Clearing the air: Positions of Canadian parties vis-à-vis the environment
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Clearing the air: Positions of Canadian parties vis-à-vis the environment

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Canadian Federal Elections 2008

Day
Stories from the 2008 Canadian Federal Elections
  • 13 October 2008: CanadaVOTES: Libertarian John Kittridge in St. Paul’s
  • 13 October 2008: Canadian scientists protest Harper’s attacks on science
  • 10 October 2008: CanadaVOTES: NDP candidate Paul Arbour in Carleton—Mississippi Mills
  • 10 October 2008: CanadaVOTES: NDP candidate Jo-Anne Boulding in Parry Sound—Muskoka
  • 10 October 2008: CanadaVOTES: NDP candidate David Sparrow in Don Valley West
National Parties

In the lead-up to the 2008 Canadian federal elections much speculation was made about environmental issues and initiative, with various parties maneuvering to claim some portion of the green mantle. But it was the Liberal party which first brought a full-blown policy to the public.

In the months since the Green Shift initiative was brought forth, the political pundits and activists have both talked about this year as the first election where the environment would be a major issue on the minds of voters, and possibly a decisive one for the electorate.

It’s indeed true the environment ranks very high in minds of voters across the country, particularly among young voters. One national survey of Canadians between 18 and 25 finds the environment is the top issue. A poll of all voters found it to be the third most important single issue over all, behind the economy and health care, but the poll suggested that no one issue has really caught the attention of the electorate with many issues gaining similar attention.

The parties themselves seem indecisive, trying to claim a focus on environmental issues but rarely making specific proposals or promises, with the notable exception of the Liberals whose platform has been targeted by opponents and commentators as “wildly experimental” and “doesn’t go deep enough” by turns.

Examining the platforms of the New Democratic Party regarding air pollution and global warming as available on their website, one is struck by a lack of substance. Reference is made to C-377, the Climate Change Accountability Act, which the NDP calls “Layton’s Kyoto-Plus Bill”, which was passed in 2006. The party believes Canada can achieve its Kyoto requirements by 2012, though no mention is made of how a Layton government would do so.

In June of 2008 the Liberals tabled a plan, the Green Shift, which they claim would reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions 20% under 1990 emissions – well below the 6% required by Canadian law when Canada ratified the Kyoto Accord – by 2020, which is rather after the 2008-2012 phase-in period required by that same law. The method of performing this reduction would be to shift the Canadian tax system, reducing income and revenue taxes by replacing them with taxes on greenhouse gas emissions. The plan generated considerable discussion and opposition, and the party has back-pedaled in some portions and added on in others, as well as announcing a couple of separate initiatives to soften the effects for farmers, homeowners, and fishermen among others.

A more diverse approach than solely a “Carbon Tax” is proposed in the Green Party’s platform, which presents an almost holistic approach of adherence to the Kyoto obligations, “Cap and trade” of carbon emissions, industry development with both green technology R&D and regulation as well as consumer subsidies, and their own version of a carbon tax. Alone of the parties they specifically mention the role of international diplomacy/trade as a part of their approach.

Such an approach appears to be anathema to the Conservatives, whose mantra since their election has been that Kyoto cannot be complied with without forcing an economic recession on the country, and used the Throne Speech of 2007 to reiterate that position. They have opposed cap-and-trade schemes in the past, but their platform for this election states their plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions includes emissions caps for “four air pollutants commonly associated with smog and acid rain,” as well as “tough emission reduction targets”.

In contrast to the laundry-list of unconnected initiatives on the Conservative’s website, the clean platform pamphlet created by the Bloc Québécois makes a simple and apparently heartfelt statement on the environment:

La lutte aux changements climatiques est devenue un enjeu fondamental pour l’humanité et le Québec est déterminé à apporter sa contribution, à sa façon. À Ottawa, c’est le Bloc Québécois qui mène la lutte en faveur de l’application du protocole de Kyoto dans le respect des choix du Québec.
Tackling climate change has become a fundamental issue for all of humanity and Québec is determined to make its contribution, in its own way. In Ottawa, the Bloc Québécois, respecting Québec’s choices, is leading the fight to enforce the Kyoto Protocol.

Just how they plan to enforce the Kyoto obligations is not stated, though they do discuss a carbon market, and tax incentives for home heating upgrade and transportation.

There seems to be a wide if somewhat shallow interest in the electorate as to just what each party is offering on the environmental file. But with sketchy platforms regarding environmental issues, it’s no wonder some of the parties have turned to the subject of economics in recent days.

HAVE YOUR SAY
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Gastric bypass surgery performed by remote control
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Gastric bypass surgery performed by remote control

Sunday, August 21, 2005

A robotic system at Stanford Medical Center was used to perform a laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery successfully with a theoretically similar rate of complications to that seen in standard operations. However, as there were only 10 people in the experimental group (and another 10 in the control group), this is not a statistically significant sample.

If this surgical procedure is as successful in large-scale studies, it may lead the way for the use of robotic surgery in even more delicate procedures, such as heart surgery. Note that this is not a fully automated system, as a human doctor controls the operation via remote control. Laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery is a treatment for obesity.

There were concerns that doctors, in the future, might only be trained in the remote control procedure. Ronald G. Latimer, M.D., of Santa Barbara, CA, warned “The fact that surgeons may have to open the patient or might actually need to revert to standard laparoscopic techniques demands that this basic training be a requirement before a robot is purchased. Robots do malfunction, so a backup system is imperative. We should not be seduced to buy this instrument to train surgeons if they are not able to do the primary operations themselves.”

There are precedents for just such a problem occurring. A previous “new technology”, the electrocardiogram (ECG), has lead to a lack of basic education on the older technology, the stethoscope. As a result, many heart conditions now go undiagnosed, especially in children and others who rarely undergo an ECG procedure.

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Indian royal family disinherits gay scion
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Indian royal family disinherits gay scion

Sunday, July 9, 2006

Manvendra Singh Gohil, the 40-year-old son of the erstwhile Maharajah of Rajpipla (India), was disowned by his formerly royal family for coming out as a gay man.

Homosexuality was effectively criminalized in India in 1861 under British colonial rule. The sodomy laws, which remain in force today, mandate penalties of up to 10 years in prison.

The Gohil family once ruled India’s Rajpipla principality. Although India abolished royalty when it gained independence from Britain in 1947, the Gohil clan is considered to be one of the wealthiest families in the south Asian nation.

Gohil’s mother put public notices in Gujarati language newspapers disavowing being his mother. “If any individual or organisation dares to (name me as his mother), it will invite contempt proceedings,” the statement said.

He said as an AIDS activist, he felt it was his duty to come out. Gohil claimed that India anti-gay laws hinder AIDS prevention among gay men since many are afraid to admit they are homosexual for fear of being jailed or blackmailed.

Gohil, who runs a non-profit AIDS foundation, told reporters he wasn’t interested in his family’s money. “I will not stake my claim to the property. I have found a family in the (gay) community and am happy working for the community,” he said in a Reuters interview.

UNAIDS estimated that 5.7 million Indians have been infected by the HIV virus. Gay organisations in India are currently trying to have the section of the Indian Penal Code that makes homosexuality a punishable offence nullified. Gay relationships are considered taboo in India’s mostly conservative society. A number of Indian organisations, including two HIV/AIDS prevention groups, have complained of being subjected to police raids and arrests in recent years.

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Manmohan Singh threatened on e-mail
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Manmohan Singh threatened on e-mail

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Kerala police have received an email threatening Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during his trip to the state. Singh is scheduled to visit Kerala on November 1 to mark the Golden Jubilee of the state’s formation.

Three persons have been taken into custody by the Kerala police after an e-mail was received by the Prime Minister’s Office from a cyber cafe in Kochi. This includes two boys who were using the cyber cafe between 9 and 9.30 on Friday morning and the woman owner of the cafe.

Top police sources said the message was sent to Director General of Police Raman Srivastava and the Home Secretary Sri Prakash Jaiswal. Taking serious note of the e-mail, Kerala police are interrogating the accused persons suspecting they had played a prank.

After this incident, the authorities are on high alert. This threat can have serious connotations considering the arrest of 2 Al-badr militants from down south.

Sources said, according to a senior official of Prime minister’s office, “As of now there is no change in the prime minister’s trip but his security is being constantly under review and a decision could be taken keeping in the mind threat perception”.

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Broken pipes cause flood in Darwin D. Martin House in Buffalo, New York
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Broken pipes cause flood in Darwin D. Martin House in Buffalo, New York

 Correction — February 13, 2008 The break was a broken sprinkler head in a crawl space above the shop, according to Jeffrey A. Salmon Facilities Manager of the Martin House Restoration Corporation. Not a pipe. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Buffalo, New York —According to radio communications by the Buffalo, New York Fire Department, at approximately 10:15 p.m. EST two water pipes inside the Darwin D. Martin House, a National Historical Landmark, broke causing several rooms to flood.

The breaks were discovered in the gift shop area of the house but quickly began to flood other areas near the shop as firefighters had a difficult time locating the main shut off valves.

At 10:50 p.m., firefighters reported to have shut off “several main valves” stopping the flow of water. The cost of the water damage is not known, but covered several rooms. Recent sub-zero temperatures in the city is said to be the cause of the break. At the time of the call, the temperature was only 10°F with a wind chill of 4°F above zero. On Sunday the temperature was only 3°F with a wind chill of -23°F.

The house, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, has seen rough times over the years, experiencing problems such as vandalism. The first half of the complex was built in 1903 and finished in 1905. After the pergola, conservatory, and carriage were demolished, restoration and rebuild began in 1992 and is scheduled for completion in 2008 or 2009.

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Canadian Parliament suspended until March
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Canadian Parliament suspended until March

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has received approval from Governor General Michaelle Jean to prorogue the Canadian Parliament for about two months, up until the end of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, the Prime Minister’s Office has announced today.

Under the prorogation, Parliament will resume on March 3, as opposed to January 25, when it was originally scheduled to return from the holiday break. The move to prorogue will strike any currently proposed legislation off the order paper, including the anti-crime bill that was proposed by the Conservatives as part of their election platform.

The move, which has drawn sharp criticism from the opposition, would allow the Conservatives to gain a majority in Senate committees, while also dodging criticism stemming from allegations of the abuse of Afghan detainees.

Parliament was prorogued once before in 2008, causing a coalition of the opposition Liberals, NDP and Bloc Québécois to collapse, and seeing then Liberal leader Stéphane Dion replaced with current leader Michael Ignatieff.

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Canadian power worker says grid is ‘String of Christmas Lights that’s been Running Since the 1950s’
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Canadian power worker says grid is ‘String of Christmas Lights that’s been Running Since the 1950s’

Saturday, August 11, 2007

“Just like they told us that our bridges were safe, they also want us to swallow that our power grid is in no danger of a system-wide, no-power-for-weeks crash”, said tenured power grid expert Donald McCormick, a senior contractor with Hydro One, an Ontario, Canada based electricity provider.

Mr. McCormick indicated that in reality though, there’s no question that the system of grids that supply power throughout the continent are in much worse shape than the majority of bridges, levees and borders in Canada and U.S. He has over two decades of experience in all aspects of power grid construction, infrastructure, maintenance, and distribution. During a recent interview, Mr. McCormick compared the ten major interconnected power regions that comprise the “North American Grid”, to a string of Christmas lights that’s been active non-stop since the 1950s. Mr. McCormick’s qualifications include being a licensed red seal interprovincial/interstate electrical engineer and he’s worked at numerous power generating stations mainly in Canada, but also across the U.S. He’s participated in building regional infrastructure related to both generation and distribution. Additionally, Mr. McCormick is Orange Level qualified as an Atomic Radiation Worker (ARW) registered in Geneva, Switzerland.

Mr. McCormick offered his candid assessment of today’s continental “power grid” by making several observations about this critical, civilization-supporting industry. His power plant experience includes both nuclear and coal, and he’s a certified expert in alternative fuel technologies such as wind, solar and hydrogen. He said that, from nuclear to coal, the majority of power generating plants operating across North America have momentous deficiencies, and the collective 10-region “power grid” has not been maintained properly (across the board) since the 1960s. Population growth has created a state in which North American power consumption is far greater than what is being yielded by current technological capacity to generate consumable energy. Mr. McCormick indicated that the infamous August 2003 blackout, in which the Northeastern U.S., Mid-Eastern U.S. and most of Ontario suffered stifling, life-interrupting blackouts, was just the beginning of something much more significant. In reference to the North American Power Grid Initiative, he said that it’s nothing more than a case of, “too little, too late”.

“You’re frequently seeing substandard parts and equipment being employed, on sites across the continent, and being used for sensitive construction projects, often related to components integral to the grid system itself. North American nuclear energy generating plants are among the worst when it comes to safety violations, not only endangering on-site employees with blatant disregard but also literally thousands of people with regard to unregulated, unnoticed pollution and waste being dumped in rivers, lakes and oceans, into the atmosphere and, more specifically, our entire ecosystem,” said McCormick.

Mr. McCormick strongly feels that another major breakdown of the grid system may occur by the end of this year, and he further stated that he’s also concerned that domestic power grid system is in grave danger of being undermined by terrorists.

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Pakistani Punjab police website hacked
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Pakistani Punjab police website hacked

Sunday, July 11, 2010

An official website belonging to the Punjab Police of Pakistan was hacked on Friday, a private TV channel reported. The hackers left a message on the homepage in which they asked the Pakistani government to “stop proxy war against India.” The messages of the chief minister and provincial inspector general were also erased from the site.

Although the hackers have not been identified, Pakistani sources say the slogan left on the site points to Indian origins; cyber security experts confirmed this and added that 150 Pakistani websites were hacked in the last three days. The Punjab police website has been hacked twice recently; in one incident, the official emblem was replaced with the logo of the Indian Punjab Police.

A police spokesman stated they would take legal action against an Islamabad-based company responsible for the website’s security as well as stop the use of its services from July 31. “We are also going to give the domain hosting of the website and its maintenance, including the data update to the Punjab Information Technology Board.” The website has temporarily been shut down.

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Florida man charged with stealing Wi-Fi
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Florida man charged with stealing Wi-Fi

Update since publication

This article mentions that Wi-Fi stands for “Wireless Fidelity”, although this is disputed.

Thursday, July 7, 2005

A Florida man is being charged with 3rd degree felony for logging into a private Wi-Fi (Wireless Fidelity) Internet access point without permission. Benjamin Smith III, 41, is set for a pre-trial hearing this month in the first case of its kind in the United States.

This kind of activity occurs frequently, but often goes undetected by the owners of these wireless access points (WAPs). Unauthorized users range from casual Web browsers, to users sending e-mails, to users involved in pornography or even illegal endeavours.

According to Richard Dinon, owner of the WAP Smith allegedly broke into, Smith was using a laptop in an automobile while parked outside Dinon’s residence.

There are many steps an owner of one of these access points can take to secure them from outside users. Dinon reportedly knew how to take these steps, but had not bothered because his “neighbors are older.”

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Evangelist Kent Hovind’s tax trial begins
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Evangelist Kent Hovind’s tax trial begins

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Evangelist Kent Hovind and his wife, Jo, are trying to convince a federal jury that their money from video and amusement park admission sales belong to God and cannot be taxed. The trial began at United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida on Tuesday October 18, 2006 after twelve jury members and two alternates were selected to decide on the 58 federal courts against Hovind and his wife. The trial was expected to take at least two weeks to complete with the prosecution hoping to rest its case Tuesday, but a defense attorney became ill and the Judge delayed the trial until October 30th.

Hovind is a Young Earth creationist who does many speaking engagements and debates. He also sells videos giving a pro-creationism perspective, which he receives income for. Hovind, who calls himself “Dr. Dino”, received a Ph.D in “Christian education” from the unaccredited correspondence school Patriot Bible University in 1991.

Prosecutor Michelle Heldmeyer said from 1999 to March 2004, the Hovinds took in more than $5 million. Heldmeyer charged Hovind on 12 counts for failing to pay about $470,000 in federal income, Social Security and Medicare taxes for his ministry employees between March 31, 2001, and Jan. 31, 2004. Counts 13 through 57 include Hovind’s wife for making 45 transactions in a little more than a year, sometimes taking out as much as $9,500 at a time. Banks are required to report cash withdrawals that exceed $10,000.

In count 58 against Kent includes filing a frivolous lawsuit against the IRS, demanding damages for criminal trespass, filing an injunction against an IRS agent, making threats against investigators and those cooperating with the investigation, and filing false complaints against the IRS for false arrest, excessive use of force and theft.

In July with his attorney, Public Defender Kafahni Nkrumah, Hovind stated that he did not recognize the government’s right to try him on tax-fraud charges.

This is not the first time Hovind has found himself in legal trouble. In 2002 he refused to get a $50.00 building permit for his Dinosaur Adventure Land, and after three years of legal battles the court ruled that he get a permit or the building would be razed. The park, which depicts dinosaurs as coexisting with humans in the last 6-4,000 years with the more recent “dinosaurs” being the Loch Ness monster, is reportedly open after Hovind paid for the permit and fines totaling $10,402.64.

More directly, M.C. Powe, an IRS officer who investigates people who have unpaid tax returns or unpaid tax liabilities, testified at Hovind’s current trial on October, 19, 2006 that she first attempted to collect taxes from the Hovinds in 1996. She noted Hovind tried several “bullying tactics” that included suing her at least three times. These resulted in each case being thrown out.

Wikisource has original text related to this article:

The Hovind Bankruptcy Decision

Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Beard handled Hovind’s bankruptcy in 1996 testified on Wednesday that in 1996 after Hovind’s vehicles were seized by the IRS, he filed under the Chapter 13 “wage-earner plan,” available only to those who have a regular source of income. However, Hovind wrote that he had no form of income, that he rejected his Social Security number and that his employer was God, Beard testified.

In a 2005 affidavit, the Hovinds argue that Social Security is essentially a “Ponzi scheme.” The Hovinds referred to the United States Government as “the ‘bankrupt’ corporate government” and said they were renouncing their United States citizenship and Social Security numbers to become “a natural citizen of ‘America’ and a natural sojourner.”

Wikisource has original text related to this article:

Kent Hovind 2005 Affidavit

On Thursday an employee of AmSouth Bank explained that the Currency Transaction Reports requires the bank to report any time a cash amount of $10,000 or more is withdrawn or deposited. This employee noted that various records demonstreated Jo Hovind had made transactions up to $15,000 at a time.

Also on Thursday Hovind’s former neighbor testified regarding Hovind’s purchasing of her Palafox Street home. On the stand she said Hovind paid her $30,000 in cash as part of the $155,000 sale.

In this week’s trial two of Hovind’s workers testified in federal court that they didn’t consider where they worked to be a church. In court Hovind maintains he does not have to pay the taxes because his employees were “volunteers,” “missionaries” or “ministers” and his business was a ministry.

However, Brian Popp, Hovind’s employee for at least eight years, said he considered himself a minister at the time of his employment, but said Hovind’s ministry isn’t a church. Popp also testified that Hovind knew about the bank’s requirement to report transactions over $10,000 and said it was “not safe to carry large sums of cash.”

Further, Popp said Hovind told his workers not to accept mail addressed to “KENT HOVIND” because Hovind told the workers the government created a corporation in his “all-caps name” and if the mail was accepted, Hovind claimed, it would be accepting the responsibilities associated with that corporation.

Diane P. Cooksey, served as a sales representative for the ministry from January 2003 to June 2005, and said Hovind expected to pay her own taxes. Cooksey said, “He explained what his belief was, right up front in the interview, that I would pay my own taxes.” As told’s worker, she received $10 an hour in a weekly paycheck, punched a time clock, was given 10 paid vacation days a year, and considered herself an employee, not a missionary as a few others called themselves.

The IRS raided Hovind’s Dinosaur Adventure Land in April 2004, after which Hovind required his employees to sign nondisclosure agreements. “I was uncomfortable signing it, I guess, because of not having a full understanding,” Cooksey said.

Rebekah Horton, vice president of the unaccredited Pensacola Christian College, took the stand on the second day of the trial and testified that “We know the Scriptures do not promote (tax evasion)”. “It’s against Scripture teaching.”

Horton was given a videotape in the mid 1990s from a woman who worked for Hovind. The video contained “another evangelist advocating tax evasion,” Horton explained. The woman who gave the tape to Horton claimed Hovind’s philosophy as “You were giving a gift with your work, and they were giving a gift back to you.”

Pensacola Christian College decided to disallow its students from working with Hovind’s Creation Science Evangelism and reported Hovind’s scheme to the IRS.

On Friday, attorney David Charles Gibbs testified that Hovind claimed he had no obligation to pay employee income taxes and explained with “a great deal of bravado” how he had “beat the tax system.” Gibbs is an attorney with the Gibbs Law Firm, also is affiliated with the Christian Law Association, a nonprofit organization founded by his father that offers free legal help to churches nationwide in a suburb of St. Petersburg, Florida. Gibbs attended the Marcus Pointe Baptist Church when Hovind was a guest speaker at the church on October 17, 2004. Hovind invited Gibbs and others to Hovind’s home for pizza and soda.

Gibbs testified they talked for many hours, and Hovind “tried to stress to me that he was like the pope and this was like the Vatican.” Also Gibbs explained Hovind also told him he preferred to deal in cash because “dealing with cash there is no way to trace it, so it wasn’t taxable.”

Wikisource has original text related to this article:

Kent E. Hovind, et al. v. Scott M. Schneider et al

Later on Friday, Special IRS Agent Scott Schneider took up the remainder of the day and is expected to resume Monday. Schneider told the jury his investigation revealed that Hovind “hadn’t filed tax returns ever, to my knowledge.”

Hovind tried suing the IRS and Schneider several times to avoid providing information required by the IRS. Each filing was thrown out by the judges.

Schneider’s discussed documents seized during the 2004 raid of Hovind’s property. These documents, Schneider explained, indicated Hovind ran his ministry as a business with “meticulous” payroll documents and a time clock employees had to punch in and out.

In the raid cash was found “all over the place.” Ultimately, $42,000 in cash was seized along with half-dozen guns (including a SKS semiautomatic) at the Hovinds’ home.

The Pensacola News Journal noted that “in one memo, Jo Hovind informed her daughter, who works at the park, that her pay would be docked $10 for talking too long on the telephone when she should have been working.”

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