Friday, January 23, 2015

On Hiatus

Time to head back to our favourite island before it is infiltrated by the Americans.

See you in about a week.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Another Compelling Video From Operation Maple

Operation Maple (Take Canada Back) is continuing its fine job of reminding us of the terrible way we are governed, offering us frequent and compelling evidence that demonstrates how the neo-liberal agenda, pursued with such diabolical glee by the Harper regime, is continuing to undermine our country. I suspect its resources, and others (the Salamander, for example, has some interesting ideas in this regard which I shall soon write about) will become increasingly important as we move ever closer to the next federal election. Please visit their site and disseminate their material as you see fit.

The following video explores the history of the free trade agreement and its costly consequences, consequences that continue to this day and promise to grow even more grave under the Canada-China Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) and the Canada-Eu (CETA) deal.

Our sovereignty as a nation continues to erode thanks to these agreements, brokered with such secrecy, with the only true beneficiaries the corporate elites and the multinationals.

Rick's Latest

As usual, Mr. Mercer does us all proud as he yet again lambastes the obdurate, arrogant Mr. Harper, this time over the fact that he doesn't play well with others (a.k.a. the provincial premiers).

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Real Problem With Contemporary Journalism

The current scandal engulfing the CBC and Amanda Lang has made its way overseas into the cross-hairs of The Guardian's George Monbiot.

After providing a summary, with appropriate links, of the sordid Lang tale that encompasses massive conflict of interest and management collusion, Monbiot has this to say:
CBC refused to answer my questions, and I have not had a response from Lang. It amazes me that she remains employed by CBC, which has so far done nothing but bluster and berate its critics.
But the CBC's indefensible stance is not the real subject of Monbiot's essay, merely part of the context for his thesis:
[T]hose who are supposed to scrutinise the financial and political elite are embedded within it. Many belong to a service-sector aristocracy, wedded metaphorically (sometimes literally) to finance. Often unwittingly, they amplify the voices of the elite, while muffling those raised against it.
Studies and statistic prove his point:
A study by academics at the Cardiff School of Journalism examined the BBC Today programme’s reporting of the bank bailouts in 2008. It discovered that the contributors it chose were “almost completely dominated by stockbrokers, investment bankers, hedge fund managers and other City voices. Civil society voices or commentators who questioned the benefits of having such a large finance sector were almost completely absent from coverage.” The financiers who had caused the crisis were asked to interpret it.
The heavily biased reporting on that catastrophe, however, was only representative of a deeper malaise:
The same goes for discussions about the deficit and the perceived need for austerity. The debate has been dominated by political and economic elites, while alternative voices – arguing that the crisis has been exaggerated, or that instead of cuts, the government should respond with Keynesian spending programmes or taxes on financial transactions, wealth or land – have scarcely been heard. Those priorities have changed your life: the BBC helped to shape the political consensus under which so many are now suffering.
And what about fair and balanced reporting? A fiction, according to Monbiot:
The BBC’s business reporting breaks its editorial guidelines every day by failing to provide alternative viewpoints. Every weekday morning, the Today programme grovels to business leaders for 10 minutes. It might occasionally challenge them on the value or viability of their companies, but hardly ever on their ethics. Corporate critics are shut out of its business coverage – and almost all the rest.

On BBC News at Six, the Cardiff researchers found, business representatives outnumbered trade union representatives by 19 to one. “The BBC tends to reproduce a Conservative, Eurosceptic, pro-business version of the world,” the study said. This, remember, is where people turn when they don’t trust the corporate press.
He ends by listing the media's myriad failures, and the grave consequence of those failures:
...their failure to expose the claims of the haut monde, their failure to enlist a diversity of opinion, their failure to permit the audience to see that another world is possible. If even the public sector broadcasters parrot the talking points of the elite, what hope is there for informed democratic choice?

Monbiot's piece should be required reading for all concerned about the condition of that great protector of democracy, the fifth estate. As well, we would be indeed foolish if we failed to understand that the insights he offers apply, not just to Great Britain, but to Canada and much of the rest of western world, as well.

Harper Intimidation Tactic Backfires

As noted yesterday, the Harper-led CRA attacks on charities inimical to the base continues apace, the latest 'victim' being Dying With Dignity Canada, which is having its charitable status 'annulled.' However, this time it appears that the bully's strategy has backfired.

As reported in The Star, Dying With Dignity Canada is not going to appeal the decision, instead seeing it as a real opportunity:
“We won’t be opposing it, simply because it would be lengthy, time consuming, costly and a distraction from our core work,’’ Morris said in a telephone interview from Toronto.

She hinted strongly that once her group’s status is officially gone, it will use its website to begin endorsing politicians and parties who support the physician-assisted suicide position.

“We’ll be able to say here’s a candidate, come look,’’ Morris said.

“It’s unfortunate we’ll no longer be able to issue tax receipts, but it will also be a real freeing from constraints, because as a charity we’ve really had to follow careful guidelines from the (revenue agency). We’ll no longer need to do that,’’ Morris added.
A visit to their website shows a wealth of information on the topic of dying with dignity, surely fulfilling the educational component that comprises a good part of CRA-conferred charitable status, and solidly giving the lie to the Agency's alleged reason for revoking that status.

Nonetheless, as a result of Harper's sleazy intolerance of opposing views, I suspect that the profile of Dying With Dignity Canada has been considerably enhanced.

Sorry it didn't work out for you this time, Stephen.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Harper Attack On Charities Continues

Following a well-established pattern, the Harper regime has once again used the offices of Canada Revenue Agency to go after a charity that it deems ideologically inimical to its base. This time, it is Dying With Dignity Canada:
The federal government is stripping Dying with Dignity Canada of its charitable tax status following a political activity audit by the Canada Revenue Agency.

The organization, a registered charity since 1982, advocates for choice and dignity at the end of life, including providing information about patient rights, advance planning and education on the case for physician-assisted death.
Despite the fact that it has been a registered charity for over 30 years,
Dying with Dignity says the revenue agency has informed it that the organization never should have received charitable status in the first place because it does not advance education in the charitable sense.
That was some oversight, eh?

Health Canada Fails Us Yet Again

On this blog I have frequently extolled the fine investigative journalism practised by The Toronto Star. Whether on issues of municipal, provincial, or federal significance, The Star, as it frequently proclaims, "gets action."

From the standpoint of average Canadians, probably one of its most important investigations in recent times has been into Health Canada and its all too cozy relationship with the pharmaceutical industry, an industry protectorate seems to treat more as an equal than as an activity to be regulated. its relationship with the generic company Apotex is especially troubling.

Despite previous avowals by Health Minister Rona Ambrose that things would improve, it seems that business as usual prevails at Apotex. Yesterday, The Star reported that problems have again been uncovered, this time at its Brantford palant, information that, as in the past, comes not from Health Canada, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration:
At the Brantford facility in November, FDA inspectors found the company launched an internal review in 2013 to ensure it was effectively cleaning the equipment used to make drug products. Three swab tests of the equipment found unacceptable levels of contamination.

But Apotex shelved its internal review “until (an) effective cleaning procedure is developed,” according to an Apotex memo reviewed by FDA inspectors.

Then, in September 2014, the company made multiple batches “using the same equipment cleaning methods that failed the cleaning validation,” FDA inspectors found.

The company then released the drug products “based on a less stringent” quality-control requirement.
What were the possible contaminants?
An industry expert said the most common contamination from improperly cleaned equipment would be bacteria or trace amounts of another drug or antibiotic made using the same machines.
So where was Health Canada in all of this?

The agency, which had conducted its own inspection in July with similar discoveries, tagged along with the FDA in its November inspection. But that's where common ground diverges. While the FDA made the result of the inspection publicly available, Health Canada says it is still finalizing the report from its July inspection.

A hard-hitting editorial in today's Star makes it abundantly clear that this kind of cavalier foot-dragging is unacceptable:
That’s not good enough. It’s January and drugs that could possibly be contaminated are on the market.

Health Canada must move a lot more quickly to ensure consumer safety. And it clearly needs to take a much more rigorous look into Apotex’s manufacturing practices. The company has a long history of safety issues at its plants.
The editorial ends with sentiments that few Canadians could disagree with:
In the end, consumers are dependent on Health Canada — not the FDA — to ensure that drugs on the Canadian market are safe and effective. Health Canada should immediately identify the drugs in question and issue its report on Apotex’s Brantford plant. And it needs to have a good hard look at all of Apotex’s manufacturing practices.

Consumer safety is at stake.
That, strangely enough, does not seem to be a priority with Health Canada.