Teachers begin 'administrative' job action Wednesday (in All)

The Tyee - April 17, 2014 - 6:06pm

Six weeks after taking their strike vote, the BC Teachers' Federation gave its 72-hour phase one job action notice today. It's the union's way of pushing back on what they see as a stalled contract negotiations with the provincial government. Read more ...

Categories: Netted News

Developer eyes Downtown Eastside SRO, worries low-income tenants (in All)

The Tyee - April 17, 2014 - 5:23pm

After a developer toured their property, tenants of the Chelsea Hotel on 33 W. Hastings are fearful of a possible future on the streets. Read more ...

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Province slow to review earthquake readiness (in All)

The Tyee - April 17, 2014 - 2:15pm

Experts claim British Columbia is overdue for a major earthquake that could cause deaths and damage, but the March 11-announced probe of the province's readiness doesn't appear to be in a rush to get going. Read more ...

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BC Cons leadership vote turnout revealed (in All)

The Tyee - April 17, 2014 - 1:05pm

The BC Conservative Party's participation rate for the April 12 convention that elected new leader Dan Brooks looks better than previously reported. Read more ...

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What's New: Canada Must Call for Dialogue Amid Unrest in Venezuela

Socialist Project - April 17, 2014 - 1:00pm
The Americas' Policy Group (APG), composed of faith-based groups, development NGO's, trade unions, and solidarity organizations, is a working group of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation. We are extremely concerned about the disruption of democratic order in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, over the past two months, and the lack of clarity of Canada's position on this crisis.
Categories: Netted News

CCAB Launches Aboriginal Business in Ontario Survey

Two Row Times - April 17, 2014 - 11:14am

Aboriginal entrepreneurs’ experiences, successes, and challenges in Ontario today came to light at the launch of a Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) survey.

The post CCAB Launches Aboriginal Business in Ontario Survey appeared first on Two Row Times.

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Six Nations may get Elder & Youth Centre

Two Row Times - April 17, 2014 - 11:13am

After years of community members pressuring its leaders to build a youth centre, that dream is one step closer to becoming reality. Representatives from K.L. Martin & Associates, a technical consulting firm on Six Nations met with Elected Council last week to present their design of a new Elder & Youth Centre. The new centre, if built, will go directly in between the arena and community hall and will connect the two buildings so that people can access any of the buildings without having to go

The post Six Nations may get Elder & Youth Centre appeared first on Two Row Times.

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Elected Chief visits NDP leader on Bill C-10

Two Row Times - April 17, 2014 - 10:54am

Six Nations Elected Chief Ava Hill, along with band council representatives from Kahnawake and Tyendinaga met with NDP leader Thomas Mulcair at Parliament Hill last Thursday to talk about Bill C-10 and its ramifications to First Nations communities if the bill gets legislated.

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Mohawk Anti-tax steering committee at Ahkwesahsne

Two Row Times - April 17, 2014 - 10:36am

In 2011 a member of the redeveloped Mohawk Anti-tax Steering Committee at Ahkwesahsne, asked that I join, which I accepted and was voted in. It was presumed I could offer methods other than doing same thing over and over again expecting different results. The intent of some of the committee was to use the so-called “Longhouse Way” against US and NYS tax. Funding was to be acquired through the St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Council Inc's (DC initial file # 822713, NYDOS ID # 1539007) Restricted Tax Legislation Revenue account, which, had over $1.2 million. The Committee and I met with the last Administration of Tribal Council in 2012 in regards to transfer of funds.

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Silence please, Algeria is dying

New Internationalist - April 17, 2014 - 7:14am
As its people go to the polls, Kamal Benkoussa fears that his country is on the brink of a political and economic precipice.

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What's New: BigOil's Oily Grasp

Socialist Project - April 17, 2014 - 6:30am
Oil industry lobbyists in Canada have taken the country by the reins. At least, that's the implication of the Polaris Institute's new report released today. The report documents 2,733 meetings held between the oil industry and federal government officials since 2008. That figure outstrips meetings with environmental organizations by a whopping 463 percent.
Categories: Netted News

Higher-Calibre Education?

Toronto Media Coop - April 17, 2014 - 4:51am
Uncovering the military applications of high-tech research at McGill University

MONTREAL—On a January morning in 1963, residents of the island nation of Barbados heard a deafening thud. The sound echoed across the country, and white smoke soon billowed from the site of the detonation, saturating the sky with the smell of gunpowder. One of the largest guns in the US arsenal, which had been brought to the island only a few months prior, had just sent its unusual payload hurtling into the upper atmosphere: a 200-pound vehicle known as the Martlet. 

"Martlet" is the name of the mythical bird that is found on McGill University's crest and might seem a relatively innocuous school mascot. But the 200-pound vehicle to which it lent its name leads us into McGill's long and little-known history of weapons research. The extent of this research, and its ongoing nature, has recently been revealed by Access to Information (ATI) requests filed by The Dominion and by Demilitarize McGill, a student-led campaign to disrupt defence research on campus. (Download the Freedom of Information Act documents here and here.)

According to a 2010 grant application accessed by the group, McGill prides itself on participating in “state of the art research in the fields of ballistic protection, Shock Wave physics, and detonics” and on being a valued partner in “state-of-the-art [research] in autonomous localization, navigation and mapping for unmanned vehicles.”

The university’s current enthusiasm for military technology can be traced back more than 50 years, to a man named Gerald Bull. Bull’s life story reads like a John le Carré novel. He was born in North Bay, ON, to an affluent family that lost most of its wealth in the Great Depression of the 1930s. While studying at a private college in Kingston, Bull was invited to attend the University of Toronto, where he would find his calling in the fledgling department of aeronautics. His passion for engineering and aerospace more than made up for an initially unremarkable transcript: Bull would become the youngest PhD graduate in the university's history.

By the early 1950s, Bull was working for the Canadian military. He envisioned a world in which artillery fire, not rockets, would be the most widely used method of reaching space. Drawing inspiration from the Paris Gun, a 34-metre German railroad gun used to shell Paris during the First World War, he began working on what was called the High Altitude Research Project, or HARP. Initially funded almost entirely by a $200,000 loan from McGill University, HARP was born for the purpose of launching projectiles—useful for increasing the effectiveness of ballistic missiles—into space.

Government money soon began pouring in, and with the support of the US Army’s Ballistic Research Laboratory, HARP acquired a 16-inch gun and a $750,000 radar station. Although the Martlet-launched vehicles provided the US military with valuable data on upper atmospheric weather, the project lost most of its American funding after the Vietnam War.

Bull found himself in desperate financial straits. His efforts to sell his work to the highest bidder—first to Iran and Israel, and later more controversially to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq—would eventually lead to his assassination in a Brussels apartment, most likely by Israeli agents.

But his legacy is still alive. Though the 16-inch gun is long gone, and Bull’s dream of firing satellites into space has diminished, research continues at McGill University where Bull was once a professor. And although the experiments of McGill's Shock Wave Physics Group are not as lofty as Bull's were, many still lead to technical breakthroughs for the Canadian military.

David Frost and Andrew J. Higgins are two McGill professors whose current work benefits the Canadian Forces, particularly in combat situations. According to ATI-obtained documents, Frost and Higgins are conducting research to “develop new field-responsive armours [that] would be invaluable to the Canadian Forces, as well as to other security personnel.” Their work involves the testing of what is called "shear thickening fluid," a material whose viscosity increases when strain is applied—the basis for a lightweight fabric that could become harder and more difficult to penetrate if struck by a bullet.

This research is part of an overall effort of Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC), an agency of the Canadian Department of National Defence, to improve the quality of fabrics in armoured vests and other protective gear such as those used by Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan.

Other research carried out by Frost and his colleagues involved more offensive weaponry. One of Frost's papers, published in 2001, contains information pertinent to the development of thermobaric bombs, fuel-air explosives deemed more destructive than conventional explosives because of their longer-lasting blast waves. This paper was later cited in US Air Force research to develop more efficient fragmentation weapons and, according to an abstract, to increase the “lethality” of blasts by “focusing more of the available energy on [a] target.”

More recent grant applications accessed through ATI requests suggest that Frost is still involved in the study of explosives. In 2008, Frost sought funding for research on improving “the performance of commercial explosives.” This research mainly focused on predicting explosive blasts to facilitate mining operations, but some of Frost’s other grant applications also had potential for military use.

One specifically mentions protecting soldiers from the effects of “accidental or deliberate explosions.” In another, Frost proposes to investigate how gas—specifically, the “combustion of large-scale dust clouds of inorganic solid fuels,” such as light metals and sulfur—might neutralize chemical agents used against Canadian soldiers in combat.

In 2010, McGill’s senate passed a policy on research conduct that specifically omitted ethical regulations for military research. Prior to the decision, Demilitarize McGill had been calling for the creation of a formalized system of approval that would give senior administrators the oversight of any research with “harmful potential.” 

“Having these things reviewed is fine, but you have to look at what the cost is, and if it’s delayed, that might be a graduate student not getting a stipend,” Higgins said in an interview with The Dominion. In the early 2000s, Higgins had three contracts from defence organizations under review for approval by McGill’s board of governors, the university’s highest governing body.

“In all cases the researchers have complete freedom to decide if they want to engage in a research collaboration project or a service contract,” wrote Rose Goldstein, the university's Vice-Principal of Research and International Relations, in an email to The Dominion.

The Shock Wave Physics Group is only one of McGill’s laboratories that have been conducting defence research in recent years. Researchers at the university’s Aerospace Mechatronics Lab are also helping the Canadian Forces develop drone technology to be used in combat. Drones, or unmanned aerial systems (UAS), are aircraft without a human pilot on board. They can either be remotely controlled, or guided through autonomous navigation technology.

The DRDC’s foray into robotics began during the Cold War. In the late '70s, research conducted by the Autonomous Intelligent Systems Section (AISS) of DRDC focused primarily on tele-operation robotics, vehicles remotely controlled by humans. By the early 2000s, remote operation was giving way to autonomous technology, as AISS began shifting its attention to systems that could operate entirely on their own.

The DRDC's stated aim, according to its 2004 technical report, was to assemble a fleet of unmanned vehicles that could “operate and interact” with one another in combat. The development of a strategy, or a common software architecture, that integrates different vehicles, would allow the Canadian Forces to harmonize the operations of unmanned air, ground and marine systems. "Systems" here is a military term for vehicles such as drones, armoured cars and submarines.

For DRDC, the battlefields of the future would be shaped by robotic collective intelligence. Autonomous decision-making would be based on the constant collection of data and exchange of information between the various independent unmanned systems and soldiers on the ground. For example, drones would be able to share their bird’s-eye view and mapping capabilities with other unmanned vehicles and soldiers on the ground or at sea.

The Department of National Defence has been preparing for this vision of battlespace by funnelling research from industry and academia to military branches. To this end, the Department’s Research and Development agency has been fostering intimate ties with universities, including their “academic partners from McGill University,” according to a paper outlining DRDC’s approach to unmanned operations.

Since 2011, McGill has received more than $1 million in Department of National Defence contracts. Research on unmanned systems is so prevalent on the campus that the university boasts its own UAS research group. The group was assembled over the course of the last two decades by Inna Sharf, a professor of mechanical engineering.

Sharf has developed an extensive relation with the DRDC-Suffield Research Centre in southern Alberta, which specializes in autonomous systems for ground and air. According to her resume, DRDC-Suffield has awarded Sharf three defence research contracts on unmanned systems since 2004 at a value of over $500,000.

In spite of the increasing application of unmanned systems for military, law enforcement, surveillance and border patrol purposes, some of the research conducted at McGill is being carried out for peaceful use. David Bird, a professor of wildlife biology at McGill’s Macdonald Campus, is a strong proponent of the scientific application of unmanned systems. Bird and one of his graduate students have conducted a wildlife preservation project in partnership with Canadian drone company Draganfly.

Yet Draganfly's drones were also used to conduct police surveillance on an Indigenous blockade of CN Rail’s tracks near Tyendinaga, ON, in early March of this year. The blockade, which called for a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women, stopped traffic between Montreal and Toronto. The Ontario Provincial Police took to Twitter to defend its use of drones: “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles are an economical way to take pictures. It is a tool used in investigations.”

It seems unlikely that the Department of National Defence would heavily fund research in autonomous technologies in order to satisfy its soldiers’ bird-watching hobbies. In fact, the military potential of research is explicit in the language of the funding contracts for which the work is performed.

“If the work is being sponsored by the research department, you will find in the language [of the] contract how it is relevant to defence. They are not a philanthropic organization. They are funding this, they have some programmatic mandate,” Higgins acknowledged.

Sharf’s latest DRDC-funded project, according to documents obtained by The Dominion, is titled “Autonomous Support for UAVs” and valued at over $380,000. The project intends to provide autonomous unmanned vehicles (UAVs), such as drones, with the ability to land autonomously. Drones capable of this behaviour would be able to conduct surveillance missions more efficiently, and their operators would see their workload diminished.

In an interview with The Dominion and The McGill Daily, Sharf denied the military applications of her research. “My work focuses on making landing and taking off for [unmanned aerial] vehicles more autonomous,” she told The Dominion, adding that “there’s many applications: fire surveillance, harvest surveillance.”

Yet the contracting authority at DRDC-Suffield makes it clear that the objective of Sharf’s project is to improve soldiers’ effectiveness in combat. The contract mentions that the research would ultimately “provide battle-space awareness” in combat operations and act as a “force multiplier” for soldiers on the ground. In other words, the technology developed at McGill would allow for the rapid crafting of maps in unknown environments and then allow for extended surveillance and data collection. Unmanned aerial systems equipped with this technology would “track and intercept” moving targets. This capacity, supplemented with facial-recognition technology, would allow the drone to match faces against police records or eventually an enemy kill list.

Under third-party contracts with DRDC, the federal government owns intellectual-property rights to the work performed at McGill. Sharf and the team under her supervision do not own the technology and may use the results of their research only for publication and academic purposes.

Likewise, DRDC-Suffield has no say in—or responsibility for—how its technology will be applied. The Canadian military is solely responsible for choosing how to apply the research, for whatever purposes it sees fit.

McGill is not unique in its involvement in weapons development. The Department of National Defence funds research at dozens of universities across Canada. In fact, Queen's University banked $3 million for a single contract in 2012, almost three times what McGill received in three years. It would seem that McGill’s funding, for all the persistence it took to uncover it, is just a drop in the bucket.

Nicolas Quiazua is a freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker actively involved in supporting the Demilitarize McGill campaign. Laurent Bastien Corbeil is a freelance journalist based in Montreal.

Cover artist: Tiaré Jung is a visual storyteller, singer-songwriter, and facilitator for healthier, more inclusive communities, living in unceded Coast Salish Territories. See more of Tiaré's work at tee.ah.ray.tumblr.com.

Both of the FOIA documents (Freedom of Information Act) documents referenced in this article can be downloaded below.

Files attached to this post:  Research grant proposals submitted by Prof. David Frost between 1996 and 2008, including research into shock wave physics. In 2010, the Department of National Defence solicited bids for over $200 000 of funding for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle research.
Categories: Netted News

India in the grip of election fever

New Internationalist - April 17, 2014 - 4:32am
From the morally bankrupt to the cleanest candidates ever – who will the country choose? Mari Marcel Thekaekara reports.
Categories: Netted News

Stark similarities of missing indigenous peoples of North and South America

Two Row Times - April 17, 2014 - 12:44am

The missing and murdered Indigenous people movement in Canada has been gaining increasing awareness in the past few months. More and more groups are lobbying the federal government to call a national inquiry into the disappearances and murders of thousands of First Nations men and

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Israeli peace activist Miko Peled, in conversation

Canadian Dimension - April 16, 2014 - 5:43pm

This article was orignally published in the March/April 2014 issue of Canadian Dimension magazine.

“There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that there will be peace in my lifetime.”

For Miko Peled, an Israeli peace activist, a one-state solution is inevitable. For years he has been speaking around the world, advocating for a single, democratic state with equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians.

It’s not common to hear this coming from a man who grew up in a prominent Zionist family. Peled’s grandfather signed Israel’s Declaration of Independence in 1948 and his father was a Major General in the Israel Defense Forces who fought in several wars. Peled was raised not to question the Jewish state or its discrimination against Palestinians.

After the Israeli Cabinet ignored his father’s investigation of a 1967 Israeli war crime, his father became a leading advocate for an Israeli dialogue with the PLO and for the complete withdrawal from the Occupied Territories. He was shunned for his activism and proposal for a two-state solution.

Peled followed in his father’s footsteps. He trained with the Israel Special Forces, but appalled by what he saw, surrendered his status soon after he earned it.

Years later in 1997, his 13-year-old niece was killed in a suicide attack in Jerusalem; his sister Nurit insisted the tragedy was a consequence of the occupation. It’s at this moment when Peled began to seriously examine the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and dedicate his life to activism.

Last year he published his book The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine, whichexplains the myths and misconceptions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. With an expected Palestinian majority in Israel by 2020, Peled says the apartheid wall will have to come down.

I caught up with Miko Peled just before his Toronto lecture on a warm October day where he explained what it will take to form a one-state solution, what it was like to serve in the Israel Special Forces, and how despite the mainstream media’s statements, Israel has never been under threat.

You’ve been speaking at many events in the West, but not in Israel. You’ve said previously your book isn’t promoted in Israel, it’s not sold in bookshops, Israelis are ignoring it. How do you think it’s possible to create a one-state democracy when Israelis don’t even want to hear about this proposal?

Israel is one state and it governs the entire country. A lot of people think that there’s a Palestine and an Israel and they’re at war. Israel and Palestine are two names for the exact same country. Even though the communities are completely segregated, they’re very close to each other. Everybody is governed by the same government. Except, the Palestinians don’t get to participate in the process. They’re deprived of rights, water, land; they get shot, killed; they’re thrown in prison.

So it’s one state already and it’s always going to be a one state. The question is- is it going to continue to be like this? Which is what Israel wants and Israel supporters are fine to have it continue. Or if people feel that it’s wrong and there needs to be justice towards everybody who lives there, then we have to fight to transform it into a democracy.

That’s how the world got behind the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and that’s how apartheid fell. The Israelis don’t need to like it; they don’t need to know about it; they don’t need to agree. Whites in South Africa, or whites in the United States in the south, they didn’t agree to end racism. If they agreed, it wouldn’t be a problem. People never agree to give up their privileges. But the world rallied around it, people rallied around it, and apartheid fell in South Africa. That’s how it happens.

So, I don’t think it matters whether Israelis know about it or not, or agree to it or not. They’re going to wake up one morning and there’s going to be a new reality. I think the world is already rallying behind this idea that Palestinians should also have rights, that their rights should be respected.

What will it take to create a single, democratic state?

It’s not easy. You have to rally around the idea, you have to protest, you have to make sure politicians listen; there has to be a strong pressure applied on Israel. You may have heard of BDS [Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement on Israel]. More and more people have to realize that there’s a terrible tragedy being perpetuated there by Israel.

The other aspect is that we have 6.5 million Israelis, 6 million Palestinians. In the next five to seven years there’s going to be a majority Palestinian population. So how much longer is it sustainable to keep people without rights who count for half or over half of the population in a small country? It’s not sustainable.

Something is going to happen anyway so we need to help that thing to happen. I think this transformation into democracy is inevitable where it’s going to require the world to apply pressure on Israel and of course the reality on the ground is going to be contributing to it as well.

Whenever Gaza is under attack (or any region with a Muslim majority), we always hear on the mainstream media how Israel has the right to defend itself, that it’s under existential threat from surrounding countries or from groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah. How much of a threat do you think these groups pose to Israel?

Zero. Israel is not under threat; it’s never been under threat. It’s got the biggest army in the region; it’s the biggest bully around.

Hamas and Hezbollah are resistance movements. Resistance movements act as a response to something, as a response to oppression, as a resistance to occupation. They’re not initiating the violence; they’re responding to the violence and fighting back.

To be fair to the Palestinians, the vast majority of Palestinian resistance has always been unarmed resistance; it’s just that the violent, armed resistance always gets all the attention.

But of course there’s going to be resistance- who wouldn’t fight back? What are they going to do, just sit there and let planes drop bombs on them and nobody’s going to do anything? Is it realistic? Almost two million people who live under such horrific conditions and there won’t be any armed resistance, there won’t be any response at all? It’s stupid to think that away.

If Israel wants the rockets to stop being fired at them from Gaza, then they need to end the oppression and give them the freedom. It’s all in the hands of Israel. If Israel doesn’t want to fight Hezbollah, then it knows what to do.

In the past 5-7 years we’ve seen news concerning Israel shift from Palestine to Iran. Yesterday Obama announced Iran is a year away from building a nuclear bomb. In September 2012 Netanyahu demonstrated with his bomb caricature at the UN that Iran will be able to build a nuclear bomb by June 2013. June came and passed- nothing happened. Many deadlines like this were made and amounted to nothing. What do u think of Iran and the ‘nuclear problem’? Do u think it’s a threat?

No, not at all; it’s not a threat. When I think about Iran, I think of 75 million Iranians that have to suffer these horrible sanctions that have been imposed on them. They occupied no one; they attacked no one. I’m thinking of the same 75 million Iranians that have to worry everyday if an Israeli fighter jet is going to come and start bombing them, once again for no reason at all. They’ve done nothing; they’ve threatened no one. I don’t think they’re capable, and I don’t think they’re interested; Iran doesn’t have a nuclear bomb and Israel does. The whole issue was brought up as a smokescreen to divert attention from what Israel does in Gaza and other parts of Palestine.

I remember last October [before Israeli elections] people were asking me, ‘Will Israel attack? Will there be an October surprise?’ I said, ‘Of course they’re not going to attack. Why would they attack?’ Israel needs the issue. It’s politics. If they have the issue, it’s like you said, from time to time, they climb up on the tree and say, Iran’s going to do this and Iran’s going to do that. And when it’s over, they come down off the tree, life goes on and nothing happens. And once again they climb up the tree and they start shouting Iran, Iran, Iran.

But there is no threat. Israel has got nothing to gain by attacking and everything to gain by keeping the issue alive, which is exactly what it’s doing.

Since October 1973 the U.S. has been providing Israel far more money than any other country in the world. The U.S. provides Israel $8.5 million in military aid everyday despite the fact that Israel is a wealthy, industrial state, a First World country, with high human development and some of the world’s best universities. Why do you think this is?

I wish I knew. I think that’s the million-dollar question. I think a lot of the fact has to do with Americans. They’re so ill informed that they don’t even know where their money is going. They think it’s going to support the Jewish state, it’s under threat, we’re saving the poor Jews and all this nonsense. Considering that Americans pay more money than any other country to Israel, it’s amazing how little they know. It’s tragic. It’s pathetic really.

On top of that you have a really strong Israeli lobby that influences American politics. It’s a very effective lobby. No American politician would dare suggest not to support Israel, would dare suggest reducing even by a penny the foreign aid, suggest to stop selling Israel weapons, even though Israel doesn’t need the money or the weapons. It’s not under threat. This is the absurd reality.

The only thing left is for grassroots movements to get up and start asking these questions. You’re going see this in Toronto too pretty soon, you can go and see it in America, it may already have happened in Vancouver, where they have billboards and posters on public transportation educating people about this issue.

People need to be informed. Canadians need to know, what it is that their government is supporting. The Canadian government is supporting Israel whole-heartedly 110% Why? It’s making Canadians look bad and I would encourage Canadians to get informed and get behind this cause of changing the regime in Israel and creating a real democracy.

One myth that you expose is about the 1967 war. You state Israel didn’t go to war because they were under existential threat, rather that it was a war of choice. What exactly happened?

The Military High Command wanted the civilian governments to approve a pre-emptive strike [against Egypt] and they were hesitating. As the military was giving out information, they kept saying that Israel is under an existential threat, we have to wait, we can’t attack now, we have to wait for politicians to decide, but the existential threat remains. This was the message coming out of the military. Israelis really thought the Arabs were going to come kill us like the Nazis did. I remember as a kid there was this fear, that the Arabs are going to come kill us, they’re going to come in our house and slaughter all of us.

Of course the war passed quickly. Then in order to justify keeping the territories that were conquered and occupied [Gaza, West Bank, Golan Heights, Sinai Peninsula], they brought this back, and they said Israel can’t give back the territories, Israel has to be strong, Israel needs it because Israel is always under existential threat.

This feeling of existential threat is kept alive all the time in order to justify keeping territories, to justify the mistreatment of Palestinians, the ongoing militarization of Israel as a state and as a society, it’s always there in order to justify what Israel is doing. There’s this constant message- they’re trying to kill us, they all want to kill us. So it’s being used like that.

But both my dad and other generals later on said, there was no existential threat, it’s a joke, anybody could see there was no threat. This was a war of choice. And that’s the choice we made to go to war.

What did you observe while serving in the Israel Special Forces that made you question Israel’s policies?

Little by little I saw things that didn’t make sense to me. For example, there are lots of long marches at night. The base is in the West Bank by Palestinian villages and on Palestinian land. At night when we would march, we would trample over crops. I would think, why are we trampling over these crops? These are crops! The next morning some farmer is going to get up and his crops are going to be destroyed. I remember trying to say something and of course you’re told to shut up and keep walking.

Then, we would patrol Palestinian cities. We were given batons and handcuffs. We’re a combat unit, infantry unit- why do we need batons and handcuffs? What are we, cops? The directions we were given were: we were supposed to patrol the streets, just walk up and down the streets, not do anything in particular, but if anybody so much as looks at us, you break every bone in their body. You smash the hell out of them.

Now imagine the city- just a normal city, streets, cars, people, shops. Suddenly twenty soldiers, combat soldiers in full gear are marching up and down the street. Can you imagine there would be anyone who wouldn’t look at us? So are we supposed to beat everyone up? What a weird thing to say.

Little by little I realized this is not what I signed up for. This is not what I thought we were going to do. We are really a part of this occupation thing; we aren’t soldiers.

If you had known when you were younger what you know now, would you have still joined the Israel Special Forces?

When I was 18, if I knew what I know now, there is absolutely no way in the world that I would have set foot, that I would have worn the uniform for one day.

It’s interesting that I didn’t know; it’s almost strange to me. You get indoctrinated into a certain narrative. There was never any talk. Even though my family was progressive on this issue, the progressiveness remained within the Zionist parameters, which is typical for liberal Israelis.

Nobody discussed what happened in 1948, beyond saying that it was an act of heroism, and that the Jewish state was created. And all the other wars that took place after that, nobody questioned the actual Zionist narrative, nobody went beyond those parameters, which is something that I did. Even in my family the parameters were kept pretty clear as to where the discussion was going to go.

If Netanyahu or Zionists were listening to you right now, what would you tell them?

That’s easy. I would tell them that when we all get old or older, and our children and grandchildren will ask us where we stood on this issue, people are going to be ashamed to say they did not support the Palestinian cause. Very ashamed.

If you talk to people in Canada and ask them did they participate in the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa, nobody will say, ‘no, we supported the Afrikaners, we supported apartheid,’ although many people did. The struggle to end apartheid was very tough and I hear this from a lot of activists who participated. A lot of people in the West supported apartheid, didn’t want it to end. Presidents and Prime Ministers, but you’re not going to get anybody admitting it today. In Germany today, you’re not going to find a single person who was a Nazi. Nobody will say ‘yeah, my grandfather was a Nazi and I’m proud of it.’

You want to be able to tell your grandchildren that you were on the right side of justice, that you were on the right side of an issue. There’s nobody that’s involved in this issue that doesn’t know which side is the right side, which side is the side of justice. It’s absolutely clear. Yet people like Netanyahu and people who support the state of Israel choose to be on the wrong side, they choose to be on the side of the oppressors, on the side that violates human rights, that kills children, that denies people water even though they live in the desert, people who throw excrement into wells and block people from their land and from their water sources.

Are they going to be proud to say that to their grandkids one day? All of this today sounds like, ‘wow, we’ve never heard of this.’ But in twenty years everyone is going to know this; it’s going to be common knowledge.

Mersiha Gadzo is a Toronto-based multimedia journalist with interests in global politics, human rights and social justice issues. View more of Mersiha’s work HERE.

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"Counciling T.O. Wards 2014" - Shelley Carroll - Ward 33

Toronto Media Coop - April 16, 2014 - 3:49pm

"Counciling T.O. Wards 2014" is a discussion with each of the 44 Toronto city councilors. The interviews aim to give insight into local issues at a time of chaos when it can sometimes be hard to tell fact from campaign rhetoric. This episode features Ward 33 Councilor Shelley Carroll and discusses everything from the TDSBs relationship with IEPs to infrastructure post Pan Am, the recent storm that left people without power for days if not weeks and everything in between. Credits Interviewer Bebe Goldmacher Camera Ed Bradley

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What's New: Toronto Transit Zine No. 1

Socialist Project - April 16, 2014 - 3:00pm
Getting around Toronto is difficult, and it's the subject of many private discussions throughout the city. Despite all we have to say, there is currently no independent publication circulating that is solely dedicated to discussing transit. Enter the Toronto Transit Zine, of which you're reading the very first issue.
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Advocates say promises broken in Vancouver affordable housing redevelopment (in All)

The Tyee - April 16, 2014 - 3:00pm

The fate of Heather Place, an affordable housing complex some have described as Vancouver's next "Little Mountain," is still unclear. Read more ...

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From Saskatchewan: What Would You Tell Your Younger Self?

Operation Maple YouTube - April 16, 2014 - 2:57pm
From Saskatchewan: What Would You Tell Your Younger Self?
Went to Saskatoon and got some great answers to the question: What would you tell your younger self? SUBSCRIBE and check out our other videos! http://www.operationmaple.com http://www.facebook.com... From: OperationMaple Views: 61 0 ratings Time: 03:20 More in People & Blogs
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Kathie Lee Gifford Is a Trojan Horse for Conservative Causes

AlterNet.org - April 16, 2014 - 12:27pm
The less-than-candid 'Today' show host lets her real right-wing flag fly on her podcast.

“Today” personality Kathie Lee Gifford was recently admonished by NBC higher-ups for promoting her line of wines, the punnily named Gifft, on-air. The idea, in part, is that “Today” is to some degree a news program, one that ought to be held to a higher standard than a regular chatfest.

Fortunately Gifford has a podcast, where she has for months been endorsing personal causes, from her wine to right-wing politics. It turns out that Gifford is something of a Trojan horse for conservatism, presenting for an hour a day the banal niceties that get viewers through the morning–then putting out a weekly podcast that’s one long dog whistle with occasional wine plugs.

There’s nothing wrong with this, of course — Gifford’s entitled to her opinions. But the success of her TV persona has rested upon the perception of Gifford as a freewheeling truth-teller who will say anything on camera. As it so happens, this whole time she’s been holding back more than a few opinions.

On a recent podcast episode, for instance, Gifford interviewed Cal Thomas, a Fox News commentator who has said that no new mosques should be allowed to be built in the U.S. and has been outspoken against acceptance of homosexuality. Oddly, Gifford consistently represented Thomas as a nonpartisan figure striving only to find solutions to unnamed crises. “There’s no hidden agenda with you, is there? You just love this country and want it to be great.” The pair went on to discuss the necessity of Congressional term limits (because, in Gifford’s telling, the human heart is twisted and dark) and the so-called “Age of Entitlement.” Gifford told a stem-winder about how she once confronted Hillary Clinton and asked her when rich people “became the enemy.” (The social safety net, in Gifford’s telling, “destroys lives” because dreams of growing rich are what make life worth living.)

Gifford and Thomas agree on just about everything — for much of the interview, neither will mention President Obama at all, but they shame the listeners for not voting, or for not paying attention to the consequences of how they voted. (The idea that those who vote for Democrats were somehow tricked into it and not thinking is an old conservative canard that Obama’s popularity at election time has brought roaring back.) When Obama finally came up explicitly, it was in Gifford’s allegation that his administration is not telling the truth over Affordable Care Act enrollment numbers: “I don’t know that there’s a person on the planet who believes those numbers are true.” Thomas said those who did were “drinking the Kool-Aid.”

And so it is with Gifford — without a TV production team holding her back, she’s considerably more loose-lipped than she is on “Today.” Her interviews (all available here) had, for a long time, been focused on either generic show business gab or Gifford’s brand of evangelical Christianity (viz. interviews with the cast of the film “Son of God” or with, say, Glenn Beck). The political turn has been a more recent development, with Candace Cameron Bure using the show as a platform to defend her claims that wives should be “submissive” to their husbands, or with Donald Trump stopping by after CPAC. Gifford joked that Trump “didn’t need a TelePrompTer” — a random reference to year-2008 critiques of Obama — and said that those who believe the Tea Party has any position on social issues are confused. “It’s not the social issues — they keep combining the social issues. The Tea Party, as I understand it, was low taxation, small government, and fiscal responsibility. By that definition, that’s me!”

And why not? Gifford has, through her career, been outspoken not about politics but about religious belief, from her advocacy work for children to her Broadway musical about Charismatic Christian Aimee Semple McPherson. But it’s not shocking that she, a wealthy woman of faith, would hold conservative beliefs. It is a little shocking, though, that she expresses them so freely as someone in the employ of a network news program — would she be as easily able to allege, on “Today,” that the president were lying about Obamacare enrollment? Or to put out nebulous language about the war on the wealthy? We have no idea what Gifford’s “Today” cohort believes politically — if Matt Lauer voted at all, no one’s heard about it. But “Today” is ostensibly, at least in part, a news show, if a softball one. And Gifford’s insistence that people need to wake up and see it her way is the nastiest side of conservatism: the belief that the baseline human should see this worldview as the common-sense solution, and that other outcomes are the result of weird subterfuge. That’s how Cal Thomas becomes a figure who, very simply, just wants America to be great.

Gifford’s podcast is compulsively listenable for the new insight it offers into the brain of a person whose life has been up for public consumption since the early nineties. That said individual is really, really interested in conservative talking points is not troubling in and of itself. At least, if one presumes that a deep-seated belief that a massive swath of the country has been tricked into hating the rich has as little bearing over one’s ability to cover the news objectively as does a new line of novelty wines–and that both can be easily put aside.

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