Thursday, May 28, 2009

Top 25 Censored Stories for 2009

* #1. Over One Million Iraqi Deaths Caused by US Occupation
* # 2 Security and Prosperity Partnership: Militarized NAFTA
* # 3 InfraGard: The FBI Deputizes Business
* # 4 ILEA: Is the US Restarting Dirty Wars in Latin America?
* # 5 Seizing War Protesters’ Assets
* # 6 The Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act
* # 7 Guest Workers Inc.: Fraud and Human Trafficking
* # 8 Executive Orders Can Be Changed Secretly
* #9 Iraq and Afghanistan Vets Testify
* # 10 APA Complicit in CIA Torture
* # 11 El Salvador’s Water Privatization and the Global War on Terror
* # 12 Bush Profiteers Collect Billions From No Child Left Behind
* # 13 Tracking Billions of Dollars Lost in Iraq
* # 14 Mainstreaming Nuclear Waste
* # 15 Worldwide Slavery
* # 16 Annual Survey on Trade Union Rights
* # 17 UN’s Empty Declaration of Indigenous Rights
* # 18 Cruelty and Death in Juvenile Detention Centers
* # 19 Indigenous Herders and Small Farmers Fight Livestock Extinction
* # 20 Marijuana Arrests Set New Record
* # 21 NATO Considers “First Strike” Nuclear Option
* # 22 CARE Rejects US Food Aid
* # 23 FDA Complicit in Pushing Pharmaceutical Drugs
* # 24 Japan Questions 9/11 and the Global War on Terror
* # 25 Bush’s Real Problem with Eliot Spitzer

Mayor and his pals giving Toronto cyclists a free ride

Last Updated: 28th May 2009, 3:53am

"Bicycles should be registered with small plates and cyclists should be formally licensed."

-- Councillor Michael Walker

---Sooner or later somebody had to stand up to these bicycle coup conspirators.

The problem is this anti-car, bike-agenda crowd is in charge and changing Toronto life as we know it.

At least Councillor Michael Walker plans on keeping them real. It was in the mid-1950s -- some 27 years before he was first elected 27 years ago -- that the city of Toronto last licensed bicycles.

And now the veteran councillor believes it's time for it to happen again.

If the people orchestrating the City of Toronto's bike takeover want a piece of the road, they're going to have to be just as responsible as everybody else who's on it.

"It just makes sense," Walker said. "At the next meeting of council next month, I will bring forward a notice of two motions."

One will be that all people commuting on bikes on Toronto roads be licensed, their bikes licensed and insured, and that it become mandatory for all riders to wear CSA-approved helmets. He can also see potential training programs and even written tests brought in if necessary.

"And the cost of the licensing and testing would cover the expense to administer this," he said, saying safety is the No. 1 concern.

"Licensing bikes would do two things: Legitimize them being on the road but also ensure there are consequences for how they operate."

Hear, hear.

Nice to see some common sense coming out of City Hall. It seems lately if you don't have a bike helmet on in that chamber, you don't have a say. It's sad because the way it is for bikes on the streets now, and the way this mayor and his cabal would like it to be, is just not safe for anybody.

And it seems only fair, since the bicycle cultists are flexing their muscles so much to take over the streets that they should pay for their share of it, too.

After all it costs five cents in this city for a plastic bag to bring home your groceries and, it seems, you need a licence to be permitted to breathe.

But somehow it's free of charge, and pretty well out of the scope of the law, to be a complete menace on a bicycle anywhere at any time.

Yet if you're a retailer and say to hell with Mayor Miller and his phony jet-junket environmentalists and don't sell the bags, you could face a $1,000 fine.

There isn't the same strict enforcement for the much-loved bike culture in Toronto and there seem to be no fines levied.

There are good cyclists, but there isn't a red light many cyclists wouldn't run or a rule of the road they wouldn't break. And it's all done without repercussions. The Highway Traffic Act is difficult to enforce when you don't know who's on the bike.

There's a licence, fee or fine for just about every aspect of life for the average citizen, but virtually no consequences for cyclists, who it seems want to squeeze the car off the road.


It's lunacy. But it's happening.

For example, if the City of Toronto Pet Police knock on your door and your dog or cat doesn't have the required $50-$60 licences, you could face a $240 fine and the city says that if "you are taken to court under the current law, the maximum penalty is a $5,000 fine."

And if you go through a red light in a car and you're caught on camera, you'll get a $500 fine in the mail to go with the invented-out-of-thin-air $60 car registration fee that you had to pay to be out there in the first place.

If you buy a property, you'll pay two land transfer taxes, face a fine if you're driving in an High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane with less than two people, if you have the wrong garbage bag, light bulb, recycling box, if you idle while waiting for someone for more than three minutes, if you don't have a permit for that addition to your backyard deck.

And if you're thirsty for a bottle of water and you're at City Hall, you'll be out of luck because they've put duct tape over the water button -- effectively banning bottled water.

But do whatever the hell you want on your bicycle. You are anonymous, untouchable and you're king, as evidenced by this insane proposal to replace the traffic lane on Jarvis St. with a bike lane.

"It's ridiculous," Walker said of the left's move to close down a lane on Jarvis for bike lane. "The bicycle is not an alternative to a car. It's like a windmill is not a replacement for a power generating station. It's great when it's windy. Bikes are like that -- great when there is no snow on the ground and sunny."

It'll be fun to watch this spend-hungry council, hellbent on sucking the life out of taxpayers, engineer this one to keep their environmental friends from paying their freight and instead sticking it to regular Torontonians.

You know it's coming but bravo to Walker for trying.

Even Miller so far hasn't ruled out the idea.

"Regarding licensing, the mayor hasn't made up his mind yet as there are issues with the Highway Traffic Act which is a provincial responsibility," said spokesman Don Wanagas.

Too bad the mayor wasn't as unsure about charging a fee and taxing or fining everybody for everything else!


Friday, May 15, 2009

TIME: Australia's Gun Laws: Little Effect

On the afternoon of April 28, 1996, Martin Bryant snapped. A striking figure with his long blond hair and milky skin, he had just eaten lunch at a cafĂ© within the historic site of Port Arthur, a former prison in Australia's island state of Tasmania. Described later by his sentencing judge as a "pathetic social misfit," the 28-year-old then reached into his sports bag and, in the manner that others might pull out a sweater, withdrew two military-style semi-automatic rifles, which he used over the next eight horrifying minutes to kill 35 people — men, women and children — in what remains Australia's worst mass murder.

Sharing the shock of his people, the newly elected Prime Minister, John Howard — just two months into his eleven-and-a-half years in power — seized the chance to overhaul Australia's gun laws, trampling all opposition to make them among the strictest in the developed world. "I hate guns," he said at the time. "One of the things I don't admire about America is their slavish love of guns ... We do not want the American disease imported into Australia." Howard argued the tougher laws would make Australia safer. But 12 years on, new research suggests the government response to Port Arthur was a waste of public money and has made no difference to the country's gun-related death rates.

Though he'd acquired them illegally, Bryant used guns at Port Arthur that were lawful in Tasmania at the time. Howard argued there was no reason civilians should be allowed to own assault weapons — and under the 1996 National Firearms Agreement (NFA) these were all but banned. At huge cost, the government bought from their owners some 650,000 of the newly prohibited guns, which police destroyed. It also implemented mandatory gun licenses and registration of all firearms, helping to restrict to 5% of the population the number of Australian adults who owned or used guns last year, down from 7% in 1996.

But these changes have done nothing to reduce gun-related deaths, according to Samara McPhedran, a University of Sydney academic and coauthor of a soon-to-be-published paper that reviews a selection of previous studies on the effects of the 1996 legislation. The conclusions of these studies were "all over the place," says McPhedran. But by pulling back and looking purely at the statistics, the answer "is there in black and white," she says. "The hypothesis that the removal of a large number of firearms owned by civilians [would lead to fewer gun-related deaths] is not borne out by the evidence."

Firearm homicides in Australia were declining before 1996 and the decline has simply continued at the same rate since, McPhedran says. (In 2002-3, Australia's rate of 0.27 gun-related homicides per 100,000 people was one-fifteenth that of the U.S. rate.) Of course, it's possible there might have been a spike in firearm homicides — and one or more Port Arthur-style events — if not for the gun law reforms. "It's very easy to raise what-ifs," McPhedran counters. "The what-ifs are interesting as discussion points. But, ultimately, for policy making, we have to deal with what is."

And suicide by firearm? Here again, rates were falling pre-1996. And while the decline gained speed after 1996, suicide by other methods began declining then, too. McPhedran and coauthor Jeanine Baker say suicide needs to be examined in a broader context that includes growing public awareness of mental health issues and increased use of antidepressants.

Other researchers have focused on mass shootings: there were 11 in Australia in the decade before 1996, and there have been none since. This appears to be a strong argument for gun laws designed to help prevent massacres like Port Arthur. But McPhedran argues that because "mass shootings have been such a rare event historically ... it's incredibly difficult to perform a reliable statistical test on such rare events." Massacres, she argues, are a separate research question.

It won't seem irrelevant to some that McPhedran and Baker are affiliated with the Sydney-based International Coalition for Women in Shooting and Hunting. But it should be, McPhedran argues: their analysis has been peer-reviewed, approved for publication and should be judged on its merits, she says.

The authors are not recommending that the gun law be repealed, though they do write of their hope that their findings might give policymakers "greater confidence" in approaching firearms policy in the future. "We've set out to scientifically investigate what was happening [with gun deaths] before and after 1996," she says. "We are simply presenting the evidence as it stands." The new Kevin Rudd-led Labor government has no plans to review the existing laws.


Monday, May 11, 2009

$1M to battle hate crime

Cash extends program for targeted groups


Last Updated: 11th May 2009, 5:03am

The federal government is pumping up to $1 million into a program designed to help targets of hate crime, Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan announced yesterday.

The cash will be used to extend the Security Infrastructure Pilot program, which began in 2007. The funding covers costs associated with security infrastructure at not-for-profit community centres, provincially recognized educational institutions, and places of worship with a history of being victims of hate-motivated crime.

Van Loan said the government wants to help organizations pay for things like alarm systems, closed-circuit televisions, digital video recorders, fences, gates, lighting and intercom systems.

"The reality today is that Canada is not immune from violent acts that target individuals or groups based on their race, culture, religion or identity," Van Loan said yesterday inside the new Lipa Green building, behind the Bathurst Jewish Community Centre.

The building -- which houses the Canadian Jewish Congress -- qualified for about $100,000 worth of security improvements, said Bernie Farber, the CJC's chief executive officer.


"When I first started working here 24 years ago, there was not one security guard," Farber said. "Now, in order to get into this building, you have to go through three levels of security to get upstairs to my office."

The CJC and the adjacent community centre have been the target of hate-motivated vandalism in the past, Farber said. And he has also been on anti-Jewish hit lists.

"I feel safe working here," Farber said.

"Crimes against communities or crimes that target community institutions are sometimes considered to be victimless crimes because there doesn't appear to be any physical harm to an individual," Van Loan said. "But the harm is very, very profound ... It leaves an entire community in a state of fear and anxiety."

Farber, meanwhile, said even the smallest synagogue and Jewish community organization now spend a large amount of money on security during days of worship and significant holy periods.

"If it's visible, it has to be secured," Farber said. "And the cost for this is just unbelievable -- it's a major burden."

The application deadline for funding is June 17.