters is president of the Institute for the Prevention of In-Custody Deaths, a prominent consulting company in Henderson, Nev. His firm specializes in training law-enforcement officers, coroners, emergency-room physicians and others in the medical community about sudden death from excited delirium.

A Conflict of Interest?

Peters is also one of Taser International's star witnesses against claims that the weapon kills people. He and his staff were paid by Taser for a year and a half to instruct at the company's training academy.

Peters says that training law enforcement to embrace excited delirium does not affect his impartiality on the stand.

"Some people would say, 'Well, obviously you're on their side,'" Peters said. "But the Taser is just one piece of this. I'm not a Taser instructor. I don't hold stock in Taser. So we try to maintain a distance or separation."

But Eric Balaban, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, worries that the messages police receive about excited delirium may actually exacerbate confrontations with people in custody.

"If police officers are being trained about this condition known as excited delirium, and are being told the people suffering from it have superhuman strength, and [these people] are being treated as if they are somehow not human, it can lead officers to escalate situations," he said.

Balaban says the fear is not just that excited delirium may not exist, but that it is already being overused — in lawsuits and on the streets.

Related NPR Stories
Nov. 12, 2005

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Commonwealth Steers Clear of Binding Emissions Targets

Anyone who thinks that Harper has the slightest intention of providing leadership in reducing global emissions must by now know
that he is a leader only in going backwards and following the same reactionary policies as the US.

Harper pointed out that Canada's position at the Commonwealth is the same to one it took at the G-8 and APEC summits earlier this year

This is true. Harper is consistently reactionary. Harper wants to do nothing until developing nations also commit themselves even though developed nations produce many times the pollution per capita than developing nations. The developed nations should lead not follow but Canada only wants to follow our pack leader the USA. Now that Australia has a new government committed to Kyoto Harper will have to take over as the chief errand boy in the Commonwealth for US interests.

Commonwealth steers clear of binding emissions targets
Harper calls for climate change protocol for all major polluters
Last Updated: Saturday, November 24, 2007 | 6:29 PM ET
CBC News
Leaders of the 53-member Commonwealth produced a statement on Saturday stripped of any reference to binding targets for greenhouse gas emissions.

Canada and Australia had been the lone holdouts against calls to compel each member country into meeting certain targets, as outlined in a draft version of the document circulated earlier at the conference in Uganda's capital, Kampala.

) The final statement, issued on the second day of the three-day summit, said that next month's climate change talks in Bali, Indonesia should be "inclusive in nature and should work towards outcomes that are ambitious, comprehensive, equitable, have respect for different national circumstances, and provide for flexibility in addressing climate change.

"Our shared goal should be to achieve a comprehensive post-2012 global agreement that strengthens, broadens, and deepens current arrangements and leads to reduced emissions of global greenhouse gases.

"This should include a long-term aspirational goal for emissions reduction to which all countries would contribute."

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper insisted any reference to binding targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions be deleted because the call for committing to such targets would not apply to all major polluters.

"What we were dealing with here was an initial proposal that would suggest binding and absolute targets on some countries and not others. And Canada has been insistent now at three consecutive international forums that we need one effective international protocol that ultimately involves action by all major emitters," he said.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who met earlier Saturday with Harper, was one of the strongest advocates of a binding commitment to reduce greenhouse gases.

But Canada refused to agree to the plan, and without consensus,the Commonwealth was blocked.

Harper pointed out that Canada's position at the Commonwealth is the same to one it took at the G-8 and APEC summits earlier this year.

He said the next international climate deal to replace the Kyoto accord, which expires in 2012, should include commitments from such countries as China and India, as well as the United States.

China and India are exempt from Kyoto, while the U.S. has never signed on.

Australia has not ratified the accord, but could get tougher on fighting climate change under the leadership of Kevin Rudd, whose Labor party defeated Prime Minister John Howard's Liberal party in Saturday's election.

Speaking in Kampala, Harper said he is looking forward to having a good relationship with Howard's successor.

Liberal leader Stephane Dion, meanwhile, issued a statement commending Rudd's pro-Kyoto stand.

"I particularly wish to applaud Mr. Rudd for his determination to restore Australia's commitment to the Kyoto Protocol

Labor wins Australian Election

THis is from Times on Line. It seems that the right wing labor policy of Howard helped do him in. He even lost his own seat. At the last moment it seemed as is Howard was catching up but the seat total shows that Labor was still in good shape.

Labor Party wins Australian election
(Rob Griffith)

By Bernard Lagan in Sydney
Australia's long-serving conservative government not only lost yesterday's Australian election but its leader, John Howard, became only the second Prime Minister in Australia's history to lose his seat in Parliament.

The Australian Labor Party, out of power nationally since 1996, stormed back into government, winning at least 20 more seats in Australia's 150-seat House of Representatives. The Labor leader, Kevin Rudd, 50, needed only 16 extra seats to form Government.

Mr Rudd, a former diplomat and China specialist, will have Australia's first female deputy Prime Minister at his side - Julia Gillard, a former lawyer.

There were wild scenes at the national election tally room in Australia's capital, Canberra, last night as hundreds of people queued for entry to witness a historic change of government after nearly 12 years of conservative rule by Mr Howard's Liberal-National Coalition.

Election defeat looms for ‘big spender’ John Howard
Only once before since the beginning of the Australian federation in 1901 has a sitting Prime Minister been thrown out of his seat at a general election. Prime Minister Stanley Bruce lost his seat in the 1929 election after becoming deeply unpopular for attempting to erode the rights of workers.

Members of Mr Howard's own Government conceded last night that 68-year-old Howard's controversial Work Choices laws, which also curtailed workers' rights, were a major factor in his loss of Government and of his Parliamentary seat of Bennelong in suburban Sydney which he held for 33 years.

Australia's long-serving former Labor Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, who left office in 1993, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's (ABC) television election panel that it was ironic that Mr Howard's long political career had ended with the loss of his seat in Parliament.

He said that like Bruce, Mr Howard had been voted out because he had reduced workers' rights.

"It's a delicious irony and repetition of history," Mr Hawke told ABC television's election night panel.

Mr Howard conceded the defeat of his government shortly before 11pm last night, saying he accepted full responsibility for the defeat and he wished the Labor leader, Mr Rudd, well.

Mr Howard said the Labor Party had won an emphatic victory.

"I have bequeathed to him [Mr Rudd] a nation that is stronger, prouder and more prosperous than it was 11½ ago," Mr Howard said.

Mr Howard made clear that he believed his Treasurer, Mr Peter Costello, should succeed him as leader of the Australian Liberal Party. Mr Howard had previously said that if he won the election he would have handed over to Mr Costello in the middle of his term.

Mr Rudd appeared at his Brisbane campaign headquarters shortly after 11pm to rowdy scenes of welcome.

His first public words as Prime Minister were: "OK, guys."

He said: " Australia has looked to the future. The Australian people have decided that we as a nation will move forward."

He said he wished to put aside what he called old battles between employers and unions and developers and environmentalists.

"The great Australian 'fair go' has a future and not a past," said Mr Rudd.

Mr Rudd won his loudest applause when he paid tribute to a dying worker, Mr Bernie Banton, suffering from workplace- induced cancer. He said Mr Banton, engaged in a deathbed battle for compensation from his employer, was a beacon for Australian trade unionism and workers.

A former television presenter, Maxine McKew, stood for the Labor Party and appeared to have defeated Mr Howard in his Sydney suburban seat of Bennelong.

A jubilant Ms McKew, told her supporters last night: "This has been an amazing night - a wonderful night for the Labor Party. A fabulous - I hope - transforming moment for the country."

Nick Michin, the Finance Minister in the Horward Government and a close confidant of Mr Howard, said on ABC TV last night: "The industrial relations reforms may well have cost us this election."

Friday, November 23, 2007

Mulroney offers no explanation

Seems to me since McQuaig wrote this Mulroney explained that he was stupid, and that is why he took the 300 thousand from Schreiber! McQuaig is right that Mulroney does not look very clean especially since he denied having any dealings with Schreiber just a few friendly cups of coffee or more likely caviar or smoked salmon.
McQuaig goes in for a bit of histrionics when she says what is at stake is whether Canadians can have confidence in our political system. That is not at issue at all. We can be confident that a few politicians on the take now and then should not reduce our confidence that our political system works just fine to promote the financial and power interests of those in our ruling class. This is from straight goods.
Mulroney offers no explanation

Harper rode a wave of outrage over the Liberal scandals all the way to 24 Sussex.

Dateline: Monday, November 19, 2007

by Linda McQuaig

There's already an energetic campaign by the Conservatives and their supporters to keep us distracted from the central image in the Mulroney-Schreiber affair.

That central image is former prime minister Brian Mulroney, in secret meetings in hotel rooms shortly after leaving office, accepting $300,000 in cash from lobbyist Karlheinz Schreiber, a key figure in the billion-dollar sale of Airbus planes to Air Canada.

It's a hauntingly powerful image — an image more potentially damaging than any that emerged from the Gomery inquiry into the scandals of Jean Chrétien's Liberal government. Imagine if there'd been reports of Chrétien in a hotel room accepting bagloads of cash.

What's at stake is whether Canadians can have confidence in the integrity of our political system.

So as the Conservative spin doctors do their work, keep the image of what went on in those hotel rooms front and centre in your mind, and wait for an explanation. Because Mulroney hasn't given one.

In his public comments in Toronto on Monday night, Mulroney bellowed with outrage, portraying himself a victim of a vendetta by bureaucrats and journalists. But he offered no explanation as to why he accepted the cash, nor why he didn't report it in his tax returns at the appropriate time.

All this is a nightmare for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who rode a wave of outrage over the Liberal scandals all the way to 24 Sussex. In order to retain his credibility as a crusader for clean government, Harper has now been obliged to call a public inquiry into the dealings of Mulroney, his former mentor and fellow Conservative.

Harper made it sound as if his decision to call an inquiry was based purely on allegations by Schreiber. This is convenient for Harper (and Mulroney), since Schreiber can be dismissed as unreliable. After all, he's currently in jail fighting extradition to Germany, where he faces charges of bribery, fraud and tax evasion.

But the case doesn't hang on Schreiber's word. Mulroney himself has indirectly confirmed receiving the $300,000. Indeed, he's paid tax on it, filing a voluntary tax disclosure — a practice permitted by Canada Revenue Agency — to correct his earlier failure to report the payments in the tax periods in which he received them.

Perhaps Mulroney has an explanation for the payments — an explanation he's chosen not to share with the public. His spokesman Luc Lavoie has referred to the payments as a "retainer".

Mulroney has greatly contributed to suspicions by declining to acknowledge his financial dealings with Schreiber, even throwing investigators off track. When the RCMP launched an investigation in 1995, Mulroney sued for libel and testified under oath that he had only met Schreiber for coffee "once or twice" and "had never had any dealings with him".

Really? Does Mulroney not consider the payment of $300,000 some form of "dealing"? If he had no "dealings", what was the payment or "retainer" for? On the basis of Mulroney's testimony, the Canadian government ended up paying Mulroney a settlement of $2.1 million.

But there's much more at stake here than money. What's at stake is the most basic public interest — whether Canadians can have confidence in the integrity of our political system.

As the inquiry proceeds, the Conservatives will attempt to muddy the waters with a barrage of partisan counter-attacks. Mulroney will suck up precious airtime casting himself as the injured party.

All this sound and fury is designed to distract us. Ignore it. What matters is what happened in those hotel rooms: a former prime minister, a lobbyist and $300,000 in cash.

Linda McQuaig is a Toronto-based author and commentator. She is the author of All You Can Eat, It's the Crude, Dude, and her latest book, Holding the Bully's Coat: Canada and the US Empire. You can reach her at her eddress below.

Canada Stalls Commonwealth Climate Deal

This is the sort of Global Leadership Harper touts. Canada is now on the world stage as Harper would claim but as a spoiler. The United States is not present in the Commonwealth to sabotage meaningful environmental progress so it falls upon Harper to play the role. In spite of the fact that developed countries pollute many multiples what developing countries do in terms of per capita emissions Harper wants not to set any hard targets until other developing countries and the US agree. In other words Canada is leading the Commonwealth backwards or at least trying to.

Canada stalls Commonwealth climate deal - World - Canada stalls Commonwealth climate deal

November 23, 2007
KAMPALA, Uganda — The Commonwealth summit in Uganda is close to a resolution calling for international climate-change targets — but Canada is being accused of blocking a deal.
Sources say Canada will not support an agreement unless it specifically demands the participation of major emitters, like India, China, and the United States, who have so far resisted binding targets.

Several foreign diplomats said almost every country in the 52-member Commowealth supports an agreement, and they described Canada as a rare holdout.

A deal among Commonwealth members could provide a major breakthrough on the eve of global climate-change negotiations in Bali, Indonesia.

A spokeswoman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper did not mention any country by name but said the world’s biggest polluters will need to be part of any agreement.

”We would not support a binding target only for some emitters — especially if that excludes major emitters,” Harper spokeswoman Sandra Buckler said in an email.

One Commonwealth diplomat said Canada is among less than a handful of countries resisting a resolution that calls for international targets.

Another called Canada’s position rare — but not unique — in the 52-member Commonwealth.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband avoided pointing the finger at Canada directly.

”I’m too much of a politician and a diplomat to be drawn into comments — positive or negative,” he told The Canadian Press in an interview.

He said no country denies the science of climate change or the need for an international deal — including Canada.

And again without mentioning Canada, he described some countries’ you-first attitude that is holding up progress at climate talks: “(It’s), ’I will if you will,’ on the one hand. And, `you first,’ on the other.”

He called a climate deal critical heading into the world climate change negotiations in Bali.

Given that the Commonwealth represents both rich and poor countries from all continents, he says such an agreement this week would create much-needed momentum.

”The British government will be working very hard over the next 48 hours to ensure that the message that comes out from leaders is strong and clear and loud,” he said.

NDP calls on Harper not to trade away human rights

No Canadian government is likely to let human rights issues interfere much with trade. Harper is very selective in his human rights concerns. He is quite happy to chime in on human rights in Burma since no one is going to contest that and Burma is not in any situation to retaliate. He is also on the side of the angels or prayer wheels when it comes to Tibet. However in Colombia he just ignores human rights when he thinks he can get a trade deal and perhaps even help buddy Bush also push through a US agreement. Saudi Arabia is an ally of the US and a big oil supplier so Harper is not about to ruffle any Sheik's turbans. In the case of Khadr Harper could care less. Defending Khadr would be a political liablity.

Published on NDP (
Created 2007-11-22 14:59
NDP calls on Harper not to trade away human rights
OTTAWA – Today, NDP International Trade Critic Peter Julian (Burnaby-New Westminster) was joined by NDP Foreign Affairs Critic Paul Dewar (Ottawa Centre) and NDP Status of Women critic, Irene Mathyssen (London-Fanshawe), to voice their grave concerns about the Harper government’s trade negotiations with governments such as Saudi Arabia and Colombia that violate human rights. They called on the federal government to respect international human rights law and to consider the human rights impact of trade and investment policies for all bilateral trade negotiations.

“We need to ensure that international investment respects human rights and takes into account the dignity and interests of the people whose lives will be affected. Our federal government sends troops to Afghanistan, supposedly to protect women’s rights, and then it sends Minister Emerson to Saudi Arabia to negotiate privileged trade relations with a country that is committing egregious human rights abuses against women,” said Julian. “This is sheer hypocrisy. Does the government think the life and dignity of a woman in Saudi Arabia is worth less than that of an Afghan woman?”

In the latest of a series of human rights abuses, a nineteen-year-old woman in Al-Qatif was sentenced to 90 lashes for having been in the company of an man who was not a relative shortly before she and her companion were brutally gang raped by seven men. Through the appeal process, the court increased her sentence to 200 lashes and six months of imprisonment because of “her attempt to aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media.” Furthermore, her lawyer’s licence to practice has been revoked. Despite international outcry, the Ministry of Justice in Saudi Arabia has defended the decision.

"This government needs to act in cases like this to protect women and protect the integrity of international trade," said Mathyssen. "Instead, our government is tacitly supporting this sentence aimed at silencing women.”

“Saudi Arabia is Canada’s second largest customer in arms trade,” said Dewar. “Business as usual with this country undermines Canada’s credibility on democracy building and human rights.”

The minister of international trade, David Emerson, went to the Middle East this month to help foster closer economic ties between Canada and the Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes Saudi Arabia, and the Harper government is fast-tracking a bilateral free trade deal with the Colombian government with no democratic consultation, despite Colombia’s disastrous human rights record.


© 2007 New Democratic Party, all rights reserved. Authorized by the registered agent for Canada's NDP.

Schreiber to be called before ethics committee

I guess the ethics committee is the obvious place to hear the great ethicist and arms dealer Karl-Heinz Schreiber. I hope the chair has set strict rules about shouting in the committee. Recently the noise level has been a danger to ear drums.
Maybe the Conservatives will find some way to block the hearings as it has done previously.

Opposition wins vote to call Schreiber before Commons ethics committee

Juliet O'Neill
CanWest News Service; Ottawa Citizen

Friday, November 23, 2007

OTTAWA -- The Commons ethics committee voted Thursday to summon Karlheinz Schreiber from a Toronto jail to testify on the eve of his scheduled extradition to Germany about his dealings with former prime minister Brian Mulroney.

Conservative MP Russ Hiebert immediately denounced the decision to summon the German-Canadian businessman and to launch an inquiry into the Mulroney-Schreiber affair as "a politically motivated witch hunt." Mulroney will be summoned next month.

The vote was six to five, with MPs from the minority Conservative government outnumbered by the combined opposition of Liberals, Bloc Quebecois and New Democrat MPs.

Suspicious that the government might deport him despite a public inquiry being planned for next year, the majority authorized committee chair Paul Szabo to use whatever tools he needs to get Schreiber on the hot seat "without delay."

Szabo said the committee order will trump the extradition order. That may be a moot point, as Schreiber is buying more time by appealing the extradition order to the Supreme Court of Canada for the third time.

Conservative MPs said a government-ordered public inquiry will get to the bottom of the affair. One of them, Dean Del Mastro, said Canadians should be "outraged" by Liberals who want Schreiber to be allowed to collect his papers at his Ottawa home and given time to prepare a presentation to the committee.

"Even the worst prisoner in this country can be moved from place to place," Liberal MP Charles Hubbard shot back. Schreiber faces tax evasion, fraud, forgery and other charges in Germany, stemming from investigations into a political slush fund and transactions such as the sale of German armed vehicles to Saudi Arabia.

The political developments came amid reports Schreiber appealed his extradition to the Supreme Court for the third time in eight years. He has been in a Toronto detention centre for several weeks since he was detained for deportation. An appeal of his extradition order before the Ontario Court of Appeal last week failed, and Schreiber is set to be deported Dec. 1.

Allegations by Schreiber in a recent court affidavit prompted Prime Minister Stephen Harper to seek advice on how to protect the integrity of the office of the prime minister and to examine the legitimacy of a $2.1 million lawsuit settlement granted to Mulroney by the former Liberal government of Jean Chretien in 1997.

Schreiber's new allegations cast a cloud over the settlement and added new details to four-year-old revelations that Mulroney accepted $300,000 cash from Schreiber. The detailed allegations are that Mulroney cut a business deal with Schreiber before he stepped down as prime minister June 25, 1993, accepted $100,00 while he was still an MP, and got a promise from Mulroney to tell Harper in 2006 that their business was above-board and a private matter.

Mulroney's spokesman said this week at Mulroney took the $100,000 in cash when he was still an MP but there was nothing illegal about it.

Pushed by New Democrat Pat Martin, the ethics committee intends to study whether any public office holders broke conflict of interest and ethics codes and whether the codes need to be strengthened for the future. The Liberal and Bloc Quebecois element of the approved motion calls for a review of the Harper government's handling of the allegations.

Ottawa Citizen

© CanWes

Calvert: New premier already making excuses.

This is standard right-wing rhetoric. Social program cuts will be justified by citing financial constraints. To save programs in the future they need to be cut now. Of course there will be no truck nor trade with raising taxes to pay for programs. Actually, Saskatchewan should be well off with the price of gas and oil even with its low royalties. Wall is coy in that he won't say what program involves dicey financing.

New premier already making excuses, Calvert says
Last Updated: Thursday, November 22, 2007 | 5:56 PM CT
CBC News
Suggestions from the Saskatchewan Party that the NDP left government finances in a mess have been vigorously denied by former premier Lorne Calvert.

Calvert said Thursday he couldn't believe the words coming out of Brad Wall's mouth Wedneday night, shortly after he was sworn in as Saskatchewan's 14th premier.

Calvert said he left a $2-billion surplus for Wall's government and if that's not enough, then the Saskatchewan Party can't manage its money.

"This has to be a world record," Calvert said.

"Ten minutes after the new premier is sworn in, he's out there now trying to find excuses for not keeping the promises they made. Trying right away to find excuses for what inevitably is going to result in cuts for Saskatchewan people. I've never seen it happen so fast."

On Wednesday, Wall told reporters he's had his first look at the province's books and didn't like what he saw.

"What the previous government has left behind, financially, is fairly stark," he said.

Wall said the problem isn't now, it's coming in future years unless the new government looks at its spending and makes some changes.

"The challenge is that some long-term program spending that the NDP have made commitments to are being funded by some one-time revenue or at least revenue that if you were budgeting prudently and carefully, you might not assume for future years."

Wall wouldn't say what program spending he's talking about or what exactly he intends to do about it.

People will have to wait until next week when the government releases its mid-year financial update, he said.

Taliban leaders open to talks

I just wonder whether these are splinter groups or the main leaders of the insurgency. I doubt that the main group will negotiate unless there is some agreement that the foreign troops withdraw but who knows what sort of deal Karzai and they might be cooking up. What is so laughable about all this is that the Canadian and other western governments always cry out against negotiating with terrorists while Karzai is willing to take them into his government. Anyway it is probably a step up from some of the warlords that are already part of his government.
The Karzai government is already influenced considerably by Islamists even to the point of resurrecting a ministry of vice and virtue.

Taliban leaders open to talks


This is from the canoe site.

KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Thursday that his government has had increasing contact with Taliban insurgents this year, including several talks this week with militant leaders living in exile.

Karzai said militants in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan have increasingly approached the government in the last eight months, even as the country goes through its most violent phase since the ouster of the Taliban after the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

"Only this week I've had more than five or six major contacts, approaches, by the leadership of the Taliban trying to find out if they can come back to Afghanistan," Karzai told reporters in Kabul after meeting NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.

Karzai did not specify which leaders he had spoken to or where the discussions took place.

"We are willing to talk. Those of the Taliban who are not part of al-Qaida or the terrorist networks, who do not want to be violent against the Afghan people ... those elements are welcome," he said.

In the past Karzai has offered to hold talks with Taliban leader Mullah Omar and to give militants a position in government in exchange for peace. Omar rejected those offers.

Afghan and Western officials believe many Taliban and al-Qaida leaders are living and organizing militant activities from across the border in the lawless tribal regions of Pakistan. Pakistan denies the allegation and says its doing its best to quell the insurgency.

More than 6,000 people have been killed in insurgency-related violence in 2007, according to an Associated Press count based on figures from Western and Afghan officials.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Typhoon Mitag headed for the Philippines

This is from this site. This sounds as if it could be a disastrous storm. My wife has a house in Legaspi. Last year it was flooded during the typhoon Durian and I imagine it will flood again. My sister in law and her family will probably have to move upstairs or to another house as their house is in a low lying area. There have been heavy rains for some while so around the base of the Mayon volcano there are sure to be serious mudslides. I hope everyone gets to shelter but there seem always some people who stay where they shouldn't. Power is often knocked out for weeks. I remember when I was there I found it quite hot with no fans and no air conditioning in the bedroom for over a week! But then we were well off with a concrete house that could easily withstand the winds and rains.

Typhoon Mitag gaining strength, thousands evacuated in Philippines

Manila (AP): A tropical storm developed into a typhoon on Thursday as it powered toward an eastern Philippine region ravaged last year by flash floods and volcanic mudslides that killed more than 1,000 people, officials said.

Typhoon Mitag was packing 140 kilometer per hour (88 mph) per hour winds with gusts of up to 170 kph (106 mph) as it blew westward from the Philippine Sea at 15 kph (9 mph) toward the Bicol region around 4 p.m. (0800 GMT), chief government forecaster Nathaniel Cruz said.

It could be a ``super typhoon'' with winds of over 220 kph (138 mph) when it makes landfall at the weekend, Cruz said.

Disaster officials said close to 46,000 people already have been moved to temporary shelters in 15 towns around Mayon volcano in Albay province, about 340 kilometers (213 miles) southeast of Manila.

In Sorsogon province, south of Albay, more than 900 people also were evacuated, mostly from villages in Irosin town, which is often hit by mudslides from nearby Bulusan volcano.

Another 2,275 people also fled flooded communities in Camarines Sur province.

Camarines Sur, Albay and Sorsogon are among the six provinces of the Bicol region on the southern tip of the main Philippine island of Luzon.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, worried about a repeat of last year's disaster, has ordered mass evacuations in the typhoon's expected path and cut short her trip to Singapore, where she was attending an Asian summit.

Cruz said if the typhoon doesn't change direction, it will hit Bicol by Saturday morning or veer northwest and make landfall in Quezon province farther north the next day.

The typhoon is also enhancing northeast monsoon rains, drenching the eastern Philippines, he said.

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda has suspended classes so some schools can be used as temporary shelters.

Cedric Daep, executive officer of the provincial disaster office, said full evacuation of the most threatened communities along the coastline and in the foothills of the Mayon volcano will begin Thursday afternoon.

``It's been raining for many days in some areas, and these are ripe for landslides,'' said Glenn Rabonza, administrator of the Office of Civil Defense.

He warned that storm surges from a powerful typhoon could generate waves 3-10 meters (10-30 feet) high that could wreak havoc on coastal villages.

Typhoon Hagibis, which was forecast to hit Vietnam at the weekend, left 13 people dead in the Philippines, including seven people buried in landslides in Surigao del Norte province in the south.

Officials estimate up to 200,000 people may have to be evacuated in Albay, which last year bore the brunt of Typhoon Durian that triggered flash floods and unleashed tons of volcanic debris, wiping out entire communities and killing more than 1,000 people. About the same number of people died in 2004 in Quezon when it was hit by successive storms and typhoons.

Two articles on Tasers

As one would expect the US is a great user of Tasers. Indeed, in 47 states it is legal to purchase them. If you want one go to this website!! In Canada they are illegal you will just have to use a cattle prod as a second best! Apparently a number of tasers have been seized at the borders as they were being imported to Canada.
Below are two articles on tasers that describe some of the horrendous cases of their use which certainly sound even worse than the Vancouver incident. The first is from Amnesty International USA.


Tuesday, March 28, 2006

USA: TASER-Related Deaths Increasingly Frequent;
Total Exceeds 150, Reports Amnesty International
TASER Use Amounts to Torture in Some Cases

"[It was] the most horrendous experience [of my life]. At one point I just
pretended like I was dead because I thought ... then they would stop."
-- Patricia Skelly, who has a mental illness, and was shocked with a TASER
between nine and 15 times while in jail and later in a hospital.

(New York) -- Sixty-one people died in 2005 after being shocked by law enforcement agency TASERs, a 27 percent increase from 2004's tally of 48 deaths, finds an Amnesty International study released today. Including 10 TASER-related deaths through mid-February of this year, at least 152 people have died in the United States since June 2001 after being shocked with the weapons.

"Despite a lack of independent research on TASER safety, police officers are using these weapons as a routine force tool -- rather than as a weapon of last resort," said Dr. William F. Schulz, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA (AIUSA). "These weapons have a record that's growing longer each week -- and it's not a good one. The increasingly frequent TASER-related deaths underscore the need for an independent, rigorous and impartial inquiry into their use."

Amnesty International's continued research, including a review of TASER-related deaths since the organization's November 2004 report, reveals that most who died were unarmed men who did not appear to pose a threat of death or serious injury at the time of being electro-shocked. In some law-enforcement agencies, the use of TASERs is allowed if a person simply does not comply with an officer's demands. In some cases the alleged abuse amounted to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

The 51-page Amnesty International study finds that in seven cases -- including three in 2005 -- the medical examiner or coroner performing the autopsy has listed TASERs as a primary cause of death and has classified the death as a homicide. In an additional 16 of the 152 cases the medical examiner or coroner has cited TASERs as a contributory factor in death. Amnesty International believes there may be more cases in which TASERs cannot be ruled out as a possible factor in the deaths. Recent studies have cited the need for more research into potential adverse effects from TASER shocks on people who are agitated, under the influence of drugs or subjected to multiple or prolonged shocks.

Most of those who died had pre-existing medical conditions, were under the influence of drugs or medication, and/or were subjected to multiple or prolonged electro-shocks. Among TASER-related deaths in the past year, for example, 40 were shocked more than three times and one person as many as 19 times. A majority of those who died went into cardiac or respiratory arrest at the scene.

Amnesty International is particularly concerned that vulnerable groups such as children, the disabled, pregnant women and people with mental illnesses are also being subjected to electric shocks from TASERs. The organization continues to receive reports of individuals being TASERed while already handcuffed or having been placed in mechanical restraints. It has also received reports of TASERs being used to control unruly or uncooperative schoolchildren.

Studies conducted over the last year have not met the organization's criteria for an independent, impartial and comprehensive study. These studies have been limited in scope and methodology and have relied mostly on data provided by a primary manufacturer of the weapons -- Taser International -- and police departments themselves. None of the studies has included an analysis of the deaths listed in Amnesty International's reports on TASER use in the United States.

"One-hundred fifty-two deaths tied to a 'less lethal' weapon should raise a red flag," said Dalia Hashad, Director of the Domestic Human Rights Program at AIUSA. "If a dictator mandated the abuse of these weapons, the United States government would be quick to call it torture. But is it any less painful when an American is shocked time and again? U.S. agencies should be concerned about using a tool with a record like this one."

Amnesty International calls on police departments to suspend purchase and use of TASERs pending the outcome of independent safety research. Where law enforcement agencies refuse to suspend their use, Amnesty recommends that TASERs be employed only in situations in which the only alternative is the use of deadly force.

TASERs are powerful electro-shock weapons in use in more than 7,000 of the 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States. They are designed to incapacitate by conducting 50,000 volts of electricity into an individual's body. The electrical pulses induce skeletal muscle spasms that immobilize and incapacitate the individual, causing them to fall to the ground.

The second article is from this site

Tasers: police torture weapons
Jenny Brown
April 2005

In March, Orange County police used a taser electrical shock gun on an 18 year old Orlando man who was tied to a hospital bed. The reason given was that the man refused to give a urine sample.

What does a taser feel like? Police officers who underwent 1.5 second jolts as part of their training said, "Anyone who has experienced it will remember it forever... You don't want to do this." (The Olympian, October 14, 2002).

But 1.5 seconds is a fraction of the normal taser, which lasts for 5 seconds, unless the trigger is held down, in which case it lasts as long as the battery holds out. With the jolt, the victim's central nervous system is incapacitated, the victim's muscles contract painfully and if they are standing, they fall to the ground. Often the jolt causes the victim to lose bladder and bowel control.

"They call it the longest five seconds of their life... it's extreme pain, there's no question about it. No one would want to get hit by it a second time." (County Sheriff, quoted in The Kalamazoo Gazette, Michigan, 7 March 2004)

"It is the most profound pain I have ever felt. You get total compliance because they don't want that pain again," a firearms consultant told the Associated Press. (12 August 2003.)

According to an exhaustively documented November 30, 2004 report by Amnesty International on taser use in the U.S. and Canada, electro-shock weapons are now used by police departments to enforce compliance with police orders, to retaliate against handcuffed suspects who are talking back or refusing to follow police instructions, and as punishment in prisons.

The tasers used by police departments in the U.S. are much more powerful than electric cattle prods, and can be used from a distance. They are manufactured by Taser International, which is based in Scottsdale, Arizona. The M26 and X26 models can be used as a stun gun in contact with the victim or can shoot darts 25 feet and deliver 50,000-volt electric shocks.

Stun belts are also now used on prisoners. Amnesty notes, "In some US jurisdictions, high security prisoners are made to wear electro-shock stun belts during transportation, hospital visits or court hearings. Amnesty International has condemned such devices as inherently cruel and degrading because the wearer is under constant fear of being subjected to an electro-shock at the push of a remote control button by officers for the whole time the belt is worn."

Amnesty has also identified over 70 deaths associated with tasers, and called for a complete suspension of their use until objective studies of their effects have been done. (Amnesty's full report is available at

Five thousand police departments in the U.S., and 60 in Canada, use tasers. Their use is rapidly growing. The Duval County police recently considered buying tasers for all the police who work in the Jacksonville schools. Residents and parents protested. According to Amnesty, countries using or testing tasers include: Argentina, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Israel, Malaysia, Mexico, Spain, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.

Tasers are classed as "non-lethal" weapons. But so were the rack, thumbscrews and the iron maiden "non-lethal." They, too, were used to extract compliance and repentance. The difference is that the taser is a ready-to-hand street torture method. Before the taser, the police used pain compliance holds, batons, dogs, electric cattle prods, and more recently pepper and other chemical sprays. The difference, as Amnesty points out, is that the taser is much more painful and leaves nearly no evidence. "Portable and easy to use, with the capacity to inflict severe pain at the push of a button without leaving substantial marks, electro-shock weapons are particularly open to abuse."

Tasers are promoted by their manufacturer as an alternative to using firearms against suspects in cases where the police or others are threatened with injury or death. Taser International claims that they will reduce the number of deaths, both among suspects and police. But is that how they're used?

Amnesty's report details case after case in which taser electrical shocks are used against suspects and prisoners who are doing nothing more than refusing to go with police, failing to follow police orders, arguing, or running away.

A lawsuit filed on behalf of a Washington woman shows how quickly tasers have become the weapons of choice for any situation. An officer with the Washougal, Washington police department went to the house of Russian immigrant Olga Rybak with a dog citation because her dog had allegedly bitten another officer the day before. Amnesty reports on the lawsuit:

Rybak, who spoke little English, at first refused to sign [the citation], asking for a translator. While attempting to arrest her, the officer shocked her at least 12 times in 91 seconds in front of her two young sons - first using the weapon as a stun gun, then stepping back to insert a cartridge and twice firing darts at Rybak who was writhing around on the front porch. When the boys (aged 11 and 12) tried to help their mother, the officer reportedly threatened to taser them as well. Rybak's attorney has informed Amnesty International that the boys have been receiving psychiatric treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of the incident.

The officer was the Taser Training officer for the department.

And the Amnesty report cites this incident, in which a suspect in custody and in handcuffs was tasered repeatedly: "I asked Borden to lift up his foot to remove the shorts, but he was being combative and refused. I dry stunned Borden in the lower abdominal area We got Borden into the booking area. Borden was still combative and uncooperative. I dried [sic] stunned Borden in the buttocks area" After the final shock, the officer "noticed that Borden was no longer responsive and his face was discolored." (Extract from officer's statement on James Borden, a mentally disturbed man being booked into an Indiana jail.)

Borden was dead.

Are these uses the exception to the rule? In fact, police departments across the country have guidelines which recommend taser use in these instances.

The vast majority of taser uses are against people who are unarmed or already restrained with handcuffs. According to a report by the manufacturer, in 80% of cases, the taser victim was unarmed. "An analysis of the 'suspect force level' in which a taser was deployed gave the most common category (37% of cases) as 'verbal non-compliance.' This was followed by 'active aggression' in 32.6% of cases; 'defensive resistance' in 27.7% of cases and 'deadly assault' in only 2.7% of cases." So in 65% of cases, not only was the victim unarmed, they were not threatening, even with their bare hands. And that's from a report by the manufacturer, based on police claims.

Amnesty also notes the use and threatened use of tasers in jails and prisons. In a lawsuit filed against Greene County Jail in Missouri, the following incidents are alleged:

* An African American woman was asked to remove her jewelry on being booked into the jail in June 2003. She removed everything except an eyebrow ring, which was difficult to remove. When she asked for a mirror she was allegedly sprayed in the face with pepper spray and, when she put her hands up to protect her face, was shot with a taser, causing her to fall to the ground and lose control of her bladder. While on the ground, a male officer forcibly removed her eyebrow ring with pliers. She was left in her urine for several hours without being given anything to clean herself with.

* A man being taken to the "drunk tank" was slammed to the ground face-first. As he lay on the ground bleeding, a guard allegedly fired a taser gun at him, causing acute pain, although he was not moving or struggling. He was taken to hospital where he had stitches to his mouth. On return to the jail, when told he had failed to shampoo his hair satisfactorily, an officer threatened him with a taser gun, saying "you don't want this again". On his release, the jail tried to get him to sign "reprimand papers" stating that he was shocked with a taser because he had attempted to run to the jail entrance; according to the lawsuit, he refused to sign the papers because the facts in them were not true.

* A man who said he might be allergic to soap in the shower was threatened with a taser gun and told to use the soap provided.

* A man booked into the jail on an outstanding traffic warrant was allegedly assaulted and subjected to an "overly invasive bodily search" and repeatedly called a "faggot." He was allegedly tasered while he was prostrate and in handcuffs.

* A woman booked into the jail in March 2003 was placed in a cell by herself in a distraught condition. A jail employee said he would taser her if she did not be quiet and calm herself. It is alleged that, while she was attempting to calm down, two guards entered her cell and one attached two taser clips to her shirt in the chest region; the other guard then activated the taser gun. According to the lawsuit, she suffered "severe burns and permanent scars to her chest and stomach" as a result of being tasered.

The U.S. military is also a customer of Taser International. Among the units that are outfitted with tasers is the 800th Military Police Brigade, which was found responsible for torture at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Following procedures
Amnesty notes that police procedures place tasers low in the categories of 'use of force.' "A survey by Amnesty International of more than 30 US police departments (including 20 of the largest city or county agencies) indicates that tasers are typically placed in the mid-range of the force scale, below batons or impact weapons rather than at, or just below, lethal force. Some departments place the entry level for tasers at an even lower level, after verbal commands and light hands-on force."

As a result, the police are never found to have done something wrong, even when people die after being tasered several times.

Amnesty reports this instance:

William Lomax, aged 26, died in Las Vegas, Nevada in February 2004, after allegedly fighting with police and security guards at a housing complex. At an inquest in the case, the security guards testified that they had approached Lomax because he appeared to be overdosing on drugs, "dazed and confused", walking in circles, lifting his shirt and sweating. A struggle followed, during which a Las Vegas police officer jolted Lomax seven times with an X26 taser in stun gun mode. Some of the jolts were applied as he was pinned face-down on the ground by four security guards who were trying to handcuff him and again when he was face-down on a gurney (stretcher). According to inquest testimony, at least three of the jolts were applied to the side of his neck, a procedure authorized during police training. When asked if the Las Vegas Police Department placed a limit to the number of shocks which could be applied, a taser training officer said: "What we tell and train our officers is, you can use this as many times as it's going to take to get compliance."

Police departments told Amnesty that they can use tasers "prior to the use of intermediate weapons" (Miramar, Florida Police Department) to "overcome resistance to arrest" (Philadelphia PD), and "at any point force is needed" (Indianapolis PD). "While many departments authorize tasers at the level of 'active physical resistance,' according to a number of policies Amnesty International has seen, this can be in the form of 'bracing or tensing' or 'attempts to push or pull away.'"

Amnesty notes that in many cases, tasers are used instead of pepper or chemical sprays, which the organization says are also often misused. "Rather than substituting electro-shock weapons for pepper spray or other force options, better training and restraint in the use of force would be a more appropriate strategy in many situations." They use the example of the San Jose, California Police Department, which, after undergoing specialized training in dealing with disturbed individuals, was able to decrease the number of police shootings to zero in 1999. After tasers were introduced in 2004, however, the number of shootings rose again.

On March 11, 2005 a Lake City man was tasered repeatedly when police showed up at his house with a court order for a psychiatric examination. Milton Woolfolk was tasered after the police said they made repeated attempts to calm him down. "I'm not sure the number of times (he was tasered)" Sheriff Bill Goatee was reported as saying in the Gainesville Sun (March 12). "I think it was several." Woolfolk died shortly thereafter.

"From all indications that were given to me, it appears (deputies) were doing exactly as they were trained to do," Goatee said of the incident.

Reading the whole Amnesty report, which runs 80 pages, is traumatizing in itself. The number of unprovoked or unnecessary taser uses, and the brutality employed, defy imagination, let alone summation.

Among the cases in which the victim died after being tasered:

"Glenn Richard Leyba, aged 37, died in Glendale, Colorado in September 2003. According to a report on the case by the District Attorney's office, paramedics arrived at Leyba's apartment after his landlady called for an ambulance, and found him "laying face-down, rolling from side to side making moaning and whimpering sounds". A police officer twice used her taser on him as a stun-gun when he failed to respond to attempts to roll him over and became "physically resistant". The police report is cited as stating that the second stun mode discharge "increased his level of agitation." The same officer then fired a taser dart into Leyba's back, resulting in Leyba "moaning, screaming and 'flailing' his legs and in an increase in his level of physical agitation. It did not, however, gain Mr Leyba's compliance". Altogether, Leyba was electro-shocked in stun or dart mode at least five times, after which he "stopped all physical resistance" and was handcuffed behind his back. The report states that "while being wheeled to the ambulance, the paramedics noticed that Mr Leyba's skin color was grayish, that he had stopped breathing, and that he had no pulse". Efforts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful and he was pronounced dead in hospital. ...

"Roman Gallius Pierson, aged 40, died in October 2003 in Yorba Linda, California. Police had responded to reports that a disturbed man had been running in and out of traffic. According to press reports, Pierson had run into a gas station forecourt and was rubbing ice onto his face, complaining of being hot and thirsty, when the police arrived; he was shot with a taser when he ignored an order to lie down on the pavement; while on the ground, he was tasered again when he began "grappling with police," according to a police spokesman. ...

"Gordon Randall Jones, aged 37, died in Orange County Florida, in July 2002, after reportedly being jolted at least 12 times with a taser. According to media reports, the taser was used after Jones became disruptive outside a hotel and "refused to leave and pulled away from deputies." He walked with deputies to an ambulance but died on the way to hospital. ..."

Torture weapons proliferate
Pain has long been the power structure's compliance method of choice, whether it was the heretic's fork or the rack of Europe, or the dogs and electric cattle prods of the Jim Crow south.

It's time to draw the line and ban tasers.

The line needs to be drawn soon because UF was recently reported to be involved in the development of a mass laser pain weapon to use on crowds. A UF professor who works with lasers but is not involved in the research was asked about this by the Gainesville Sun (April 8, 2005). "It sounds like the opposite of Lasik eye surgery," he said. Eye surgeons use lasers to vaporize tissue and cause "zero pain." "They're trying not to vaporize tissue and cause pain." British scientists told the New Scientist they thought that the project was "perfecting the technology of torture." (That New Scientist article was carried here last month.)

Demonstrators, like those who went to Miami to protest the Free Trade Area of the Americas, can have no doubt that these more perfect pain weapons--like the pepper spray and plastic-coated bullets they faced for expressing their views--are meant for dissenters of all kinds, individuals and groups, whether their outrage is personal or political.

The development, sale and use of these weapons is not inevitable. Seventy countries have banned the use of tear gas and pepper spray. Only a few use tasers today. In England, taser use by police is strictly regulated and only where guns might be otherwise be used.

In the U.S., tasers should be banned immediately. They are not only another symptom of a police and prison culture based on bullying, they are a tool that enables worse bullying to occur. Pain weapons should not be available to the police or the military. Without them, and with powerful civilian oversight, the police can be taught to serve citations, interact with the public, deal with the intoxicated or mentally disturbed, and arrest people, all without brutalizing them or killing them. Even in a society that regularly drives people nuts, that should be a minimum requirement of the police.