What's New: Stop public-private partnerships "immediately"

Socialist Project - 5 hours 48 min ago
Following is a statement by Bob Kinnear, President of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, which represents over 10,000 workers at the Toronto Transit Commission and York Region Transit. The statement comes in the wake of this week's report by the Ontario Auditor General that infrastructure public-private partnerships have cost Ontario taxpayers nearly 8-billion dollars more than if the projects.
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Thaw at last – Cuba and the US get talking

New Internationalist - 14 hours 55 min ago
This week’s announcement by Obama and Castro is momentous. But getting rid of the embargo is unlikely to be swift or easy, writes Vanessa Baird.
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Grassroots climate resilience in dryland Africa

New Internationalist - 15 hours 48 min ago
We must listen to and work with those most affected by climate change, says Philip Goodwin.
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What's New: Is the European far right really acting as Russia's trojan horse in the European Union?

Socialist Project - 17 hours 18 min ago
The news that the French National Front (FN) has received a 9m euro loan through a Kremlin-connected Russian bank -- it pays to be well connected -- sent the international media into a frenzy of speculation. The recent stories come on top of months of coverage about the alleged pro-Russia bias of European far-right parties.
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My five cents worth on injustice before my morning coffee

Two Row Times - December 17, 2014 - 4:46pm

It was a cold and peaceful morning. My alarm went off and gently beckoned me, ‘Rise and shine sweetheart! It’s 7am! Time to get up, turn on the morning news and drink some coffee.’ Sadly, in real life I was actually up until 2am the night before pinning DIY Christmas projects on my Pinterest account. […]

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Hagersville Food Bank donation

Two Row Times - December 17, 2014 - 2:31pm

On Thursday, December11, Elizabeth Hartrick (right), manager of Lone Wolf Pit Stop at 9183 Townline, Hagersville, presents a cheque donation of $2206.00 to Janice Schweder (centre), coordinator of the Hagersville Food Bank. On the left is Karen Leatherbarrow, Board of Directors member and one of the 70 volunteers. Besides the cheque, Lone Wolf donated coffee […]

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Update: Six Nations Child Welfare Designation

Two Row Times - December 17, 2014 - 2:28pm

The Six Nations Child Welfare Designation, also known as Ogwadeni:deo, is well on its way to becoming a fully operating child welfare organization providing child protection services to all indigenous people in Brant County. The Two Row Times sat down with Director Tricia Longboat to get an update for where the process is at now. […]

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Savory Pie

Two Row Times - December 17, 2014 - 2:25pm

Meat pies have a long and storied past. They can be traced back to the Neolithic period of ancient Egypt. In Medieval times they were made with thick, nearly inedible crusts that were used as the baking vessel. Today we get to indulge in buttery, flaky crusts set in conveniently modern pie plates. In its […]

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“Reality store” simulates future life

Two Row Times - December 17, 2014 - 2:21pm

OHSWEKEN – Students from Emily C. General elementary school got a chance to role play their future lives last Wednesday. The Student Reality Store is a simulation program developed by educator Erinn Monture-Drysdale that gives school children a glimpse into what their future might hold for them. Based on their actual grade point average, students […]

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Raging Grannies Sing: 'Stop All War'

Operation Maple YouTube - December 17, 2014 - 11:38am
Raging Grannies Sing: 'Stop All War'
SUBSCRIBE and check out our other videos! http://www.operationmaple.com http://www.facebook.com/operationmaple http://twitter.com/#!/operationmaple. From: OperationMaple Views: 11 3 ratings Time: 00:35 More in People & Blogs
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Why It Matters That Almost All Lead Roles in Hollywood Go to White Actors

AlterNet.org - December 17, 2014 - 10:45am
For films in theatrical release, 90 percent of lead actors are white.

Director Ridley Scott recently set off a firestorm when he dismissed those who criticized him for casting white actors as every major character in the recently released Exodus: Gods and Kings, while reserving roles like “Egyptian thief, "royal servant,” and “Egyptian lower class civilian” for actors of color.

“I can’t mount a film of this budget, where I have to rely on tax rebates in Spain, and say that my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such,” he told Variety. At the film’s premiere, he scoffed at the idea of a boycott and recommended that those threatening to stay away from the film should “get a life.”

It would be terrific if the problem were isolated to Scott or Hollywood. But it’s an issue in the entertainment industry as a whole.

A 2014 UCLA study about casting in Hollywood concluded that for films in theatrical release, lead actors were 89.5 percent white. For Broadway and not-for-profit theaters the results were almost as dismal: white actors made up 79 percent of the lead roles.

Just last week highly respected British/South African actress Dame Janet Suzman claimed that “white people go to the theatre, it’s in their DNA” and that theater is “a white invention, a European invention and white people go to it.”

Suzman’s remarks were greeted with much the same anger as Scott’s had been.

“Ludicrous,” said Dawn Walton, artistic director of Eclipse, Britain’s leading black-led national touring company.

Artists of African and Asian descent around the world pointed to the diverse, millennia-old theater traditions on those continents.

Suzman didn’t simply refuse to apologize – she doubled down, identifying the origins of theater with playwright William Shakespeare.

When I bring up the topic of casting with my students, I often ask: Can women play roles written for men? Can white performers play characters of color? Can people of color play characters of a “color” other than their own?

Unfortunately, it seems as though there are few positive real world precedents; examples of prejudice or willful ignorance are far easier to find.

Like Mary Zimmerman, director of The Jungle Book at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre. When asked about the racism of Kipling’s work, she responded, “I’ve decided to make it not a concern.”

“Racism is in the eye of the beholder, you know?” She added. “If you look at that as racist, doesn’t that say more about what you’re projecting on to the character?”

Meanwhile, the casting of white actors as Japanese characters in a Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society production of The Mikado made national news this past summer. The actors were made up to look like they were Japanese, leading critics to level charges of “yellow-face” at the production.

And Erin Quill, an actress of Chinese and European descent, wrote a blog post about a Broadway-bound musical in development at the La Jolla Playhouse.

The show, The Nightingale, based on a Hans Christian Anderson story about China, cast white actors in all the lead roles. Quill listed all the Broadway-caliber actresses of Asian descent who could have played the lead in lieu of the white actress who was cast.

It’s often said that a good actor can play any role; all the time, actors offer brilliant performances of characters with whom they share little in common. Ordinary people play royalty and nobility, those who grew up with nothing play the wealthy, and actors innocent of any crime can play felons to great effect.

Why, then, does race matter in casting?

One answer is that the entertainment business – like many aspects of our society – is not a level playing field. White actors get cast far more often that performers of any other race, and there’s no single reason for this. In some cases it may be individuals – directors and producers who fear that actors of color aren’t marketable or appeal to too limited an audience. But more likely it is a system that positions whiteness as the norm, as a neutral casting choice that doesn’t carry any racial meanings.

Defenders of the status quo often take refuge in “the best person for the role” argument. However, this line of reasoning usually plays out not as the best person for the role, but as the “safest” choice for the role: a white, known commodity.

Just look at Ridley Scott – and while he may brush aside criticism of his casting decisions, his most recent film is, unfortunately, a microcosm of a much larger issue within the entertainment business. It’s up to audiences to resist the industry’s attempts to whitewash its products, to demand that casting choices reflect what our world actually looks like.

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5 Things You Should Know About Jeb Bush's Far-Right Legacy

AlterNet.org - December 17, 2014 - 7:35am
Bush has been responsible for enacting some of the most toxic conservative policies.

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush announced his intention to create a presidential exploratory committee this week. While many are focusing on his relation to former President George W. Bush (he's his brother), the association with one of America's most unpopular presidents isn't all that could hurt him.

Bush has been responsible for enacting some of the far-right's most toxic policies, everything from the nation's first Stand Your Ground law to a path of education privatization that Bush has continued even after he has left office. Here are the five big ones:

1. Signing the First “Stand Your Ground” Bill Into Law: The tragic Trayvon Martin killing spurred renewed criticism of “Stand Your Ground” laws that make it easy for citizens to justify using lethal force. Bush signed into law the first of these bills, making Florida a pioneer state in their use. “This law is about affirming that your home is your castle and, in Florida, you have a right to be absolutely safe inside its walls,” said Marion P. Hammer, former National Rifle Association, at the time, thanking governor Bush for signing it. Sadly, the law has applied to a lot more than just home invasions—“justifiable homicide” tripled in Florida after the passage of the law, and similar laws were in 30 states by 2012.

2. Spearheading Efforts to Privatize Education: Bush wanted to make a name for himself as the “education governor,” but the policies he ended up pursuing produced results that were “mixed as best,” as the Washington Postwrites. The governor enacted the state's first statewide voucher program, but it ended up being struck down as unconstitutional by Florida's supreme court. He also enacted high-stakes testing, coupled with a system to grade and sanction Florida schools that did not meet standards. While these policies pleased conservatives on paper—they relied on punishing teachers and schools for educational outcomes rather than looking at the conditions of students—they didn't net much in results, with some modest test score improvements but a “high school dropout rate and per-pupil spending [ranking] among the nation's worst.” Nonetheless, Jeb Bush touted himself as an education expert after leaving office, running an education foundation that The Nation caught lobbying for education technology companies, including one tied directly to Bush.

3. Becoming a Huge Booster of the Death Penalty and Being “Tough on Crime”: In the governor's race, Bush accused his opponent of being too reticent to utilize the electric chair, and passed a series of laws designed to keep people in prison, such as the 10-20-Life law, which had no impact on the state's rate of violent crime. One of his signature initiatives was to champion and pass a bill to quicken the pace by which Florida executed people. By 2006 he was forced to halt executions temporarily after one execution that was badly botched.

4.Intervening in the Terri Schiavo Case: Bush made national headlines after trying to intervene in the case of Terri Schiavo, a brain-damaged woman whose guardian had decided to take her off life support. His efforts were rebuked by the courts and the entire affair, which was supposed to be handled by loved ones, turned into a nasty case of government interfering in private matters.

5. Cutting and Privatizing Government That Works for the People:While championing the right for government to intervene in cases like Schiavo's, or put people to death quickly, Bush took aim at the government's ability to respond to social welfare needs. His Department of Children and Families lost track of 500 children under the care of the state; the foster care system was spun off altogether and had massive cost overruns. While gutting the ability of the state to respond to its people, he passed gigantic tax cuts for the wealthy—some $19 billion total over his time in office, “much of it benefiting businesses and investors” rather than families.

Bush's legacy for Florida can perhaps best be assessed by where it stood when he left office in 2007, before the country went into recession. During this relatively positive economic time, Florida had the third-worst rate for average percentage of people without heath insurance, coming behind only Texas and New Mexico. Its rate of infectious disease was 41 for every 100,000 people, the nation's highest rate. The significant rates of child poverty had an impact on Bush's signature issue: education. Analysis by researchers found a real link between poverty and results on Bush's prized FCAT standardized test: “In general, students in counties with a lower concentration of poverty passed the FCAT at a higher rate than students in counties with higher levels of poverty. Of the 29 counties with passing rates at or above the state average, 24 had poverty rates below 20%. All students in counties with poverty rates below 14% met and generally far exceeded the state average.”

It is likely that, if he ends up running, Bush will try to separate himself from his brother's legacy. But it's more or less the same story: more privatization, more poverty, more government intrusion on people's private lives, and more giveaways to those who are already wealthy.

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Jon Stewart Rips Congress Apart for Their Sneaky, Special-Provision-Filled Budget

AlterNet.org - December 17, 2014 - 7:20am
"They just wait until no one’s looking and and slip the toxic stuff in,” he said. "It's the Bill Cosby of legislation.”

The budget recently passed by Congress, which ensures that our government will continue operating through next September, is a prime example of why people have lost faith in our political system. Though heralded by Congress members as a “monumental achievement,” the bill is riddled with compromises and backroom deals that fly in the face of democratic procedure.

Jon Stewart picked out some of the most egregious in last night’s opening monologue (e.g. public schools now being allowed to call white potatoes “fresh vegetables” and, on a more terrifying note, the last-minute inclusion of a provision that protects big banks—and was actually written by CitiGroup). As he put it, “This is Democracy the same way Cheez-Whiz is cheese.” 

Check out the full clip below. 

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The truth about inequality

New Internationalist - December 17, 2014 - 3:17am
Wealth is highly concentrated among relatively few very rich people, says Michael Roscoe.
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Mafia, #LuxLeaks and more tax scandal

New Internationalist - December 17, 2014 - 2:32am
The latest podcast from the Tax Justice Network.
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The Bullet: Bolivia to Host 2015 Meeting of Social Movements to Fight Climate Change

Socialist Project - December 17, 2014 - 2:00am
Meeting in Havana December 14, the 13th summit of ALBA leaders endorsed a Bolivian proposal to host an international assembly of social movements in 2015 to discuss and adopt a united strategy for fighting climate change. The decision by the ALBA-TCP coincided with release of the final agreement adopted by the United Nations COP20 climate talks at Lima, Peru.
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Celebrating Ongwehowe Artists

Two Row Times - December 16, 2014 - 11:20pm

Iroquois Art, Power, and History is a richly illustrated book written by art historian and anthropology professor Neal B. Keating. He explores Haudenosaunee (Six Nations Iroquois) visual expression through more than five thousand years, from its emergence in North America into the early twenty-first century. The 348-page volume draws on extensive archival research and fieldwork […]

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Digging Roots jams out fundraiser for space to heal

Two Row Times - December 16, 2014 - 11:10pm

TORONTO – A fundraising gala for the future Thunder Woman Healing Lodge was held at Lee’s Palace in Toronto on Monday. The event was co-ordinated by the Toronto Aboriginal Social Services Council (TASSC) and the Toronto Doctors Lions Club, with Muskrat Magazine.. Featured acts were J-Rez (Jerry Bigcanoe), Gary LaRocca, and Digging Roots. J-Rez stated […]

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The troubling health effects of fluoride over-exposure

Two Row Times - December 16, 2014 - 11:07pm

“Do ze” (pronounced “dau je”) is the only word in Cantonese that I know, but I think that saying “thank you” is always a good place to start a story, even if I never physically make it to Hong Kong, where British colonialism got a strong foothold in what was formerly considered China’s “Fragrant Harbour.” […]

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Laurier professor’s book on Aboriginal land claims agreements wins prestigious prize

Two Row Times - December 16, 2014 - 11:03pm

WATERLOO – Christopher Alcantara, an associate professor of Political Science at Laurier, has been awarded the Canadian Studies Network’s Prize for the Best Book in Canadian Studies. Alcantara received the prize for his book, Negotiating the Deal: Comprehensive Land Claims Agreements in Canada, published in March 2013. The Canadian Studies Network, an organization that supports […]

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